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Georgia Dunston, Ph.D.

Jules Harrell, Ph.D.
September 2008

Mentorship is a deep-rooted and African-centered tradition at Howard University.  Dr. C. Jules Harrell, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, and winner of the Faculty Senate’s 2008 Exemplary Mentoring Award, exemplifies that tradition.

According to Dr. Harrell, mentorship is “teaching with genuine love.”  He believes the love must be non-possessive and coupled with a “deep concern with [student] growth.”  In other words, a teacher-mentor can equip his or her students with the knowledge and tools, but must let them find their own path or purpose.  Dr. Harrell finds seeing his students grow and achieve great heights extremely gratifying. “The minds at Howard are going to be earth-shaking!” he says with a hearty smile and head-shake. 

Dr. Harrell has learned a lot about himself through teaching and mentoring, which has been important for his own growth.  For example, when he discovers that a student didn’t understand a lesson or concept presented in class, instead of getting upset with the student, he re-evaluates his own approach. 

As one Howard doctoral student noted, Dr. Harrell “knows how to motivate and push us toward excellence,” and he holds an “unwavering dedication to students.”  That’s why Dr. Harrell has served on more Ph.D. committees than he can count (hundreds) and has been the chief advisor for more than thirty.  In addition, Dr. Harrell is a mentor to both undergraduate and graduate students, who stop by his office frequently for advice.

Georgia Dunston, Ph.D.Dr. Harrell believes professor availability outside of the classroom is vital.  This belief is corroborated by the results of the 2006 study of the National Survey of Student Engagement, which showed that students who interacted with faculty outside of the classroom were more likely to find academic satisfaction and success.  In addition to holding extended office hours four days a week, Dr. Harrell has frequently participated in student group events during his 28 years at Howard.  For instance, he and his wife recently served as panelists at the Kwame Ture Society’s Relationship Forum, during which he noted that the culture of community mentorship at Howard is part of the “spiritual core that has brought us this far.”

Dr. Harrell attributes Howard’s tradition of extra-curricular mentorship to elements of African culture that have remained with people of African descent since the first enslaved Africans were shipped to North America and across the Diaspora.  It is a deeply-embedded spirit that has been passed down for many generations, according to Dr. Harrell, who has looked to elder Howard professors as mentors and examples of professorial excellence.  “It’s like a relay – you have to pass on the baton.”  

Dr. Harrell has inherited that baton from countless revered Howard professors such as Dr. Leslie Hicks, Professor of Psychology, and the late English Professor and famous folk poet, Sterling Brown.  Just as Dr. Harrell makes sure he is available to students outside of class, Brown, who began teaching at Howard in the 1930s, did not allow his classes to be confined to normal class hours.  “If he was unable to finish the day’s lesson within the allotted class period, he resumed teaching his students during the evening on his own porch,” notes Dr. Harrell.

In addition to mentoring students, Dr. Harrell has mentored and inspired other Howard professors.  One such professor, whose academic career has advanced because of his mentorship, feels that Dr. Harrell “stands out among my senior colleagues as a model for the kind of scholar I aspire to be, and more importantly, the kind of mentor I hope I am to my students.” 

            And so, the cycle continues.



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