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Finding a New Passion Through Mentorship and Guidance

At one of my recent lacrosse practices we did a team building activity where we all listed a hero of ours, a hardship we’ve faced, and a highlight of our life. It took all of us a pretty long time to brainstorm up a response to each of those categories, but during my thought process I tried to narrow things down and think about it in just the context of my Juniata career thus far (which isn’t that long considering that I’m only a sophomore) and I found that the answers to all three of those questions could be rooted back to one thing, one person.

Dr. Barlow on a panel discussing the U.S. Constitution.

Dr. Barlow on a panel discussing the U.S. Constitution.

I came into Juniata on a pre-medicine track set on becoming a doctor, it was what I had wanted since I was five years old. However, I also knew that I had other passions so despite being pre-med my POE was still in politics. But, the more politics courses I took the less sure I felt about going to medical school; I was enjoying Intro to American Government far more than my chemistry classes. It wasn’t until my first semester of sophomore year that I met the professor who really helped me sort all of that out, Dr. Jack Barlow. I was in his American Political Thought class and something about his teaching style and quiet but witty and sarcastic humor really appealed to me. I eventually asked him to be my adviser and I don’t think I’ve made a better decision yet at Juniata.

Dr. Barlow has helped me through one of the largest conflicts in my life. He helped me to realize that giving up the dream I’d held for fourteen years of my life wasn’t really a loss, but an opportunity to explore something that didn’t just fascinate me but that also made me happy. He’s the perfect blend of supportive and challenging as an adviser and as a teacher. I know for a fact that I couldn’t count on one hand, and maybe not even on two hands, the number of times I’ve gone into his office in crisis mode and left feeling completely relaxed. Something about his calming demeanor and his odd knack of always magically appearing when you’re stressed out beyond belief seems to be able to resolve any problem. Dr. Barlow is basically everything your high school teachers always said you won’t find in a professor- he’s understanding, approachable, supportive, and impressively interested in his students’ lives. He’s the kind of person who asks how you’re doing and actually wants an honest answer (he’ll even call you out if he thinks you’re lying). He’s pushed me not only academically or in class, but also on a personal level to help me realize and actualize future goals. Dr. Barlow has been one of the best parts of my Juniata career thus far, and I feel pretty lucky to go to a college where professors of his quality aren’t an anomaly, but rather are the majority.

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