"A few weeks ago I walked into the library during Summer Orientation for our incoming first-year students. Some of you may have shared a similar experience depending on when you began at Drew. As students and faculty discussed the students’ first semester courses, I could hear bits of conversation."
Faculty members asked students about intended goals and tested boundaries to get the students out of their comfort zones. Each faculty member set about getting his or her student to open up about what the student found easy, difficult, frustrating, inspiring and invigorating and then helping her or him understand that the first leg of the Drew journey would be about expanding possibilities, not about narrowing options. These were the students’ very first academic advising sessions and the start of their mentorship as Drew students.
Now in my third year as president, I’m still struggling to find the exact words to articulate how the strength of the relationship between faculty and students is the central quality of the Drew experience and what makes Drew different. Even without the right words, I am constantly delighted and amazed when I hear specific examples of how a faculty member impacted a student’s experience. When I ask alums about their time at Drew, they always describe a particular faculty member and recount the ways in which he or she made it a point to truly know a student, to understand her or his needs and to offer rich and tailor-made advice or experiences to help him or her along the way.
While many of you have reminisced about your experiences with faculty mentorship, I am equally delighted and amazed to hear how you have taken this experience and paid it forward as you’ve progressed in your careers. This magazine features several wonderful stories reflecting on how our alumni experienced mentorship at Drew, as well as how the tradition of mentorship continues—and how it has become a part of your life’s mission. It is clear to me that Drew students not only internalize the academic lessons taught by our faculty, but also the spirit in which they are shared generously and selflessly.
As I left the library, I was proud and rather envious of those faculty members as they engaged with our newest students. I overheard them saying things like “Isn’t this exciting? They are so wonderful, so talented, so interesting. It is the privilege of knowing these students that keeps me loving what I do.” It is that mutual admiration and enthusiasm that students sense, and it is that level of engagement that ensures that with each new interaction, formal or informal, a student grows a little bit.
Perhaps that perspective is the key to Drew’s success— and the start to finding the right words to express why we are different. Faculty members here love what they do and are happiest when they are with our students. As a result, they create relationships that far exceed the academic advising implied in “faculty-student mentorship.” I am so glad that you, as alums, were the recipients of that mentorship and am grateful to those who are able to pay it forward to our current students and others. Drew’s success begins with each student’s journey into The Forest, and I am excited to see how the Class of 2020 grows under the mentorship of our faculty and how you, our alums, continue to use those lessons to make Drew shine both in and outside The Forest.
— MaryAnn Baenninger