Featured Member - Daniel Brown, Assoc. AIA
As a professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Daniel Brown places high value on mentorship and building up his students to tackle new challenges in architecture.
As a professor at the Savannah College of Art and Design, Daniel Brown captures the very essence of mentorship at perhaps the most influential time in an individual’s journey into the architecture profession: education. Having found relative lack of mentorship early in his own career path, Brown truly understands the barriers that can result when it occurs during a formative time in one’s career, and places high value on providing guidance to help shape a young person’s future. As such, he works each day to offer first-hand experiences that convey valuable information—both academic and practical—to a new generation of professionals, ensuring that they have the benefit of career lessons he often had to discover “the hard way.”
When seeking a mentor or mentee, I look for a similar passion toward the field of architecture. In my experience, this is the most critical aspect of a mentor/mentee relationship. This does not require every individual to be equally passionate about architecture. Simply, I have found that mentors and mentees who embody the same level of enthusiasm towards the field are able to work toward goals without eventually facing an insurmountable disconnect as to where they’d like those goals to take them.
A true mentorship experience is a natural pairing over time. Any substantial relationship takes time to develop, and that maturation is precisely what makes it impactful to our lives. Sure, students may initially seek you because they enjoy a class they’ve taken with you, but it’s when that same individual knowingly or unknowingly continues to return to you for guidance on subjects outside of that coursework that foundations of mentorship begin to formulate. These same students then naturally begin seeking a better understanding as to how you’ve you gotten to a certain place or why and how you do certain things. This evolving, drawn-out process doesn’t happen overnight or occur in a vacuum, but rather results from several natural encounters. That is where I believe true mentorship is conceived.
I think what students need most is someone who inspires them. Yes, other things are important, such as being truthful and honest so that they know where they may need improvement, and being positive and encouraging so that they continue to strive towards those improvements. But most important is being able to inspire, so that the outcomes of their dreams—both academically and professionally—become tangible through their eyes and in their minds. Of course, trends, personality traits, and skill sets will affect what each individual needs, but at the root of all of those needs is a desire to make a dream a reality. I feel that inspiration, above all else, reminds mentees of what it is they seek to accomplish, and affirms that with the correct support system there is no reason they cannot achieve it. It is simply my hope that I can be a part of that support system.
The biggest thing about mentoring is creating a legacy of your experience and your thoughts in others, with the goal of impact so great that one day they too will want to pass it along. If, in five years, anyone I have been able to help is now mentoring someone themselves, I have accomplished what I set out each day to do. —As told to Jodie Quinter, Assoc. AIA