People often seek guidance when starting on the road to a college education or career. Individuals find this helping hand in mentorship.
For political science professor John Lucas, mentorship was given to him in a few variations as he attended college, and again when he began teaching at Pierce College. While none of his experiences were official mentorships, each provided advice as he went through life.
His college adviser, Kent Guy, a professor of Chinese history at the University of Washington, first mentored him. Guy helped Lucas navigate his way through selecting classes and making other decisions throughout his education at the university.
“My opinion about mentorship is to not look for someone who just knows things but to look for someone who has good judgment,” Lucas said.
Later in Luca’s education, his graduate dissertation mentor, J. Gus Liebenow, mentored him while he was studying at Indiana University. Liebenow was an expert on Liberian politics and professor emeritus of political science at Indiana University.
Liebenow was also a founding member of the African Studies Association and served in World War II where he dealt with gas exposure.
As a result of all his experience, Liebenow was able to guide Lucas to make smart choices about his dissertation. However, because of the gas exposure, Liebenow was often sick, yet no matter his personal circumstances, he continued to help Lucas.
This was evident when Lucas returned from Nigeria after six months of studying.
When Lucas returned to the United States, he was told that Liebenow was severely ill by this time, and did not expect Liebenow to continue to help him.
But he quickly saw that Liebenow didn’t give up. He continued to read Lucas’s dissertation chapters daily and offer advice, even while in the hospital.
While Liebenow died before Lucas could defend his dissertation, he made an impact on Lucas’s education and judgment with his determined guidance.
The third time that Lucas dealt with mentorship was when he first started teaching at Pierce College. Once he began on the tenure track for professors, a tenure committee was assigned to evaluate his progress, and then give him advice.
The whole board was helpful, but Lucas said the main member that aided Lucas was former business professor and committee chair Steve Kober.
At the time, Kober was a prominent member of the South Hill business community and a member of the Chamber of Commerce. However, he still made time to help Lucas by giving him counsel.
He provided a range of ideas to Lucas from how to improve his teaching to simple guidance about how the system of Pierce College works.
For Lucas, each of the three men who mentored him made an impact in some way that helped form his judgment.
“The nice thing about mentors is that they help you have the correct attitude about things,” Lucas said. “Mentors help navigate areas that are ambiguous without yes or no answers. They are someone you respect.”
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