A huge part of what I do in my job at a regional, state university is service–by which I mean the work I do for my department (history) my college (liberal arts) and my university (MTSU), the professional organizations to which I belong, and the larger Murfreesboro community. So I sit on committees–department, college, and university– advise and mentor students, both undergraduate and graduate, and, when the opportunity arises, give public lectures in the community. And somewhere in there I am supposed to teach and research.
I am not complaining. I love my job and I feel fortunate to have one. I am saying all of this as a preface to pointing out that sometimes it’s tough for me to keep all my ducks in a row. That’s why I am always on the lookout for ways to do my job more effectively or more efficiently.
One of the blogs that gives me lots to think about is Claire Potter’s Tenured Radical. The most recent post talked about the way letters of recommendation can help our graduate students who are in the midst of job searches in this very difficult market. And it prompted me to think about how I can improve the letters I write and about how I can be certain in all my flurry of activity, that I take the time to write a really careful and thorough letter. This was a good reminder that good letter writing is one of the most important things I can do for my students on the job market and that it should be a priority on my list of service obligations.