Sunday, September 4, 2016

Memories: My Messiah College Mentor

Good day one and all.

Been meaning to put this up here for a while. For a little context, just want to remind some folks (for those who might not know it) that my mother is/has been a university registrar for about 30 years. This means that in the course of my life I've been put to work on stacking, stapling, editing or helping out in some capacity with the work she's brought home.

After her stint at Daystar University ended (27+ years), she's spent short stints at other universities in the same capacity. What's worrying is that a lot of these universities have her putting out small fires because their foundations education-wise are pretty unsound. The very same institutional shortcomings talked about concerning Kenya's tertiary education system seem to have spread to multiple institutions like the flu of the month.

This is where my Messiah memory comes in. I can't fully make you appreciate how daunting it was to find myself away from home, a whole continent away (for the first time), and having to study for the first stage of my medical degree. However, I am glad that Messiah had the mentor system, whereby each student was given a lecturer who basically helped them weather the college experience. I actually had 2 mentors: Dr. Jon Melton, a chemistry lecturer, for my first 2 years; later, Dr. Sherri Boyce, a neuroscientist, who also happened to be from my same School (Dept) of Natural Sciences, took up the role. For the purpose of this chat, I'll be dealing with Dr. Melton.

By nature a very quiet man, I remember that our first talk in his office was very simple. He got to know about how I was settling in, then he basically set me up for my whole college life. He took me through the course catalog for PreMed Bio, with all its requirements, then he told me that I should basically arrange and select all my courses per semester for my entire time at Messiah. Of course, understanding the complexities of Messiah's online registration system (then known as Irislink, which then morphed into MC-squared), he told me to have some flexibility in mind for elective courses I could take in case I found myself locked out of my first choices.

Just like that, the man gave me a blueprint for my whole time at Messiah, such that every semester, as soon as my allotted time came up, I registered for my classes in comfort. I'm really sad that I didn't interact with him that much after I had to switch mentors, thus I've never thanked him for what he did.

Tying all these things together, I think all these fledgling Kenyan universities could borrow a leaf from other institutions with a winning formula. Seems like nowadays the trend is just to pack the classes with as many students as possible, hire plenty of part-time lecturers to attend to the masses, overload a student's semester/trimester with courses (independent of their aptitude, performance or desire), and hope for the best.

And for goodness sake, what's with the rush to offer Master's degrees/PhDs? Using Messiah as a reference, after having being started in 1909, it became a college in 1920, and then only when it turned 100 years old did it introduce a Master's degree (Counseling). Compare this with some Kenyan universities which within the space of 7 years since inception already offer full fledged PhD programs, and you can appreciate the mess that we're in.

It's in taking care of the little things, that an institution can aspire for greatness; it's also in focusing and polishing specific fields that an institution of learning can become world renowned and a centre of excellence. It is the unique nature of a good university experience at a good university that will keep drawing quality students for years to come.

So in closing, would just like to say Thank You Dr. Melton for everything, all this that's worthy of a lifetime lesson.

God Bless.