Friday, October 29, 2004

Letters of Recommendation

It is getting late. Hopefully the traffic will soon begin to thin on Route 66 and I can head for weekend in the country. In the meantime, I am finishing up some letters of recommendation.

One of the most important responsibilities of a faculty member is writing letters of recommendation. And it is helpful for students to think about the future need for such letters, especially if you are considering graduate school. Freshman year is not too soon to begin identifying faculty members whom you can get to know personally, who can serve as mentors and who will write all-important letters of recommendation. Besides, getting to know faculty members, outside of the classroom can be fun, even if it takes a bit of effort. A great way to begin is by reading something that a faculty member whose class you enjoy has written. We - faculty - are all ego-involved in our writing. You will be amazed at what a favorable response your having read something we wrote will evoke.

Here is a brief - somewhat redacted - excerpt from a letter I just wrote for a student who is applying for a faculty position. But the qualities to which I refer are ones that most employers would be seeking. How might a faculty member or current employer describe you in a letter of recommendation?

Overall, however, I would predict that ... will have a lock on tenure by the time s/he is ready to submit his/her sixth year file for review, and perhaps even earlier. My assessment is based on qualities that s/he strongly manifests, both in his/her credentials and personally – maturity, a balanced commitment to teaching and scholarship, a focused timely research agenda, an exceptionally strong, varied body of teaching experience, maturity and self confidence. In particular, I can think of few young scholars who would have the self confidence to turn down three tenure track offers, while awaiting a position that would come closer to an ideal fit with his/her interests. I believe ..... will stand head and shoulders above most candidates. S/he is, as I have said, a known quantity with a very strong track record.




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