The Importance of Mentors

Johnathan Atkinson, Graduate Resident Director
Newbury College, Brookline, MA

My name is Johnathan Atkinson I am a Graduate Resident Director at Newbury College in the Office of Resident Life. I supervise six resident assistants, serve as a conduct officer, and advise the Resident Hall Council (RHC). I was one of the most involved students at my undergraduate institution, Mitchell College in Connecticut. I had the unique opportunity to work in just about every department and find my passion in student affairs work. But I would have to say the two people that inspired to go to graduate school and to really pursue a career in higher education were my supervisors and mentors Jamia Danzy and Isaac Newsome. They saw the potential in me, and gave me direction. The student population is the best part of working at Newbury, the opportunities I have to learn from our students as they learn from me. Working at a small institution reminds me of my alma mater, and the significance of getting to know our students one-on-one.

My career goals are to reform the education process in our country, and for education to focus more on individual’s needs so that each person can learn in a student-centered environment which strengthens and develops students to reach their highest potential. I think that if I were the president of a college, I would be able to make strides on a smaller scale as a model for what would work in higher education in our country. There are individual learning styles and not everyone learns the same way, so if we have a system in which each student can access their learning via their own style, they will be more successful in reaching their goals. This would escalate us as a society, to reach and find new abilities that we haven’t yet attained.

As a student with a diagnosed learning difference, I had to overcome a lot of adversity and learn what works best for me. I want to see students succeed, and to achieve the most they can possibly achieve, because college is a critical time to develop a sense of self, and it can easily make or break an individual. So if students are shown how to utilize all the resources available, as I have, they will be more successful in college and beyond. My advice to undergraduate seniors pursuing a career in higher education is to look for graduate schools early on in your senior year so you have options. Look for programs with fellowships and assistantships so you can get the opportunity to put theory into practice. Adversity defines one’s character it all depends on how we choose to overcome the hard times.