Nothing beats sincere and continuous encouragement

Dr. Changwoo Ahn, in the field, studying wetland ecology.

It is an extremely humbling and rewarding experience to be a mentor for undergraduate
students. I want my students to be empowered and transformed through my mentoring on their research and scholarship activities, so that they can develop not only much-needed skill sets, but also gain an ability and insight to integrate the things that they have learned to be able to understand the larger context of learning.

Research and scholarship activities often require countless hours of keen attention even to
minor details in every step of their learning process. It is also a process of truly understanding and building a character for each student. I make continuously conscious efforts to make myself available whenever students need me no matter what. I make sure they are heard, seen, and appreciated for their inquiries, actions, and progresses during the project, which I have observed truly motivate and empower them to move on to the next step, leading a necessary progress in their learning.

Students have to feel comfortable and confident with mentors to be successful with their projects. They should feel comfortable enough to ask questions and raise any concerns on their projects without hesitance. The mentor must be patient and should be able to show and communicate with students clearly that he or she cares. I am culturally sensitive and compassionate with my mentoring to address each student’s unique character and learning progress. What I have learned from my mentoring experience is that patience, flexibility, preparation, and communication are imperative to being a successful mentor. I provide specific knowledge, skills, and sources of information, and share my experience through meetings, conversations, and activities with students. These are all important ingredients in mentoring, yet nothing beats sincere and continuous “encouragement” and “praises” considerately tailored to each student.

Mentoring constantly challenges me to grow as a professor. I believe that I can make a
difference if I provide supportive and effective mentoring in the lives of many students, and I have been fortunate enough to actually experience that to some deg
ree. I often say to my students “Don’t suffer from learning, but it is necessary to struggle to learn, and let’s struggle to learn together”.


About the Mentor

Dr. Ahn receives the OSCAR Mentoring Excellence Award from Dr. Bethany Usher, Director of Students as Scholars

Dr. Changwoo Ahn ( is a Professor of Environmental Science and Policy at George Mason University.  His research interests include Wetland Ecosystem Ecology, Ecological Engineering and Ecosystem Restoration, and System Ecology.  He is a founder and director of EcoScience+Art at GMU, a new interdisciplinary initiative started  to bring together individuals working across the boundaries of ecosystem science, engineering, art, and design fields. His personal webpage is here and his TEDx talk on the EcoScience+Art initiative is on Youtube.  On May 4, 2016, Dr. Ahn was selected as a recipient of the OSCAR Mentoring Excellence Award.

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