Address at Loyola University Graduate School Commencement, April 2004 upon receipt of Faculty Member of the Year Award
Katherine L. Knight
Thank you, Dr. Yost. I cherish this honor with a deep gratitude for the opportunity that Loyola has given me to work with a dedicated faculty and committed students.
For many years, you as students, have benefited from the nurturing you've received from your teachers and professors. At the same time our lives have been enriched by knowing and working with you. These student-faculty relationships are at the heart of an educational experience. They nurture the soul and facilitate development of the mind which unleashes one's creativity.
Where ever the future takes you, you will have opportunities to begin all kinds of new relationships, some of them where you'll be mentored like you've been mentored by the faculty at Loyola and more importantly, ones in which you'll be mentoring someone else.
Mentoring can be so much more than simply a way to pass on information. It's actually about caregiving. While you're responding to the issue at hand, the most important thing, is how you respond. You want to do it in a way that focuses on the particular needs of the other person and in a way that promotes their well being.
Opportunities for caregiving or mentoring, present themselves in a myriad of situations. For example, take Sarah, a former student of mine who is now a top executive in a drug company. After about a year, Sarah was supervising a new technician, Tom. Sarah was impressed by how conscientious Tom was and felt he had great potential. One day, Tom was making a solution and he inadvertently added CaCl2 instead of NaCl. After Sarah realized Tom's mistake and discussed it with him, Tom was mortified. In discussing the event with Tom, Sarah discovered that, even though Tom had made a simple mistake that anyone might make, in his mind, it was unforgivable and he was frightened that he might loose his job.
In responding to Tom, Sarah helped him realize that what was important, was not the loss itself, but rather to take a constructive response to the experience. She helped Tom see that his harsh self-criticism was interfering with his ability to objectively assess what had happened. And thereby, with his ability to focus on how to avoid making the same mistake in the future.
Sarah continued to offer Tom this kind of feedback in a stable, non-judgmental, caregiving manner and Tom went to become one of the most productive and respected technicians in the company. He also became a superb mentor of new technicians.
Stories like this abound, and it is important to realize that in essence, everyone has the potential to be a good mentor because the need for caring is the essence of one's human nature.
In your future you will have many opportunities to positively affect the lives of those with whom you interact. I encourage you to embrace these opportunities. If you do, I'm sure that you will find that the experience is a great privilege and one of life's most profound pleasures.