Dr. Panos M. Pardalos
UF Department of Industrial and Systems Engineering
2006-2007 UF Doctoral Mentoring Award Winner
My educational background started in a small village in Greece, when I was six years old. It was a small school with all six grades inside the same classroom with only one teacher. My teacher’s name was George Papageorgiou (he is almost 90 years old now) and I visit him every time I go to Greece.
In my elementary school we had no books. At home I had no help. My mother never went to school, being an orphan of war. Despite all these difficulties, my teacher managed to give me the most important thing for a successful academic career — the thirst for knowledge, which is still with me after all these years.
Since then, I had many other teachers in elementary school, high school and universities where I studied. Some of them had no influence in my education. I do not even remember their names. But my elementary school teacher made all the difference! He was my best educational advisor. My philosophy in mentoring and promoting doctoral education was greatly influenced by him.
It is important to be honest, friendly and available to students, to create the opportunity for students to develop short and long range educational goals, to understand themselves, to explore the world of research, to foster critical thinking and decision-making skills, and to engage in academic planning. In these processes, the advisor serves as an expert in his field and as a provider of general and specific program information.
An advisor should also create a positive research atmosphere, reward achievements and maintain an enthusiasm for learning. Advising doctoral students means more than providing information. It means learning along with students, researching along with students and experiencing failure and success along with students. Cooperative activities, such as co-authoring, co-researching and co-teaching, allows students to integrate into academic life.
Doctoral dissertation advising means allowing students to explore new potentials, adopt new goals and see themselves doing things they had not considered before. Balancing the thrills and excitement of new discoveries with the pains of challenges is the art of advising.
The relationship between a doctoral advisor and his student, or a mentor and his pupil, is one of the oldest and most intellectually and socially unique relationships in academia and society. Going back to my elementary school teacher, I recall when he was teaching me how to multiply long integers. He also asked me if this is the best way to multiply. Only as a graduate student I realized how difficult the “multiplication” problem is (even today, an optimal algorithm for multiplication of integers is not known). But what is amazing for me is the way he posed the questions and initiated challenges, so that I remember them after all these years!
The success of my students is the highest award for me as an advisor, and I hope that my mentoring principles will help my students to develop their academic standards and to achieve the highest goals in their careers.