Building Relationships from Friends to Mentors
Our chief want in life is somebody who shall make us do what we can.
—Ralph Waldo Emerson
At the age of thirty-four, a returning student signed up for a senior American history class and, for the first time, found himself enthralled by his professor. He found it unusually easy to stay after class to talk about the reading assignments and interpretations of what he had previously thought of as facts. He could hardly restrain himself from complimenting the professor who brought the subject to life; his professor, impressed and interested, encouraged him to enroll in graduate school. In June, immediately after he graduated, he wrote his appreciation not in a thank you card but in a Father's Day card. A Father's Day card when there were fewer than ten years between them? Yes, a strong mentorship had developed that most students can only hope for. As for the professor, you can bet he never had to search through his files to remember for which student he was writing letters of recommendation. But what made the student so special? He was not the most brilliant student. There can be only one [most] brilliant student, after all. What can the rest of us do to develop such a bond with our professors? Become interested in the subject and in them. There is nothing like profound expressed interest on which to build a relationship.
Yet relationships are tricky things, no matter how much we need them. No getting around that. The dynamics of hope, love, happiness, and betrayal between friends and lovers have long been the subject of