By Teresa Suits, agricultural education and communication master’s student (BS ’17)
Some mentorships between undergraduate and graduate students develop from a simple conversation, at least that’s how it happened for undergraduate student, Gabriella “Gabi” Sullivan.
Sullivan met her faculty mentor through the University of Florida College of Agricultural and Life Science’s (CALS) Leadership Institute. As part of this program, students are assigned a mentor within the Gainesville community. Sullivan was paired with Martha Monroe, professor and associate director for environmental education and Extension in the school of forest resources and conservation.
“We have a really strong relationship – professional and personal – and I am very thankful for it,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan learned that doctoral student, Gabby Salazar, was a well-traveled nature and conservation photographer beginning research in Monroe’s lab. Sullivan took the initiative to ask for advice about photography.
“That simple conversation has grown into a more formal mentorship,” Salazar said.
Through this mentorship, Sullivan learned the importance of having a mentor. In a short amount of time, Salazar has taught Sullivan to not stray from opportunities because of inexperience. She has inspired Sullivan to pursue a career in environmental conservation and education. Salazar has taught Sullivan that “you have to try in order to succeed,” and the only way to gain experience is to step outside of her comfort zone.
Sullivan was once an agricultural education and communication student. As a result of meeting and forming relationships with both of her mentors, Sullivan has officially changed her major to natural resource conservation, also within CALS. Listening to Salazar talk about her travels and the many opportunities she has had to raise awareness of conservation issues through photography has reassured Sullivan that she will find a career she is truly passionate about.
Sullivan has tackled new opportunities, gained research experience and honed in on her true passion – environmental education – because of her mentorships with Dr. Monroe and Salazar. Sullivan is currently working on a survey to measure the effectiveness of a science mentoring program for middle school students in Gainesville in Dr. Monroe’s lab.
“Getting to know Gabi is an opportunity for me to pass on some of the lessons I’ve learned in my work and personal life,” Salazar said.
Sullivan is grateful for the opportunity to learn from Salazar. “I value her opinions and advice and look up to her as a role model,” Sullivan said. “This mentorship has given me more than I ever expected.”