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Natural Sciences Education Abstract - Articles

“Amazing Grace”: A Memoir of Mentoring


This article in NSE

  1. Vol. 36 No. 1, p. 1-5
    Received: June 9, 2006

    * Corresponding author(s): ssimmons@umn.edu
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  1. Steve R. Simmons *
  1. Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, Univ. of Minnesota, 1991 Upper Buford Cir., St. Paul, MN 55108-6026


The concept of mentoring is central to many educational programs in agriculture and natural resources. A mentor has been defined as one who fosters personal, educational, and professional growth in another person (the “mentee”). Within this definition, the mentee is often assumed to be younger than, or junior to, her or his mentor. This article presents a memoir of the author's experiences with his mentor, biochemistry professor Larry Butler, during his undergraduate studies at Purdue University in the 1960s. The purpose of the memoir is to improve understanding of the practices of effective mentors by reflecting upon the author's experiences while executing his “senior thesis” under Dr. Butler's direction. His mentor's impact continued even beyond the author's graduation from college, and his recollections of Professor Butler's actions during that time have especially shaped his convictions about mentoring. The author's own approaches to advising students as a professor have been greatly influenced by his involvements as a student with Dr. Butler. The article concludes with the premise that only mentees can identify those who have been their mentors. The process of identifying one's mentors may take time and can be aided by asking questions such as “Who has most conveyed inspiration to me for the long haul?” Such questions help to distinguish those people who have been especially significant in one’s development as a professional. Once one has identified her or his mentors, it is important to express gratitude to them while there is opportunity to do so.

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