Dont get me wrong, Laurent has won the silver wrench, which means he is tough! But he listens to each students need and conditions to help them, even though he has 200 of them each semester! I've witnessed his behaviour for 4 years now, and I can vouch for him, as he bends over backwards to take care of mental health of every student.
I've worked as a basic and applied scientist for over 15 years. A major lesson I learned during this period is that kindness and (self-)respect are the foundations to a fulfilling scientific life. These may not be assessed by funding agencies, scientific journals, and tenure committees, but in the end, they'll shape our lived experience and that of those we interact with, and serve as the cornerstone to self-actualization. I think these concepts are closely related and intertwined with mental health, and can serve as guiding principles of sorts.
My students will confirm that I have high expectations of them, in large part because they are very bright. They deserve to be intellectually challenged and actively engaged with. On the other hand, I also try to be cognisant of the heavy workload and pressures being exerted on our undergraduate and graduate students (as well as postdoctoral fellows, colleagues and staff). When they get too close to the edge, I continuously try to adjust these expectations. Likewise, I keep an open-door policy, and run anonymous feedback exercises mid-semester. The hardest aspect is making decisions that both preserve the integrity and excellence of our program, and respect student's mental health needs at key times. This is still something I'm familiarizing myself with; I'm very grateful I'm surrounded by experienced and thoughtful colleagues and staff who take these issues to heart and provide great advice when I run tough situations by them (honestly, Mech and Materials Engineering is great on that front). That being stated, I think quite a few of my actions and policies on this front are still very much improvable; the key is to see this as an opportunity for self-growth, I guess!
--- Laurent Beland