Clifford Pollock, ECE, James M. and Marsha D. McCormick Advising Award
Probably one of the reasons Clif Pollock is so good at advising is that he likes it so much. "I love working with students—they are enthusiastic and eager to learn. And they are very smart," says the Ilda and Charles Lee Professor of Engineering. "I've got the best job in the world."
Pollock has had many memorable moments advising students. Once, after he was contacted by a father nervous about his despondent son, he immediately met with the student and discovered he was doing okay; he was just uninspired about his future. "We talked over a few meetings, and I was able to get him excited about a career in power engineering. He went to grad school and still occasionally contacts me," says Pollock. "Being a dad myself, I was glad to step in and help explore the situation for the father and put his worries to rest."
Pollock uses a combination of empathy and encouragement to deal with struggling students. "If I can contact them before they reach out to me, it's great," he says. "Then they feel that someone cares."
More recently, Pollock says his most satisfying advising has been in persuading over-ambitious students to slow down a bit and enjoy their time at Cornell, not accelerate through in record time with huge course loads. "When I can get a student to look beyond their needed credits and see the bigger picture of Cornell, it's really satisfying," he says.
But being an adviser is not always easy. "I don't like telling people 'no', or having to give poor grades, but it's part of the process," he says. "I do it when necessary, but it's tough."
With 26 years of advising under his belt, Pollock says experience helps. "I've met hundreds of alumni, so I have a lot of stories about where our students have gone," he says. "My main lesson is that it's impossible to underestimate how big a student's career is going to be. I try to convey that to today's student."
Pollock's advice for new advisers: "Be enthusiastic; be yourself. Lean on personal experience for all advice."