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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
The Observer

To all the mentors I’ve exasperated before

Dear mentors,

Do you have a second to talk? I’m sorry to show up like this, without a G-Cal invite or Zoom link. I know you’re very busy. But remember that time when…

… You had me make a list of every high school in Southern Indiana and cold call them one by one, as many as I could? (My fear of phone calls, of introducing myself, of being myself, disappeared in a couple afternoons.)

… You were there at 6:30 AM Chicago time, to hear me stumble through my first pitch to a well-known VC firm? (No nerves, no coffee, no notes.)

… You said, “Forgive my language, but just f***ing go for it”?

… You told me to test, to experiment, to make no conclusions until I had tried something on the ground. Remember when you taught me to trust my instincts?

… You encouraged me to resubmit? When you said it was good, but lines five and seven made no sense? You told me that the best people try again and again and again.

… You reviewed, reviewed, reviewed and reviewed? You endured my comma splices. You stopped me mid-presentation. You told me how I sounded. You told me that I paced, that slide seven was an absolute mess and oh my God, why, Renee, Calibri and Arial and Corsiva in one PowerPoint!? (Yes, I even inherited your generation’s weird affinity for Microsoft products.)

… You taught me to make plans? To think slower, in steps? I still hate spreadsheets, but I hate them much less because of you.

What drives you to help? How did I ever earn this many hours of your time?

If I was being tongue-in-cheek, I’d say each successive year after you turn 30, the mentorship fairy leaves an insatiable urge to help out the next generation under your pillow.

But if I was being serious, I’d say this: They don’t just call it the Notre Dame family because roughly 20% of each incoming class is blood-related to the alumni. They call it a family because it can operate like one, if you manage to find the right people. Like members of a family, my mentors have freely given the gift of their time, their tough love, their always being there if I reached out a hand.

The word “economics” comes from the Greek “oikonomia” — oikos meaning family, nomos meaning law or rule. When I began working on my tech startup in the IDEA Center ecosystem (ecosystem: another word derived from the Greek “oikos”), I learned new rules of engagement, a new conception of the Notre Dame family. When I faced a challenge, I was passed from mentor to mentor, helper to helper, email intro to email intro, like a newborn baby is passed around a living room. From you all, I learned I didn’t have to sprint my way through everything alone. Actually, I learned that at 21, I’m not as fast of a sprinter as I thought.

To all the professors, teachers and mentors I’ve exasperated before: I’m now at the end of something and the beginning of something else. Your time, your care and your wisdom are made incarnate in my life. And it’s a pretty good life. I can’t thank you enough.



P.S. What do we think of my signature? Too formal? I thought so, too.


Renee Yaseen is a senior economics major with minors in theology and Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE). In her free time, she writes poems, hangs out with loved ones and ponders the view from her undisclosed study spot in [redacted] Hall. Please send all comments, diatribes and warm fuzzies to

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.