I think that the mentoring aspect of Point is just as, if not even more valuable than the financial support that I receive from Point.  The organization spends a lot of energy, time and consideration in pairing lifelong mentors that can really fill a void in a scholar’s life, whatever their experience.  For me, Herb was a perfect match, as I needed someone who could understand the intensity of a PhD program (Herb had previously been the chair of one in psychology, a related field to mine, which is sociology), but also someone who knew how to balance the demands of being a creative professional (both of us having careers involved with art and entertainment).  While I am a new Point Scholar and we have only had our mentoring relationship for less than a year, my learning from this partnership has been invaluable.

Jeff & Herb at Point's Los Angeles Regional Leadership Forum
Jeff & Herb at Point’s Los Angeles Regional Leadership Forum

One thing that really helped was our first meeting, Herb said, “Let’s aim to meet at least once a month, and if we aren’t able to meet that often, we will at least have set a really great vision of how often we should be in contact.”  I think this really reframed the way I looked at our mentoring relationship.  If you know anything about Herb’s schedule or of mine, it is an understatement to say that we are both really busy.  We also live in multiple locations, but our common overlap is in LA – just not always at the same time.  Despite this, we have at least met or had an in depth phone call at least every other month, and knowing that our goal should be to do this even more, it’s helpful to know that we can and should meet even more.  Herb’s partner also invites me to play tennis whenever we are all in LA.  So even though Herb and I are both really busy, there is a strong effort to connect as often as we can.

Herb has been amazing at checking in with me, especially when I fell into a black hole of contact with the outside world due to grad school.  My first quarter at Stanford this past fall was really hard for me, adjusting to a lot of sudden changes with everything.  I basically shut myself off from everyone for about a month as I feverishly tried to learn advanced statistics and write final papers, while still continuing the same photography work I had been doing before.  Instead of getting upset with my sudden loss of contact with people, Herb would gently check in with me to make sure I was okay, and let me know he was there for me if I needed someone to talk to.  It was so helpful to know that someone cared about how I was doing, and knew exactly what I was going through.

Herb has been really inspiring for me – and has really pushed me to think big to really make an impact with my work.  He has challenged me with really critical questions about LGBTQ issues that I had not really thought of.  Also, many of my professors in school are not LGBTQ “experts,” and having Herb, my resident LGBTQ academic expert feeding me literature to read and think about, is such a benefit.  Herb has also really taught me that it’s okay to relax, and continues to remind me to take care of my personal relationships and my own well-being.

At the end of the day, the most beneficial change in myself that I have identified thanks to Herb, is that he has not only pushed the bar higher, but helped me redefine the bar that I have set for myself.  Having Herb as a mentor and role model who has such an amazing balance of work, life, friends, relationships, and success is inspiring.  Each time we meet, I learn something new.  Our mentor/mentee relationship has definitely been a highlight of my Point Scholar experience.

This post was written by Jeff Sheng
A graduate of Harvard University, Jeff holds an MFA in studio art from the University of California, Irvine, and began his PhD in Sociology at Stanford University last fall. Learn more about Jeff.
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