One of my colleagues–honestly a research powerhouse and a veritable icon of his profession– charms the bejesus out of people by referring to himself as a schoolteacher. I don’t think for a second that this wasn’t a calculated bit of humility on his part–he is very famous in his field, and he’s far too sharp not to know it–but it is charming nonetheless, and like him, I would be quite proud to list myself among schoolteachers. Our jobs are different: they do more teaching than I do, and I do more research and writing than they do, but the heart of the matter is the same: we are trying to help people get where they are going.
Today I am penning the 100th letter of recommendation I have written in my three-year academic career at USC. That’s not counting the first three years’ of letters that I penned at Virginia Tech. That means I’ve written a little over 30 letters of recommendation a year, for various students. This year is still young.
Whenever parents or students are nasty to me about how “they pay my salary”–yes, they do, but I also pay their salary with all the goods I buy, and it doesn’t entitle me to act like a boorish boss or wronged when–gasp!–they are enjoying free time in the middle of the week–I think of all the letters of recommendation that I have written, one of the invisible tasks of my job. It isn’t onerous; it’s often a pleasure. But it’s a very real task, one that I take very seriously, because students need letters to get where they are going.
Today’s 100th: a graduate student from industrial engineering at Viterbi who wants to pursue her PhD.