Steven Nutt

Photo by: Ziva Santop/ Steve Cohn Photography
Photo by: Ziva Santop/ Steve Cohn Photography

USC Viterbi School of Engineering

There’s a saying that “Parents don’t make grownups out of kids; kids make grown-ups out of parents,” and it’s much the same way with faculty advisors and graduate students. Just as parents learn to be responsible adults when they realize how much their children depend on them, not only for food, shelter and safety, but as sources of advice, discipline, affection and as role models, faculty advisors learn to be mentors from their graduate students, who look to them for similar resources as they develop into scholars.

I’m not sure just how far I can take this analogy because there are clear differences, but I can’t help but feel that in my 20 years at USC, I have learned from my graduate students as much as they have learned from me. I learned how to be a mentor to them in much the same way I learned to be a grown-up from my own children. My students clearly had needs that I was best positioned to satisfy, so I developed mentoring devices and practices to help meet those needs. And I have found it deeply rewarding to watch my students improve their research skills and develop poise, maturity and professionalism. They deserve all the credit for what they achieve—my mentoring is only a small part of their success. I am deeply proud of them, and grateful for what I have learned from them.