At times I think it’s often quite normal for students to get lost in college. Especially at a big state school like UW-Madison there simply aren’t enough resources to adequately care for students at all times. This leaves many students to fend for themselves. They are responsible for setting up appointments with academic advisers and asking the right questions and many times students are reluctant to make such appointments. Many fall into the sophomore slump of decreased self esteem and often poor grades. Perhaps fittingly this is also the time when most students decide to take Bio 260. My philosophy on mentoring my Bio 260 section involves two aspects. One aspect is to be the student and the other is to be the experienced researcher.
As the student I will be on the same level as other students in my section and they will be able to be more open to me versus Chris. Because the students in the section know that I too am a student, not only at Madison, but a student of peer mentoring, they will be more open and relaxed in their questions and comments. This relaxed attitude may give the opportunity to ask important questions that would otherwise not be appropriate. I also plan on mentoring as an experienced researcher. In this way I can use the experience that I have built to comfort fellow students who may have gone through similar experiences as me.
Beyond these two dimensions of mentoring, I hope to incorporate things that I have found important in my life into mentoring. I believe it is important that my role as mentor extends outside the role of Bio 260 and research in general. In my own mind, it is my responsibility to let these students know that I don’t believe that grades or research experience are anything worth while if attaining these means lying to yourself about your true interests. What I mean to say is, I hope the students that I mentor do something because they want to and because it makes them happy. Of course there are some things that people do that may bring short term stress but long term happiness and I approve of this. However, I don’t believe that students should do something because it will add to their resume or because their parents told them to do so. Even too much of a good thing can at times be stressful and not appropriate. In my own experience I have been a victim of taking on too many responsibilities and courses. While my endeavors were all in areas that I enjoyed, the nature of the hectic scheduling that ensued made it so that the whole process itself was not enjoyable. At this point, I had re evaluate some of my choices and cut back accordingly too have more time to do things that I needed and enjoyed and stay sane at the same time. In my own life it was my mentors that originally prompted me to make these changes and it is these mentors that I try to emulate in my own mentoring.
Even though my official role is to mentor other students in the field of research, I still think its beneficial to act as a general mentor in reinforcing the importance of life time management and direction as well. Although, technically, in this regard I may not be as experienced as some of the students in the class, I believe that my own experiences are valuable and can be applied to the lives of others as well. I believe that the social aspect of the lab is extremely important and can even be more important than the research itself. Developing team work and communication skills in my mind are as important as critical thinking skills and thus I believe in the importance of having students attend lab meetings and sharing their ideas to the rest of the lab members. In this way they are building skills not only for success in lab but success in any field of life. If a student perhaps decides that research is not what they want to do I will support their decision and not regard it as a waste of either their time or mine. I believe that one can be successful doing anything in ones life if they truly enjoy and apply effort. A student who realizes that they don’t enjoy research is that much closer to finding out what they really want to do, so on top of my official role as research mentor I’d also like to believe that I am mentoring in a students general success and promoting them to do what they enjoy best.
What I hope to get out of this whole experience is self confirmation. Even though I as a mentor am supposed to have more knowledge, the fact of the matter is that I am in the learning process too. Although I might make suggestions and have a philosophy and ideal that I believe is best for others and for me, it still may be hard for me to live out my own ideal. In this way I believe mentoring is a kind of self actualization. I am both promoting and trying to live the ideal that I believe is best to success and best for the individual.