White Balloon

Daily Journal of Mahaan, an Iranian-American student residing in USA.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Advising students

Advising a younger student is my newest challenge. Riv is Indian and graduated from the undergrad program in my university. At the time of hiring, I received a negative image about Riv from my bosses. According to my US boss, it might be a favor to him if we stop him from pursuing research and PhD path, even if he's in love with such a career. I still think that academia is a place for experimentation and we should provide the benefit of the doubt to most people and ideas.

Now Riv is working with me for a few months. He is fairly smart and can be hard-working if one can pull the strings at the right moment. But the critique that the bosses have about him really holds: The dude lacks independence. He does not initiate much and is good as a staff who follows orders. Part of the problem is that he looses his self-esteem while facing a problem and this somehow relates to the instruction structure of our start-up university. Here our kids are too much mouth-fed and miss the challenge of independent work. They've learned to knock on faculties' door whenever they face a problem.

Today I had a frank conversation with Riv. I asked him to start a piece of work parallel to the work that he's doing for me. This is going to be totally his, with me just supervising. To start, he's going to look back at his half-failed senior thesis and write down its shortcomings and propose 1-2 ideas to try and we are going to set a time-line for those things to be implemented.

Like teaching, academic advising is a challenging task and when it is rewarding, it can be fun. It certainly requires both the scientific knowledge, but also emotional intelligence and creativity. I feel happy that I am testing myself with such a task. One who is not good at it, should think of other career directions.
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