The “Miss Manners” column in our Sunday paper this week featured a letter from a student who was about to complete a graduate degree asking if it was appropriate to send a graduation announcement to the professors where he or she had earned an undergraduate degree. Miss Manners response was to say that it would be much more appropriate to send a letter of thanks, either to each individual professor or to the chair of the department.
That response got me thinking about how I feel about receiving graduation announcements from my students, and while I agree that a letter of thanks is certainly memorable, I enjoy hearing from my students in a wide variety of forms. So for me, a printed announcement from a student saying that they have completed an additional degree is welcome news. I haven’t received many such announcements, but I do remember the ones that have crossed my desk, and I do remember those students well. I also remember the students who have written thank you notes for the letters of recommendation I wrote for them for graduate school applications or for the job referrals I have given.
And then there are students who write to tell me they’ve started a new job, gotten married, had a baby. . .more welcome news. Some of them write actual notes on actual paper. Others stay in touch through email, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Some of them write to ask if I will serve as a reference. . .sometimes for the second or third time. And because they’ve stayed in touch, I remember them well enough to do that! Earlier this month, a student who took a class with me eight years ago wrote to ask if she could list me as a reference, and I said yes right away, because I know who she is and what she’s been doing for those eight years.
You may be thinking that of course I would agree to serve as a reference for a former student, but hundreds of students have taken classes with me, and I don’t remember all of them. But I do remember those who stay in touch. So the bottom line is, if you’re about to graduate, plan to do two things: Thank those professors who have helped you achieve this worthwhile goal, and stay in touch with them so they can continue to help you as you venture out into the workplace.