Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Professors Are Premier Letter Writers

One reason that I have not posted in a few days is that, yes, I have been very busy writing letters.

The life of a professor has a rhythm, which I very much enjoy, with the semester schedule, the teaching, and with research and service throughout.

Professors are also writers and, not just in terms of publishing, but, also, in terms of letter writing, which you may have thought was a dying art.

Not so, at least not when it comes to professors!

In the Fall, we are very busy writing letters of recommendation for our graduate students, especially doctoral students, as they seek jobs at colleges or universities. A carefully crafted recommendation letter highlighting the student's special strengths and skills can differentiate the application from the others. This is a time-consuming task but also pleasant in that the student has reached this mileston.

In the Fall and Winter, we are also busy, in addition to our other professional duties, with writing letters of recommendation for our undergraduate students who are hoping to secure an exciting job in their majors. Luckily, many of these letters can be uploaded and submitted electronically, which certainly saves on postage and time!

Sometimes, one even receives requests to serve as a reference for a colleague at one's institution or another one, who may be seeking other challenges and is applying for jobs.  One has to make time for such letters, as well.

In the summer (and one gets busier with these the longer one has been in academia), there are many requests to be an outside reviewer of promotion & tenure packets. After 6 requests last summer, several of which were international, I had to decline doing more  because I did not have enough time to review the portfolios and September with the new academic year was approaching.

Also, throughout the year, and deadline depending, there are requests for nomination letters of various sorts - for students awards, faculty awards and fellowships, and even staff awards. This is another important service activity that faculty engage in and, I must say, it is very gratifying, when the applicant or nominee gets the award/job/recognition that you wrote a letter for!

Of course, where would our scholarly communities be without the submission and  reviewing of journal articles?!   These usually require a cover letter, so more writing practice here, as well.

Finally, I feel it is very important (I am rather formal, I do admit) to follow-up speakers' talks with a nice thank you letter. These I may copy to higher level administrators, as well.  Those who put out the extra effort should be recognized and acknowledged and a thank you letter is the least that one can do!  I have a collection of thank you letters hanging in my home office, which I very much appreciate the writers taking the time to do!