A Compassionate Mentor

by Shelley Arakawa | 5/23/01 5:00am

To the Editor:

Five years ago, a Dartmouth senior wrote in a paper for Professor Randy Testa's education class, "A mentor constitutes a person entrusted with the development of another. Initially, the role of the mentor may consist more of teaching, protecting or leading the person under his care. The mentor provides direction and guidance. However, if the mentor is good, and the pupil willing, in the end, the two will walk beside each other, no longer as teacher and student or leader and follower, but as friends." As former Dartmouth admissions officers, we found Karl Furstenberg to be such a mentor. Accordingly, we encountered a work environment quite different from the one described in your May 17th article, "Admissions Office faced mass exit."

Both of us are people of color who served as Assistant Directors of Admissions (Jarrid is an enrolled member of the Six Nations Cayuga tribe of New York who worked in the office from 1995-1998; Shelley is a Japanese-American from Hawaii who served as a Senior Interviewer, and later worked as an officer from 1996-1999). From directing Native American recruitment efforts to coordinating the involvement of 5,000 alumni enrollment volunteers, we received the resources and support to help us implement our objectives. When the number of Native American students increased dramatically, and when the alumni applauded the production of a new interviewers' manual, Karl was quick to publicly identify us and credited our hard work and creativity as reasons for the office's success in those areas.

During year-end performance reviews and in casual conversation, Karl always complimented our efforts and inquired about our plans for the future. The consummate counselor, Karl provided helpful advice ranging from encouraging us to attend graduate school to advance in the admissions profession to suggesting resources for information on employment in other education-related fields.

As David Halberstam observed in the 1996 commencement address, "Learning is not just a tool to bring you a better income; learning is an ongoing never ending process designed to bring you a fuller and richer life." Our Dartmouth experience has truly been an educational adventure. Karl's guidance and encouragement afforded us a chance to grow personally and professionally. His commitment to diversity and confidence in our individual abilities enabled us to pursue our dreams. Throughout the world of admissions, Karl is known as a person who brings integrity, vision, and an overwhelming sense of fairness to the admissions process.

The same holds true in the operations of his office. As the Class of 2001 prepares for life after Dartmouth, we can only hope that they will have the privilege of working with a mentor like Karl Furstenberg as early on in their careers as we did. Karl gave us every opportunity to reach our professional potential. In doing so, we were neither pushed out nor did we feel compelled to leave the Dartmouth Admissions Office; rather, he helped to launch us on the path to a fuller and richer life.

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