by Emily Langan '94,
assistant professor of communication
In his book, The Fabric of Faithfulness, Steven Garber wrote, “Most of who you will be, in terms of your commitments and convictions about what really matters—what you love—will be in direct relation to who your teachers are.” If you asked me to name the most influential people in my life, Dr. Em Griffin HON, professor of communication emeritus, would appear near the top of the list. Em became my mentor while I was an undergraduate at Wheaton and has filled that role for almost 20 years. Our relationship had a rather unconventional beginning; Em was the high school beau of a family friend who insisted I look him up at Wheaton. When I landed in the communication department, I found myself a student in his classes. Later, when I headed off to grad school in interpersonal communication, I left Wheaton with direction, but I also had something far more valuable: a mentor.
Professionally and personally, Em cared about me and my life, spoke persuasively about my potential as an academic, and, in the process, helped me to fix my eyes on God and His direction for my life. Who I am as a teacher and scholar can be traced directly to Em. Over the years, we’ve actively maintained a professional association, but even more important to me is our friendship. Still a source of knowledge and advice, he has also been a faithful role model and consistent supporter.
Mentorship can be a rather nebulous term. We often conflate the concept of a mentor with that of an intimate confidant. We think we’re supposed to “dump our trucks” and be intensely vulnerable. That type of relationship is important in life, but it isn’t mentorship. A mentor helps the mentee (or the protégée) move from “here” to “there,” from where they are to where they want to be. Mentoring is a holistic pursuit encompassing faith, academics, professionalism, and life choices that takes place both within and beyond classroom walls. It involves a deep investment; indeed, it is a journey taken together with differing tasks along the way. It’s rarely easy, but it’s always relational and consistently about growth.
I count it amongst my richest blessings when students share their lives with me, complete with all the natural complexities. In my role as mentor and advisor, I challenge students to be authentic, see themselves more fully, and to live as Kingdom-minded people. I strive to be someone who meets them on their journey. Commencement can be bittersweet; students I have nurtured walk across the stage and our relationship is transformed. My investment in their lives has been a worthy endeavor and now, we send them off to work, serve, and live for Christ and His Kingdom.
As I think about my career moving forward, it is with honor and humility; Wheaton has a remarkable legacy of great mentors and I am proud to follow in their footprints. Being the next Em is not my aspiration, but rather I hope I have learned by his example how to mentor the next generation.
Dr. Emily Langan ’94 is assistant professor of communication and holds a Ph.D. from Arizona State University. Her teaching and research focus on interpersonal and relational communication with a specialization in friendship. Like her mentor before her, Dr. Langan has a deep passion for communication theory and its application to everyday life. She has a simple catchphrase: “I hope this class ruins your life.” Through studying communication, Dr. Langan believes you begin to view interactions a bit more intentionally, examine relationships a little more thoughtfully, and can relate to others more effectively. In July 2012, she will be promoted to associate professor with tenure.