Student Support (general)

Meet the Academic Mentor: Dr Jenny Beard

Academic Mentor role

When I was a small child, I was amazed by the inscriptions people made in cement footpaths: “Shazza wuz ere”, M.S. 4 R.W., hearts with arrows through them, footprints, … small legacies that I found fascinating.  One day, when I was walking home with a friend, I pointed out an inscription in the footpath as we walked. I wondered out loud how these inscriptions were made and commented that it never worked when I tried to make my mark. My friend responded casually that you had to do it when the cement was wet.

After that I couldn’t wait for it to rain. When it did, I remember racing out of school and running to the nearest footpath with a stick in hand. I was bitterly disappointed, and a little puzzled, to find that the cement was as hard as ever. The next day, I confronted my friend and told her that she had been wrong, or perhaps I accused her of tricking me. I remember she looked at me witheringly, and laughed. Perhaps she tried to explain to me how cement is made, I don’t remember, but I felt a fool. “How was I supposed to know that!?”, I thought to myself.

Decades later, I arrived at law school. The law was a lot like those inscriptions in the footpaths, and I knew as much about legal and university culture as I did about cement when I was young. But I was still keen to make my mark. Being older, I was more cautious about making assumptions, but also more afraid to ask what I thought might be a really dumb question.

Looking back, it would have been marvelous if there had been someone I could have gone to when I was feeling unsure, or fraudulent, or when I needed the answer to what I thought might be a dumb question. Imagine someone, who actually had some experience of the law, legal practice and university life; someone who could fill in the gaps for me, without judgement, perhaps with a sign on their door saying: “The gap-filler”.

Today, I am that person. The sign actually says: “Academic Mentor”. My name is Jenny Beard and my office is rm 856. You can just drop in, or you can make an appointment: 83441055.

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