Unseemly Self-Congratulations

The final step in the tenure process here is the Very Nice Letter. I'm not sure that it's an official step, as opposed to an established tradition, but whichever it actually is, at the end of the process, a candidate who passes the tenure review gets a letter from the faculty committee that handles tenure and promotion reviews highlighting the positive things said in the course of the tenure review.

As one of my colleagues noted, this is probably the only time (prior to retirement) that you get an official letter telling you how great you are, so these are to be cherished. I got my Very Nice Letter this week, and it is, indeed, Very Nice.

I can't resist a little unseemly self-congratulation, here, but I'll put the excerpts below the fold. And for those of you who find this just too cloying for words, the next post will be all about how I'm an idiot, so stay tuned for that...

There are three bits that I want to quote, because they make me particularly happy. Two are quotes from students (who were "overwhelmingly positive"). The first:

entering this course I did not have a positive attitude towards the material. It was only through the excellent teaching abilities of Prof. Orzel that I came to understand and appreciate this subject.

Really, in a discipline where the vast majority of the students we teach go on to major in something else, it just doesn't get any better than that.

The comments are anonymous, though I think I can probably guess the author of the alumni comment:

I have continued to be amazed by the impact Prof. Orzel has had on my life and career. For example, I have literally been on the phone with customers, with notes and textbooks from Prof. Orzel's classes guiding me along.

Again, that sort of thing is absolutely fantastic to hear.

There's also a section on research, with several quotes from the external reviewers who got sent my research portfolio to look over. I know that my work prior to coming here was good stuff, so the praise for those papers was not unexpected, but it's very cheering to hear that someone said of my current work:

The program he is pursuing is of [an] exceedingly high standard, and is probably [the] most ambitious program that is sustainable at a liberal arts college.

Really, there's no more effective motivational tool for getting me fired up to do research than hearing that other people in the field think I'm doing cool stuff.

In summary, then: I rule. Except, of course, when I'm a total idiot. See next post.

More like this

Congratulations! To celebrate, get a post-doc and crush his spirit :)


To me, the cool statement is:

"... exceedingly high standard, and is probably [the] most ambitious program that is sustainable at a liberal arts college..."

I read that as "Chad Orzel has a large and positive value of the Work-Quality coefficient, which is asymptotic to the classical limit in this ambient environment."

Or something like that.

Is this like the scene in the film of "A Beautiful Mind" where the Princeton Math faculty set fountain pens on the Faculty Club table of John Forbes, Nash., Jr.?

If so, this gives Kate Nepveu a co-starring role as well, and forces you to praise her in your Nobel Prize acceptance speech.

Or am I getting a little ahead of the chronology here?

Anyway, sincere congratulations again. Feedback can hardly be much nicer.

A very welcome break from the annual letters that say "you are doing fine, please do more....." that one gets from Deans and such! Congrats!!!


Those are the kind of responses that make me believe people might know how to evaluate professors at liberal arts colleges. When I hear that someone from a liberal arts college has had a proposal reviewed with comments like "But Wolfgang Ketterle [or insert your favorite Nobel prize winner at a research institution ;) ] could do that before breakfast if he thought it was important" it drives me crazy.

Putting the positive comments from the former students first is also a lovely sign.

Congrats again.


By Bob Oldendorf (not verified) on 27 Jun 2007 #permalink

Congrats! Not only does the Very Nice Letter remove a significant bit of stress from your life, but it even gives you a positive boost of morale. Now, just hold onto that boost for the next thirty years, and you'll be fine!

"Congratulations! To celebrate, get a post-doc and crush his spirit :)"

If I were drinking coffee when I read that, I would have spit it all over my keyboard!

By PhysioProf (not verified) on 28 Jun 2007 #permalink