In my life, there have been many people who have helped me along the way. These are people who inspired me, provided me opportunities and guidance to be where I am now as a person and as a professional. These are what I call my mentors. They are the ones who always made me feel better about myself. They’re like leadership books, self-help books come alive. Interestingly enough, not all of them even know who I am, but what this person said made so much impact on me for what they said/actions I observed I now consider them my mentor.  I find inspirations everywhere, from everyone, so the list of people I will write about is just by no means a complete list, but nevertheless, these are people who have made significant impacts on my life.  These are the people that when faced with certain situations I am not sure on how to handle, I ask the question – “What would he/she do in this situation?”

Vice Chancellor for UCSB Student Affairs Dr. Michael Young

I’ve known Dr. Young since my student days at UCSB in the early 1990’s.  As an active member of the Asian American student community, I worked with Dr. Young  on how to improve services to first generation students in areas like counseling services and student health. Through Dr. Young, an effort to establish a student resource center ,  just a dream back then became a reality. As a student, I appreciated how Dr. Young valued student input. He listened and really cared about our issues. He was frank, but he said things in a way, that was very respectful to students.

Since 1996 when I became a professional in his Division, he has helped me along the way, providing me inspiration, opportunities and guidance. I meet with Dr. Young frequently and I look forward to every single meeting we have. For a man of his stature to even be meeting with me is quite a privilege.  Actually, Dr. Young talks to anyone, regardless of position. He truly cares about his employees.

We have frank discussions built around laughter and positive perspective on issues and life in general. What I admire about Dr. Young, who is  African American, is that while he shares the challenges he’s had in his life, including his current challenges, he does not dwell on them. He’s talked to me about situations when he wasn’t readily accepted but he always had a lesson on how he dealt with them. As a Filipino-American, I recognize some of his challenges and that’s why I share it with him because I know he can relate with them.

One of Dr. Young’s most valuable advice to me is “do the right thing”.  Unfortunately, as I advanced in my careers, there were some who were not always happy with me or the opportunities I have been given and ultimately, I hear negative comments. I’ve been called a “neophyte” and undeserving of the opportunities.  Dr. Young’s advice is to ignore them. He tells me, “Joe, you are at where you are because you’ve proven that you are capable of what you do and people like you. Do the right thing by continue doing what you do best.” He tells me “Joe,  you have a good reputation, and that is something they can never take away from you.”  This idea of “do the right thing” is a principle Dr. Young has instilled to those people he works with. When we have had to make decisions about projects, we always ask “What is the right thing to do?” Given budget cuts and personnel constraints, this principle has guided as well in that it provides us with a compass to base our decisions on.

A principle Dr. Young practices is the paradox of power – “the more power you give away, the more you increase your power.” He has surrounded himself with very capable, competent team and he allows them the opportunities explore new ideas. It truly is amazing watching him in meetings because often times, he is the one listening, not dictating what to do. He says “tell me more…”.  There was one meeting when he barely said a couple of words and I asked him afterwards as to why he didn’t say much. He told me, “I didn’t need to. The people in the room had all the answers.” What a refreshing thing to hear from a wise person.

A dignified man who carries himself like he has nothing to prove, Dr. Young routinely offers recognition, admiration for others. He deflects credits from himself. He always recognizes those he works with as the ones that “makes things happen”.  He has introduced me as “a magician” for the things I’ve done and that frankly makes me feel really valued. When he introduced Dr. Larry Roper, Vice Provost for Student Affairs for Student Affairs at Oregon State University as the keynote speaker at the UCSB Division of Student Affairs Professional Development Conference last year, he introduced him as “a very wise man” and someone he really admires because of his insight AND he really means it.

I emulate Dr. Young’s leadership style in the way I deal with my staff, with students and those I interact with.

Who are your mentors and what have they taught you?