At the end of this summer, I realized I had a mentor. I was taken back a bit. I told her immediately because we happened to be in the car together. I typically do a lot of thinking when traveling especially when long car rides are involved. I explained to her that she had always made me want to be a better mechanical engineering student and that I really saw myself as “growing up” to be like her. She was smart, knew her stuff, cared about the quality of her work but also cared about the younger generation of engineers. And it hit me that those qualities define her as a role model for me. I include the term “mentor” because she always had great advice for me. So, role model + advice = mentor because there’s this give and take aspect. I think the realization came because she was just finishing her graduate degree and leaving for an exciting new job, but I also think the realization came because I’ve been doing a lot of self-reflection since my junior year ended. Call it senior-brain or what have you, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking.
With some more time to think, I’ve come to the realization that I’ve had several valuable mentors / role models during my time here. Individuals who shaped my understanding of what it meant to work hard and to be successful. Individuals that I’ve kept in touch with.
There’s a multitude of reasons why MIT will always be an institution that offers its students a world-class education. MIT attracts hard-working and brilliant individuals, young and old. And the network of “MIT people” will always be a formidable network. A powerhouse of intellectual prowess if you will. The classes, the hands-on work and the research are all cornerstones of an MIT education but the network you create for yourself (of your peers, of older students, of researchers, of instructors, of professors) is just as much a cornerstone.
Yesterday was Thanksgiving and there’s a lot of positive people in my life that I am thankful for. I am especially thankful for my role models and mentors. Emily Obert, Matthew Gildner, and Stephanie Whalen – you’ve shaped my MIT experience in a fundamental way. There are so many other people who’ve shaped my time here but I can’t be more thankful to the three of you for all of the advice you’ve given me and your patience when the list of questions can often seem endless.
As this semester closes, I recommend that you reflect on your time here at MIT. Maybe you’ve had mentors or role models that you didn’t realize were your mentors or role models! Give it some thought over the break or while you’re preparing for finals. It’s a great feeling to realize you have someone to look up to. I also think this would be a great opportunity to drop them a note (via email or snail mail) and thank them for fulfilling this role in your life.