Mentoring Advice from One Of My College Professors

I graduated from the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana in 1978 with a BS in Electrical Engineering. I remember one of my classes from my Junior year was taught by Professor Frank Kuo. I was flipping through an alumni magazine from the college of Electrical and Computer Engineering and it had an article featuring Professor Kuo. The article was titled “Alumnus Gives Advice On Life After PHD”. His advice was pretty simple:

  1. Find a Mentor
  2. Collaborate
  3. Network

The full article is available on p. 21 of the Fall/Winter Edition at but let me highlight an excerpt from the “Mentor” section:

“It’s very important to have a mentor who can help you,” he said. “And professors
are excellent options.” Kuo’s mentor was Mac Van Valkenburg, a professor of electrical engineering who later became the dean of Engineering at Illinois. Kuo said Van Valkenburg helped guide him throughout his entire life.
“It was important to have someone I could ask questions and to help me find the right career path and make the right decisions,” Kuo said. Van Valkenburg also helped Kuo with his
research. Kuo attributes his first job and later success to his mentor helping him do such interesting work for his PhD.
“He helped me throughout my life. Whenever I wanted to change I asked him, should I do this or not? He would always help me decide,” Kuo said. Van Valkenburg also worked with Kuo on research, which used one of the first computers, the Illiac I. “Computer science did not exist at the time, but I spent a lot of time on that computer,” he said. Kuo credits this work with getting him his first job at Bell Laboratories, one of the top research institutes at the time.

Professor Kuo in front of the Alma Mater Statue
Professor Kuo in front of the Alma Mater Statue

I also had a couple of classes under Mac VanValkenburg. He was a great teacher and I have kept his textbook to this day. I find it interesting that Kuo’s comments on the value of a mentor went beyond his immediate studies, but extended to his life journey. We could all use a guide on our life journey.

I couldn’t let Professor Kuo upstage me, so here is a reprise of my pose in front of the Alma Mater statue – the full video salute to the Orange and Blue!

Click on the link to see the full video!
Click on the link to see the full video!

The Lone Rider