Friday, January 27, 2006

To name names or not?

Okay, now that I've sent the new cover letter off, I need to get a few more opinions. Noticed two new postings yesterday, one for a one-year gig stateside, and another two for lectureships at a school in the UK. Both in departments incidentally where I am on friendly terms with a senior faculty member. In fact, they both served on a panel I organized and chaired at an international conference a few years back. In fact, they have both been among my references. So, it could be a good sign.

That said, I'm not relying on nepotism. It doesn't seem to work that way. In anticipation of preparing the next round of letters, here's the question:

In the latest cover letter, I named names. I noted particular faculty members at the school and aspects of their research that appealed to me. I specified ones in and out of the department with whom I would seek to set up collaborations, and on what topics. The point was to show that I know them, I've researched them, and I think it would be a good fit, and here is how and why. The feedback from the three profs I consulted prior to sending the application was split on this question. One said "name names," a second said "don't". Any comments?

Second somewhat related question: I also quoted a couple student evals saying in effect: "he's a great teacher." The point here was to allay any concerns over the fact that I look on paper much more like a researcher than a teacher. I want to make it clear that I am both. The first prof (who said "name names") said on this point, essentially "don't quote students, it sounds boastful," whereas the suggestion to quote student evals came from the "don't name names" prof. GAH!

Well, it seems less boastful to quote students than to simply assert, "hey, I'm a great teacher, and if you don't believe me, well, you can just go away, okay?" So, I went with the quotes. Any thoughts from the ether on this count, especially from those of you sitting or having sat on hiring committees?

1 comment:

Prof. Me said...

For what it's worth, I didn't use student quotes in my cover letters. In my field, we are required to submit a teaching statement and a precis of student evaluations (a summary of evaluation statistics plus a few courses-worth of student comments). In my letters, then, I was able to say something like, "As evidenced by my strong teaching evaluations, I am an enthusiastic teacher..." In addition, I had to submit a research statement -- as much of a pain these documents were to draft, it was nice to be able to refer to them in the cover letters, showing both "sides" of my work as a scholar more effectively than a letter alone could do.

My advisors both told me not to name-drop in my letters. They thought it seemed less like I'd done my research and more like I was name-dropping for the sake of name-dropping. The only names I mentioned in my letters were those of my advisors, and only in relation to the dissertation; considering the stature of my two advisors in the field, however, extraneous name-dropping wasn't necessary.

Hope that's useful to you!