At Harvard since 2017, Victor Seow, assistant professor of the history of science, is one of the recent winners of the Everett Mendelsohn Excellence in Mentoring Awards, a student-led award that honors GSAS faculty for their excellence in mentorship. Read more about this year’s winners in “What Makes a Mentor Great.”
Seow’s relationship with his primary nominator, Jongsik Christian Yi, a PhD student in the history of science, started in the winter of 2015 when Seow traveled to give a talk at a university in South Korea, Yi’s native country. Yi attended, and the two talked during and after the presentation about his thesis and future plans.
“I often wonder, ‘Was that the moment Professor Seow saw something in me?’,” says Yi. “Since then, I have felt like he is my mentor, even though I didn’t arrive at Harvard until 2017. Now, three years into my PhD program, Professor Seow has been standing by me with his usual smiling face and timely, encouraging words.”
For Seow, the admiration is mutual.
“Jongsik has thrived here at Harvard,” says Seow. “He is a meticulous scholar with a critical and creative mind, an industrious work ethic, and a delightful disposition. I have truly enjoyed working with and learning from him over the last few years.”
At the heart of Seow’s approach to advising is his recognition of graduate students as colleagues.
“Yes, our students have come to study with us and there is much that we can and should teach them, from the foundations of our fields to the art and craft of writing, but they bring a lot to the table as well,” says Seow. “I’ve learned a good deal from my students over the years, be it through receiving their feedback on my unpublished work, watching them teach and mentor our undergraduates, or working together to help them develop their individual projects.”
Another important aspect to Seow’s advising is the recognition that this can be a difficult time to be a graduate student.
“Graduate school is riddled with anxiety, much of it stemming from the precarity of the academic job market,” says Seow. “I’ve tried to help ease some of that anxiety for my students by providing them with as much structure as possible to their studies and by checking in regularly to ensure that they are on track and that they get help if they need it. I think it is important to let our students know just how invested we are in their success and in them as individuals.”