This is the second summer we’ve run a series on influential faculty in our college, as nominated by our CAHNRS Ambassadors. A very small number professors were nominated both years. Since they already answered the basic questions, we felt like this would be a good chance for them to talk about the mentors that influenced them when they were students.
The first double-nominee is Amit Dhingra, associate professor in the Department of Horticulture. Here is his submission on the role of mentors:
“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”
― Plutarch (AD 46 – AD 120), Greek historian, biographer, and essayist
I am grateful to the students for the nomination second year in a row. As part of this, I was asked to write about an influential teacher/mentor that led me to my career, and what that person did that makes him/her standout to me.
It is hard to write about one influential teacher or mentor, so right at the outset, I would state that it takes a village – at least that has been my experience. When it comes to the realm of mentoring, often the cliché of ‘pass it forward’ is used. However, the truth is the process is not simply a linear chain but a network, and while one gets influenced by several mentors, a mentor also ends up being one of the many influences in the lives of their protégés.
As I find myself on the other side of the equation to teach and mentor students, I channel the influence of not one but several mentors. The folks who took me under their wing, in their immense generosity, overlooked my ignorance and magnanimously directed me to exploit my potential. I learnt from my ‘Mentoratti’, the mafia of mentors (pun intended), that the role of a teacher and mentor is similar to a coach – identify the factors that hold an individual back, making the person aware of that and give them the tools to grow and succeed.
Mentors are people. They come in all packages. I learnt not to ignore the ones that taught me what not to do – sometimes that is far more important than knowing what to do. The common denominator of all good mentors is their humility. I remain grateful to the several humble and generous mentors who taught me that everything we do is not about us but it is about others and the next generation.
I salute all my past mentors but a special shout out to the current ones that includes the students, who through their participation in my research and classes, their constant feedback and friendship, continue to help me in discovering myself in not just being a better mentor but a better person.
To all my dear students – this recognition is dedicated to all of you!