Thursday, May 26, 2011

Return on Investment in Mentoring

My most recent Haiku was composed while attending the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health convocation yesterday, May 25. I needed something to do while hundreds of names were read, and it allowed me to keep my mind active.

I go to convocation most years. I like to support the students who are graduating in general. Most years there are students I have worked with either directly or indirectly. This year, I had approved five capstone projects for MPH students and sat on several dissertation final defense committees. After the ceremony, I had the chance to get a picture with two of the students who graduated this year (one MPH I advised and one PhD I worked with over time). That was a lot of fun.

The convocation came after having had breakfast with a former student for the second straight day. There was a conference in town that both were attending. They thanked me for making time for them. I should really be thanking them for making time for me in their busy schedules. They are just as successful professionals as I am these days and their willingness to share stories of their success in life and in work is a real honor for me.

That points to the value I have placed on my students and the value they have placed on me over time. That, in turn, leads directly to the other reason that I was at the convocation. I was honored with two teaching awards. Students tell me it is the first time one faculty member has been selected for two Golden Apple categories in one year. That is an amazing honor. In two days, I was recognized twice. The president of the student assembly read two different pieces of testimonial for me. What the students wrote about me was truly amazing.

I try very hard to make a positive impression on students. Although after years of concentrating on trying, I now just pretty much do what I think is best for students and let my actions speak much louder than words ever could. I use this expression all the time, but it is so true--it is all about paying forward what so many teacher/mentor figures did for me over time. The words that were read that someone had written about me almost brought tears of joy to my eyes to know that I had made such an impression on a student. Today, I had the opportunity to read over several of the testimonials. I was full of awe.

Some of my mentors in life I have thanked directly. Others, I have only been able to pay forward and will never be able to tell them. I would simply hope (and truly do believe) that if any of my mentors could read what my students had said about me, they would find their time invested in me to have yielded a very favorable return. I also truly believe, that every moment I invest with students, will yield a return on my investment some day when each of them has a chance to mentor others in their career.

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