"You have to get to know your students as individuals—get to know their minds, I mean—and you have to believe completely… in each one’s absolute uniqueness. …a genuine teacher teaches students, not courses."
A student's response to the internship essay prompt: 'Discuss someone who has influenced you greatly'
"Dr. Brandon Szuminsky’s office was cramped, hardly wider than the average closet. It felt even smaller with the amount of books crowded inside—in haphazard stacks on his desk, lopsided rows on the bookshelf, crammed under the chair where I sat.
I waited patiently as my professor analyzed my article. His nose was inches from the page, and with a blue ink pen, he marked it pedantically in his illegible scrawl.
I would be here, in this office, every week for nearly two years. I would make appointments for us to edit my articles together—but most days, I would just invite myself in. I’d drop my heavy pack into the corner and throw myself into the only extra chair with a deep sigh; and we’d talk about the student newspaper. Or about life.
Brandon had a passion for journalism that was infectious; and under his wing, I developed the same zeal. Every article became an intricate project – every word choice, sentence structure, source quote was intentional. He dedicated so much time to me—hours of proofreading and editing, looking at examples and brainstorming new reporting projects. He lauded the greater purpose of journalism. His fervor was intoxicating, and he gave me ambition.
Nowadays, that office is unrecognizable. The cinderblock walls are mostly bare, and there are no bookshelves. Everything is tidy and devoid of character. A new professor has taken his place, but she doesn’t invite me in for coffee and snacks the way he used to. She doesn’t recommend new books to me. She doesn’t geek out about Eli Saslow’s latest article with me.
When Brandon told me he was leaving Waynesburg to start a new life at Baldwin Wallace University in Cleveland, I felt myself shrink. He had helped me author award-winning articles, perfect my page layout and become a meticulous editor. I thought I was losing a professor, an advisor and a friend.
I wasn’t. Because, even from three and a half hours away, Brandon is texting me story ideas. He reads every important article I write, and every internship application—except this one. I have traded daily office visits for weekly phone calls, but he is still a part of my life. He is still my friend. He is still the most superb mentor that I could have asked for."