Friday, October 28, 2022
Dedicated students, distinguished colleagues and dear friends,
I have no recollection of a time when I did not feel vulnerable! From my early years growing up in Tehran in the ‘60s, to my move to America in the mid-1970s where the mere understanding of spoken words seemed insurmountable, to facing the challenges of academic leadership in uncertain times. Thanks to the generosity of mentors, however, I never felt alone!
Regardless of our station in life, mentors see what we don’t see, inspire us to believe and then guide us to achieve. As I write this note on National Mentoring Day, I feel grateful for the mentors who helped me become a better me, and I encourage you to identify your mentors and let them shine the light and point the way to a better you!
I vividly recall one mentor, Ruth, who wanted to know my goals in life. She asked what, why and how. Then she shared examples of success stories that highlight the value of enduring the journey. Masterfully, she highlighted the challenges and why they were worth the effort. “Mohammad,” she said, “paint a picture of future success in your head and make that your aspiration.” I remember how inspired I would become after a casual but businesslike conversation with Ruth. She listened and then suggested! Asked questions and then discussed options. She encouraged possibility thinking, calculated risk taking and letting go of immediate gratification in pursuit of long-term impact. She encouraged and inspired.
But like our teachers who can teach but cannot “learn” us, mentors can inspire but cannot motivate. Inspirational sources are external; motivation must come from within. Our mentors become our trusted agents and sounding boards at critical stages of our lives and careers. So, we must choose accordingly, but choose we must!
To our students, I say find your role model, someone you admire for their judgment, achievement and positive outlook in life. They can be a close friend, a family member, a classmate or a teacher. Simply someone you can trust, are willing to open up to and willing to share your vulnerabilities with. You are not looking for someone to tell you what to do; rather, you want a non-judgmental friend who will help you think about thinking about! Oh, by the way, have you considered becoming a mentor? Try becoming a coach in someone’s corner and reap the benefits of guiding a colleague, a friend and even a family member.
Formally, our Student Success Center at S&T provides mentoring and coaching by students for students in a range of areas, including self-management, study skills, goal setting, motivation and accountability. In addition to these peer mentors, the Student Success Center also offers tutoring for students who need help in specific academic areas. Drop in at 198 Toomey Hall or schedule an appointment by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Likewise, our Learning Enhancement Across Disciplines (LEAD) program provides mentoring and tutoring by undergraduate peers as well as faculty members.
Our career opportunities and employer relations team, in partnership with the Miner Alumni Association, connects students to alumni mentors through the Miner Network program. Over homecoming weekend, I heard from many S&T alumni who recalled the graduates who influenced them during their student years. Many also want to give back to today’s students by offering career advice, networking and other assistance. I encourage all our students and alumni to create a Miner Network profile and build your important Miner connections!
Looking back at my years and conversations with my mentors, I now realize that all along I have been and continue to be a work in progress. Despite all my good intentions and regardless of my level of effort to do right, I could easily get things wrong. And not unlike others, I often did and have my regrets. “… I wish I had not said that, or done that,” I would later think, but “past is prologue” and forward we march on. In making my mistakes I have learned about life’s blind spots and constant need for awareness about patience and wisdom.
On a personal note, I express my heartfelt gratitude to one of my longtime mentors, professor Darrell Pepper, a three-time graduate of this university and member of our Academy of Mechanical Engineers, who passed away last week. Dr. Pepper, your steady guidance, inspiring thoughts and gentle nudges made a better me! Thank you for pointing the way. I am forever grateful, and may you rest in peace.
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