May 16, 2018 | Katherine Adams
This year, University of Houston-Clear Lake students and professors who participated in the Common Reader Program brought to action one of the overarching themes of the selected book, “Hidden Figures” – the importance of mentorship, particularly among women. As the 2017-18 academic year draws to a close, numerous pairs of students and mentors – such as junior Emily Frith and her mentor, Lecturer in Environmental Management Kathleen Garland – have been meeting throughout the year to discuss academic goals, career plans, and life’s struggles.
The best-selling book was made into a film starring Octavia Spencer in 2016, highlighting the true story of a team of African American female mathematicians who served a vital role at NASA during the early years of the U.S. space program. In addition to its focus on the importance of mentorship, the plot also touches other themes such as race and the role of women in science and technology fields.
“We met twice over the spring semester and volunteered at Texas Envirothon together,” Garland said. “She’s gotten very engaged and took on a big responsibility at this event. I’ve seen a lot of growth in Emily over this year.”
On a personal level, Garland said that she felt Frith had become more confident and less tentative. “She’s now very certain she made the right career choice,” Garland said. “She’s much more articulate and she’s definitely matured a lot. When we had our first meeting, she wasn’t sure what she should talk about. By the second one, she had a list of really good questions to ask me.”
Frith began this academic year saying she hoped to get out of her shell a bit more. She said she felt that she’d gained more confidence as a result of her mentorship relationship with Garland. “One of the best things I got out of being Dr. Garland’s mentee is that I now have a connection to people in my field of study that I would never have had if she hadn’t worked with me,” she said. “I know that even if we can’t meet up or if schedules don’t match up, she is still a phone call or email away. I can always rely on Dr. Garland.”
A first-generation college student from Cleveland, Texas, Frith will take two classes with Garland in environmental management in fall 2018. “One of the best lessons I have learned from being Dr. Garland’s mentee is that it’s all right to ask for help from someone with experience,” she said. “I think we feel we have to do everything on our own sometimes, and figure it all out by ourselves. Having a mentor has taught me it’s OK to reach out and ask for help if you’re having issues, or if you just don’t know what your next move should be. Dr. Garland’s support has been really helpful and has given me a sense of confidence.”
The 2018-19 Common Reader Program selection is, “Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work,” by Dave Isay.
For more information about the Common Reader Program at UHCL, visit www.uhcl.edu/academics/first-year-seminar/common-reader.