potential unlock

Some of you have heard me tell the story about a disheveled student named Miguel, who I first had in class 16 years ago.  I was going to counsel him out of the CDS major until I had a fateful meeting with him.  During the meeting, I sensed potential in him and as we talked, I challenged him to discover his potential.  It turned out he was exceptionally bright.  What followed was remarkable.  Over time, we performed several research studies together, presented at national and state conferences, and published together.  After graduating with a Master’s degree, he worked at a hospital in New York City and also had a private practice on the side.  Eventually, he went back to school and earned a MBA and became the Director of Business Development at Aetna Insurance.  Now, he is Director of Market Development for AmeriHealth Caritas.  He is highly successful and has a beautiful family.  I always think of Miguel when I am working with students and considering their potential.


With Miguel at the 2005 ASHA Convention in San Diego , CA

I met with another student named Miguel last week in my role as faculty advisor for a new values-based fraternity on campus named Delta Sigma Phi; check out the link because it might surprise you. As I was talking with him, I considered his untapped potential and tried to find words that would challenge him to discover it.  At the end of our conversation, I thought there is little else more important in the day-to-day operation of an institution of higher learning than to be able to tap the potential and support the maximum development of our students.  These mentoring moments where you deepen curiosity for what is possible are crucial to our students’ future.   How do we inspire, engage, deepen curiosity, challenge, and motivate our students to discover their potential?

Last spring, I talked about unlocking students’ potential at our community gathering.  One of the things I said was, “If students can’t feel your passion and your courage, the path to their potential will be impeded.”   They also must feel your belief in them, even when they are making mistakes and learning challenging lessons.  How do you show passion for your material and show your belief in students during day-to-day interactions?  Are you helping them discover their potential in a way that will create a future that might be hard to imagine?  How do you rationalize what is and is not your responsibility when it comes to helping students develop their skills and discover their potential?

You may ask where the wellspring of energy is to do this important, selfless work.  We all find it in different places, but one of the purest sources is found in the way our students inspire us once we help them dig deeper into their potential.  There is a positive energy at the source of inspiration that can move mountains.

One of the resources we have on campus at SUNY Plattsbrugh to help students develop their skills and discover their potential is The Claude J. Clark Learning Center.  Karin Killough, Director of the Learning Center, recently gave a great presentation to the College Council.  During the presentation, she introduced several students who are tapping into their potential and are helping others do this too.


Francine Frances

Francine Frances talked about being a biology major with minors in chemistry and music; she said she has a music minor because she likes to be well-rounded.  Her goals include going to medical school and eventually running an organization that builds schools and hospitals in third-world countries.  If you heard her speak, you would be inspired and would believe it is possible.



Mike Kayigize

I also was inspired last week by Mike Kayigize, the academic chairperson for Delta Sigma Phi.   He has lived in many places around the world and has an amazing perspective on life and the world.  He wants to accomplish goals that will have a positive, global impact.  I also enjoyed our discussion about academics.  My conversation with him was inspiring to say the least because there is great potential in this young leader.


Jake Pasa

Another student who inspired me last week is Jake Pasa, President of Delta Sigma Phi. I am inspired by his insights and his innate leadership skills.  We have great talks about leadership and examine approaches to achieve meaningful goals in a values-based organization.  He demonstrates the adage, “Good leaders are also good followers.”  His leadership will make a significant, positive contribution to developing the foundation of Delta Sigma Phi in the coming year.

Those are a few of the examples where I found inspiration with students recently.  The wellspring of energy is sitting before you in your classes and in student organizations.  You access the source of this energy by helping each student discover his or her potential.  If you do this, as many of you know, you will be inspired and will have even more energy to make a positive difference in the lives of students.

I posed the following enduring question to you at a community gathering, “What responsibilities do we have for ourselves, for each other, and for our students, that will allow all of us to maximize potential?”  The inspiration I received last week will have me working harder to respond to this question with my actions.  I know more positive, fulfilling energy lies in the answers for all of us.

What You Can Do Today: Help students discover a curiosity for what might be possible and help give them the courage to pursue it.

Shared Values focused on in this blog:

Excellence in Teaching

  • Model passion and professionalism
  • Engage students
  • Recognize and respond to students’ needs

Helping Students Achieve Goals

  • Reaching out to struggling students
  • Challenge students to create connections, follow passions, and think critically
  • Empower students to realize goals