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Teaching Excellence Program

Writing Letters of Recommendation

Date: 12:40pm - 1:40pm PDT October 16, 2017 Location: J.R. Howard Hall 302

J.R. Howard Hall 302

At this time in the semester, many of us find ourselves busy not only with prepping, teaching, and grading, but also with writing letters of recommendation. ​Writing recommendation letters ​can be ​both a ​challenge and a ​reward to ​us as teachers/mentors. Of course we all know how important our letters of recommendation can be when determining whether a student gets admitted, wins an award, or secures a position. ​But it’s not always easy to decide whether to say ‘yes’ to a student’s request (​or not)​, how best to describe a student as a candidate, and how to be efficient (as well as effective) in our letter writing process​.

In Claiming Your Right to Say No, Professor Amy Weldon (Luther College) describes how articulating a recommendation policy has helped her to respond “clearly and fairly” (even when she declines a student’s request), while also helping students to understand what they must do to earn a strong recommendation. Steve Volk, Professor and Director of the Center for Teaching Innovation and Excellence at Oberlin College, expands on the importance of consistent practice in To Whom It May Concern, which offers professors a step-by-step guide to the recommendation letter writing process. Professor Volk mentions the importance of being aware of implicit bias, which University of Arizona’s Commission on the Status of Women addresses, in terms of potential gender bias, in this poster.


Maureen Reed, the Fellowships Advisor for L&C undergraduates, will join us​ in this discussion. Here are some questions to consider as we discuss letters of recommendation:
  • How have you relied on letters of recommendation written on your behalf in your own career? If you found it difficult to ask for recommendations, what might have made that process easier?
  • Do you have a policy (either stated or unstated) for writing letters of recommendation? What are you (or ​could you​)​ be asking students for when they request these, in terms of the amount of time you need or the materials you wish to consult as you write?
  • When necessary, how can ​we tell students “no” in a way that is clear and fair, and that could be helpful to them in the long run?  How can we avoid bias ​in saying “no” as well as when ​writing a letter?
  • What makes for a positive experience when writing letters of recommendation? What about when reading them? What do you do to make your letter writing process more efficient?​
  • What information about writing a letter of recommendation for L&C students would be helpful to you as a professional resource? (Maureen looks forward to hearing from faculty about this question as she considers how best to help those of us ​writing letters of recommendation for fellowship applicants.)
Although an RSVP is not required, a rough ​headcount would be helpful. If you plan to attend, RSVP below or email You are welcome to bring your own lunch. Coffee, tea, and cookies will be provided.


Registration for this event is now closed.
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