The Role of Mentors

We are all shaped by our experiences. In academic and professional contexts, we are additionally shaped by our teachers, professors, collaborators, and mentors. I’ve been fortunate in my career to have had mentors at different stages of my career. During my undergraduate years at the University of Redlands, I had the privilege of having wonderful teachers in a context that was both nurturing and challenging. One of these mentors was Judith A. Morrison who died yesterday.

Judy came to Redlands about my sophomore year there. She was smart, intense, and passionate about the clinical enterprise. To me, Judy embodied the ideal supervisor. She supported me as a beginning clinician, focused my attention on what was important, and let me go even when I didn’t fully understand why I was doing what I was doing. She helped me to complete analyses of my client’s speech and language, and guided development of lesson plans. I learned all along even as she supported what it was I did in assessment and intervention.

She knew the literature and kept up always. She put ideas she read about into practice. In a lot of ways, even before the current focus on EBP, she insisted that what we did was based on evidence. She was also sarcastic and funny– I could totally relate to the sarcasm, but she wasn’t mean. I think she enjoyed clinical teaching and enjoyed her students and enjoyed working with clients.

I think she was one of the first people to help me think about culture at a theoretical level. Not just differences between cultures, but what those differences meant and how one, as a speech-language pathologist, should navigate those differences. A strengh of her approach was always to think about interactions from the other point of view rather than only from one’s own world view. I think this came through in her clinical teaching.

I was always impressed with her, her passion, her humor, her knowledge. I can say that even after completing my undergraduate degree, my master’s and then the Ph.D.– whenever I saw Judy– at conferences, at Redland’s reunions, and so on, I continued to learn from her.

Rest in peace Judy. I will miss you. I am better for having had you as a mentor and friend.

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