My first experience teaching and mentoring was through my time in boy scouts. A mainstay within scouting is the implementation of strong pillars of character among peers, the community, and the world, as well as the scout oath dictating dispositions of trustworthiness, helpfulness, kindness, and reverence. As a scout progresses to eagle, they are entrusted higher responsibility and to regard themselves as mentors and guides to other members within the troop. A tradition I particularly enjoyed within scouting is the ‘scout challenge’. When a scout reaches eagle, he challenges another scout to achieve the rank of eagle since the success rate of eagle scouts is only four out of one hundred. I regard the scout who challenged me to achieve eagle as a stronger mentor than the adult leaders within the troop, and I assume the scout I challenged to become eagle feels the same about me. The lessons of leadership did not depart after achieving eagle. I strive to be a mentor and guide in any endeavor, and my advance into academia provided the opportunity to foster mentorship within undergraduates.
San Francisco State University
As a teaching assistant at San Francisco State University I was given numerous opportunities to teach courses which I am passionate about including organismal and evolutionary biology, entomology, and ecology. Such classes incentivized me to cultivate curiosity and intrigue in the minds of my students. I found it critical to have passion for the subject matter, otherwise students’ priorities shift away from the procurement of knowledge and more towards the letter grade. I endeavored to foster an environment of passion in my classroom, by making the abstract biological concepts they learn physically tangible in the lab. I immersed myself in devising new and novel ways of explaining biological concepts using my own research and fieldwork experiences. I held live scorpions in front of the class to stress the importance of an exoskeleton, brought back plants and insects from my fieldwork to explain plant-animal symbioses, and let students use my own field tools to conduct lab activities to make them feel more authentic. I went extraordinary lengths to ensure my students experienced the concepts we covered in class, imbuing each lab section with a hefty amount of realism.
BIOL 460: General Entomology
California Academy of Sciences
Through my own research at the California Academy of Sciences, I’ve also had opportunities for 1:1 mentorship. During my fieldwork, I had two undergraduate field assistants from groups historically underrepresented in STEM. Neither student had never been to the tropics before and were able to acquire essential skills and experience conducting ecological fieldwork. I wanted to instill a sense of agency in my mentees and regarded them as peers and collaborators throughout our shared experience. In return, both students suggested and implemented more efficient methodologies throughout our fieldwork. Modeling my own experiences as a research assistant, I ensured both students had the ability to explore their own interests as well.
I was elated to learn that I one of my field assistants would return to our lab the following summer as a participant in the Academy’s REU program. Being a student mentor in the REU program was one of the most gratifying experiences to date. I was particularly excited because the project we developed together took the field methods we had co-developed in the tropics and applied them to a novel temperate ecosystem. Teaching and mentorship have taught me as much as I have taught others, and the skills I have learned will evolve along with me as I propel myself further into my academic ventures.
I wish to continue impacting the next generation of scientific scholars, who value the ideals of mentorship and integrity as strongly as they do their own research. Continuing to mentor and teach throughout my research will allow me to better comprehend the vast complexities of life and in turn help me convey to the world a profound appreciation for the value of biological diversity, and an increased sense of environmental stewardship and scientific literacy.