I had two professors in undergrad whose shared guidance let me to exceptional growth in the four years I spent with them. Either of them on their own would have been a benefit to my education, but the power of their mentorship styles combined was amazing.
The first professor was the theatre department chair and taught many of my classes. Because I worked in the Speech/Theatre Office as well as served as the House and Box Office Manager for department productions, I spent a lot of time with Jeff. Every time I saw him (it seemed) he had a new project, and that project’s success usually required my attention. Often, it also required skills I didn’t have (yet).
As far as I could tell it never occurred to Jeff that I might not know how to do the work he asked me to do. He assigned it and crossed it off his list as done–in full confidence that I’d figure it out.
He was almost always right. There were certainly a couple of embarrassing mistakes, (beautiful audition posters with the wrong date on them come immediately to mind) as well as a project or two I just didn’t do in hopes he’d forget about them. In those cases he never yelled. He just insisted I personally fix each resulting problem. It was exhausting–and exhilarating.
I could not have asked for more opportunities to do “real” work as an undergraduate. Because of his unreasonable levels of confidence in what I could do I finished my baccalaureate degree with work experience that rivaled some graduate students.
And yet, all that pushing to continually do more might have been too much on its own. Luckily I had another mentor with a completely different approach. Continue reading