Jenifer M. Bourcier, PhD
Assistant Professor of Microbiology
I became aware of Jacob early in the semester before I knew all my students’ names well because this student was consistently turning in well-articulated, concise yet correct, answers for the post-lab assignments. He really did stand out from most student from the very beginning.
Imagine my surprise, then, when Jacob approached me about whether or not to drop my course! He was taking on a lot of new responsibilities and expressed concerns about continuing successfully. As most instructors, I couldn’t tell him to stay or go because I have no crystal ball. Although, I did something that I have never done before: I told him how surprised I was that he felt that way because he was doing so very well already. And, I told him that he probably didn’t have to work as hard as he had been working to still be successful in the course. I was hinting at the fact that he could probably coast some, focus on his other responsibilities, and still do well in the course. Again, I never have made such an insinuation to a student, but he was just so outstanding from the start.
I never did see Jacob coast though. To the end of the semester he would come to campus early and study the labs, work efficiently, contribute to his group’s work, and he would hand it homework that was often the bar to which other students were compared.
He asked me for a letter of recommendation to the Nursing Program at U of M Flint. The above paragraphs composed much of the letter, and I gave him a copy that was not in a signed-sealed envelope. Truth is, I had printed a bunch of copies because I kept finding mistakes, but I told him it was because “sometimes it’s nice to know, and you don’t always get to read what’s written about you.” Maybe that’s really why I did it…I mean, I could’ve just shredded them and not given him a copy.
He surprised me later with an email telling me that he got into the program. That wasn’t the surprise though; the surprise was when he told me he had been second-guessing whether or not he was “cut-out for the program,” and reading the letter I wrote “greatly encouraged” him to continue on the path.
But the thing is, I just wrote what I saw. I didn’t jazz it up. I told the truth. How could I have known that my words would’ve meant so much to someone? I guess you never know…