At UC San Diego, retired professors are mentoring first-generation college students

A mentoring program can provide crucial support to students. JD Lasica, CC BY-NC

A mentoring program can provide crucial support to students. JD Lasica, CC BY-NC

Authored by Melvin Green, Professor Emeritus Biology, University of California, San Diego

My mother cried when I told her I was changing my major from engineering to chemistry. Her fear was that I would never earn a living as a chemist.

When she heard a few years later that I planned to go for a PhD in chemistry, her only comment was,

So why don’t you at least become a real doctor?

Doctor, lawyer, engineer – these were careers that Eastern European immigrants such as my mother and father knew had definite earning power. Having survived the Great Depression, they believed earning a living was all that mattered.

As a student in the 1950s, I had never heard of the word “mentor.” In retrospect, as a first-generation college student, I would have really been helped by having a “mentor,” especially with regard to choosing a career.

So, for the past 10 years, following my retirement as professor of biology at the University of California, San Diego, my greatest joy and sense of satisfaction has come from mentoring undergraduates.

First-generation students

It wasn’t always that way.

As a young professor, struggling to climb the academic ladder toward tenure and a full professorship, my research took precedence over all else, including teaching and even family life. Read More...