Department of Chemical Engineering
2022 Graduate Student Mentoring Award
Dr. Whitney Stoppel, Dr. Erika Moore, Dr. William Shumway, Dr. Elisabeth Barton, Dr. Blanka Sharma. These are just a few of my mentors who instilled the love, passion, and dedication to mentoring. However, one individual who most clearly brought me to this point in my mentoring journey – my advisor Dr. Whitney Stoppel. During my first year of graduate school, a deplorable personnel situation put me in a position where I needed to change labs. As a brand-new assistant professor starting in July of 2018, Dr. Stoppel didn’t intend to take a 2nd student. However, she believed that my situation demonstrated resilience and grit in a way she hadn’t seen before. Based on my established track record for exceptional undergraduate mentorship and commitment to my education, Dr. Stoppel decided taking a 2nd student was worth the risk. This interaction showed me the positive impact a mentor can have on an individual’s life. Dr. Stoppel actively listened to my story, encouraged me not to give up my dream of getting a Ph.D., trusted in my abilities, and gave me the tools to continue to succeed. Through this instrumental experience and my numerous mentors in academic and sports settings, I have created my mentorship philosophy around four core pillars:
- Listening Actively
- Building Trust
- Identifying Goals and Current Reality
A mentor should be attentive to mentees' needs and help them reach their fullest potential. I strive to motivate my mentees to accomplish more than they originally intended, realizing their fullest potential. I do this by creating challenging expectations allowing mentees to achieve higher performance standards. However, a healthy mentee-mentor relationship will not be achieved without active listening, encouragement, trust, and goal setting.
Active listening requires resisting the impulse to turn conversations into my experiences and opinions and find immediate solutions to problems. I find time each week to make sure I am focused on my mentees, giving them my undivided attention. I want their concerns to be heard and understood. As a result, they feel accepted by me, which builds trust. I keep confidences shared by my mentees, take responsibility for my errors, and tactfully communicate when I disagree or am dissatisfied with something. More importantly, I continually and incessantly encourage my mentees. I know that positive verbal reinforcement is rare yet one of the essential things mentees needs. I compliment their accomplishments and actions, point out positive traits, praise them, and express thanks and appreciation. Lastly, I talk with my mentees about their visions, dreams, and career/life goals. These are fluid and will change based on personal experience. Regardless of their specific goals, I encourage my mentees to network with other graduate students and faculty to seek additional scientific and professional advice from others. In summary, my mentoring philosophy is based on recognizing, respecting, and investing in the individual.