Sunday, January 22, 2012

These hallowed halls

I earn part of my daily bread as a graduate academic advisor in the College of Engineering. In other words, the students under my watch are all earning master of science or doctorate degrees in engineering. By definition then, they are organized, directed, analytical, methodical, intelligent, persistent.

One student's experience, though, encapsulates the essence of why I love advising. An self-descrubed lackadaisical American undergraduate in chemical engineering, he found himself at the point of singular dissatisfaction with his job in the oil service industry. He quit that lucrative job to return for an MS, with an idea of specializing in energy-generating materials, earning an MS without benefit of an assistantship. More gregarious than the typical engineering student, he shared with me his ideas and disappointments and hopes. I offered suggestions and contacts, but mostly listened.

He took the initiative to study internationally at the acknowledged world-leading university in his particular field of energy materials.

After successfully completing the physics course well acknowledged to be the most difficult in our curriculum, and also holding his own in the ad hoc study group, the student admitted to me, proudly and almost incredulously, "Maybe I am capable of doing graduate-level engineering coursework." He entered the program with trepidation and bravado and probably a some fear, but persevered and overcame, proving his engineering proficiency and resourcefulness, mostly to himself.

The is the reason I love advising.

He is the only MS student, to my knowledge, to be offered a position with a famous semiconductor manufacturer and developer.

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