Department of French
Recipient, Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs

Background of the Award
Statement of Mentoring Philosophy

Background of the Award

Each spring graduate students are invited to nominate faculty members for the Faculty Award for Outstanding Mentorship of GSIs. Typically each nomination is supported by several GSIs who have worked with the honoree. The award is sponsored by the Graduate Council’s Advisory Committee for GSI Affairs and the GSI Teaching & Resource Center.

Seda Chavdarian’s Statement of Mentoring Philosophy

As with my teaching, I do not have a mentoring philosophy set in stone. Indeed, even the most well-researched, well-intentioned plan may not always be suitable for a particular group of graduate student instructors (GSIs). My mentoring philosophy is therefore much more pragmatic than theoretical. It is a process that evolves and changes continually. Yet a few guiding principles serve as the foundation of my approach, principles which have come about as a result of three major influences in my life: my parents, my own teaching mentor, and the GSIs themselves.

I am a third-generation teacher and attribute some of my love of teaching to my genes. Both my parents and grandparents were educators and were involved in training young teachers. They led by example and instilled in me an awe and respect for the profession. During my years as a graduate student and a teaching assistant at Berkeley, I was greatly influenced by my mentor, Professor Gérard Jian. Attending his classes and pedagogical meetings and watching him come in day in and day out with unwavering enthusiasm was a great inspiration for me. The GSIs themselves continually inspire me and keep me on my toes. Every year, they impress me with their enthusiasm, innovative ideas, and an unsurpassed spirit of sharing and teamwork. I learn so much from them.

The following principles are at the core of my mentoring philosophy:

Respect — I never forget that the GSIs are individuals with different learning styles and personalities. Every one of them deserves to be treated with respect and have his/her ideas heard. Indeed I consider and have always referred to them as my colleagues.

Caring — it is important for the GSIs to know that I care deeply about them and take their training seriously. They must know that I appreciate and validate their ideas and suggestions. It is my hope that they see me as an advocate for them and their teaching.

Patience — This is the cornerstone of any dedicated teacher/mentor.

Encouragement — I want to encourage the GSIs not to be intimidated in trying new ways of teaching or bringing their ideas and perspectives to the table.

Enthusiasm — I try to show them my own enthusiasm for what I do. I have an “open-door” policy and make myself available at all times. They know they are always welcome to bring me their questions, concerns, and suggestions. I try to accomplish all of the above by setting an example with my own teaching. To me, leading by example is one of the most essential qualities of mentoring.

A good teacher/mentor is an avid listener and a good learner who instills a life-long love of learning. I never see myself as someone who imparts the knowledge of teaching to the GSIs. I see myself as a guide who helps them appreciate and understand the material in their own way. One of the most important duties of a mentor is to create an inviting and intellectually stimulating environment that promotes trust, collegiality, and exchange of ideas that help the GSIs realize their full potential as scholars and instructors.

In this world-renowned university, known especially for its graduate programs, lower division students sometimes get lost in the shuffle, so to speak. Upper division students, freshmen coming in with a major field of study, and graduate students have a department to identify with. However, undeclared lower division students feel a great sense of anonymity. Our university’s vibrant intellectual and cultural environment is unsurpassed, yet it can be overwhelming for an incoming freshman. One of my roles as a mentor is to make sure that the GSIs do their best to provide a stimulating and warm learning atmosphere for the students, and deliver an excellent education.

To that end, it is imperative that the larger university community understands the essential role played by GSIs in undergraduate education. If we are not successful in lower division, there would be no majors, and eventually no graduate students.

The Graduate Council’s Advisory Committee for GSI Affairs, the GSI Teaching & Resource Center, and the California Alumni Association should be lauded for officially recognizing the contribution of GSIs.

Mentoring and teaching are the greatest source of learning. Joseph Joubert, the eighteenth-century essayist, said: Enseigner, c’est apprendre deux fois.
(Pensées. 1909. Paris: Perrin. “To teach is to learn twice.”)