Graduate Mentoring

February 4, 2019

Graduate student training is essential to the mission of Florida State University. It has been my passion since I arrived on campus in 1990. My approach is simple; be respectful, be available, and demand excellence.

Be respectful:

I am respectful at all times. There is no substitute for a healthy relationship between myself and my graduate students. A healthy relationship begins and ends with respect. I take an active interest in my students and in their future. I try to be organized so I can provide them with bespoke training giving them opportunities specific to their individual goals. This means I train for both academia and industry. Kelsey Ellis (Scheitlin) is now an associate professor at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and Holly Widen is now a research associate at Risk Management Solutions (the world’s leading catastrophe risk modeling company).

Be available:

I provide a supportive environment for research and scholarship through a consistent open line of communication. I’m available electronically even when I’m away from my office. I listen. Listening sends the message that I value them as individuals and take their ideas seriously. I let them know where they stand and what the strengths and weaknesses of their work are. I give immediate and honest feedback. Persistence and inspiring support can overcome what I might initially interpret as a lack of ability or motivation. I provide opportunities to present research at national conferences and opportunities to collaborate with other scholars outside the university. I spend time with my students outside the classroom. I chase tornadoes with them and take them on damage surveys.

Demand excellence:

I demand excellence. I teach them how to be careful readers, clear writers, clean coders, and compelling communicators. I show them by example. I challenge them toward professionalism. I emphasize that a computer code that solves a problem is the start. The code must be understandable to others and to them a few years hence. I teach them that if a careful analysis is to be convincing, the trail from the data to the final output must be made clearly available. A scientific paper is an advertisement for a specific claim but proof is the procedure that produced the result. Thus I teach them how to be methodical and meticulous with the visual display of information. The reward is the deep and lasting satisfaction that comes with knowing I’ve made a difference in their lives.