What would be a nice, thoughtful gift of appreciation for my social work supervisor?
April 20, 2010 6:37 PM   Subscribe

The end of my graduate school internship is approaching and I'd like to give my wonderful supervisor a token of appreciation for all she's done and taught me. We've had a pretty strictly professional relationship (an excellent one, at that) and I have minimal knowledge of her personal interests. She's in her mid-30s, and is a clinical social worker. I'd like to get her something thoughtful, something she can use. Chocolates, flowers, and gift certificates are not really what I'm looking for. At the same time, I wouldn't want to give her something too personal. Oh, and I'd like to spend no more than $50. (I am a grad student, after all.) I know you guys will have some good ideas. Thanks in advance!
posted by blackcatcuriouser to Human Relations (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
A wooden tissue box cover?

I like this site, but ther are many less expensive. Just google.
posted by SLC Mom at 6:46 PM on April 20, 2010

A professional gift and something she'll use? Why not a nice picture frame? Perhaps you can get one engraved?
posted by nuclear_soup at 6:57 PM on April 20, 2010

A hug. They're in expensive and they last for ever, a few people don't like them, but those people are weird and it doesn't sound like you supervisor is.

If you insist on something more tangible, I think a piece of office art, photo, statue, painting, whatever. I know it puts off the decision from what to which, and it very much depends on the taste of both, but meaningful gifts need thought.

I won't, can't, presume to advise on a work of art, but the best thing of this sort that I ever got (long, long ago when I was a teacher and supervised a student teacher.), was a photo of two people holding hands, just the hands. It meant something to me and to the giver, ymmv.
posted by Some1 at 7:04 PM on April 20, 2010

I'm a sucker for fountain pens. You can get a nice one in your price range. It's officey, useful, but just a little bit special to use. I save mine for writing important things or signing important documents.
posted by chatongriffes at 7:13 PM on April 20, 2010

I've given reproduction prints from local museums and art galleries in situations like these, which ought to come in at a fraction of your budget, but which'll allow you to exercise a lot of thought.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 7:17 PM on April 20, 2010

I am a staunch advocate for gifts that take some work. This probably makes me a shitty person, but as I look around my home, there are a lot of things whose origins I can't honestly remember. Even the really well-chosen retail gifts get dicey a few years out (e.g., I'm pretty sure that box set of The Wire was a gift, but I totally would have bought it for myself... but did I? And if I didn't, who did?).

Conversely, the handmade always stands out to me. My partner made me a crochet blanket a few years back that is probably one of the few things I would grab if the house were on fire. Similarly, her father made her a chest and a dining table that are well-loved parts of our home. I think of him every time we eat dinner, basically. And really, even genuinely useful-yet-purchased gifts have that same effect, because the recipient will think of you when they use the item. But for a professional in a field without much in the way of tools and about whom you know very little, that's going to be tough.

Unlike my partner and her family, I have no talents, so I resort to baking. Many a favorite professor has received absurd quantities of cookies from me, usually with a hand-written note explaining the motivation. Though the cookies may pass from memory, the letter still means something - if not more - decades later.

... of course, you could also google the hell out of her.
posted by McBearclaw at 7:19 PM on April 20, 2010

I know you said no gift certificates, but what about to a spa? I would think that a clinical social worker could appreciate that kind of stress relief from time to time.
posted by greta simone at 7:22 PM on April 20, 2010

Are you sure she'd accept one? I'm in a mental health counseling program and it's been made quite clear that we're not to give gifts to internship supervisors (code of ethics violation).
posted by catlet at 7:34 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

How a bout a $50 donation in her name to a worthy non-profit?
posted by leafwoman at 8:08 PM on April 20, 2010

I too am finishing up an MSW internship at the moment (congratulations on making it through the year!), and I wrestled with the same question.

I decided upon a hand-written thank you note, which seems like it's appropriately personal without being uncomfortably so. But I'm also leaving something a little more tangible behind where I worked: a pillow personalized with the program name to go on the semi-uncomfortable and as-yet-unadorned couch we just got for our clients to sit on. I know my supervisor loves cats, so I went with a cat pattern as a nod to her, but I wanted to do something that was about the clients, too.
posted by keever at 8:09 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Congrats on completing your internship!

I'm not sure that anything more than writing her a letter to let her know you appreciate her is fully appropriate in a supervisory relationship. But that letter would be just the thing, in my opinion. The fact that you know very little about her personal interests didn't happen on accident; supervisor-supervisee relationships are similar to therapist-client relationships in that they are professional, not personal, as you know. Gift-giving is not part of that professional relationship.
posted by so_gracefully at 8:33 PM on April 20, 2010 [2 favorites]

She's in her mid-thirties? Can we infer she's not tenured yet? If not that's the case the best thing you can give her is a letter or card thanking her and explaining all her wonderful qualities as a supervisor and her influence on you and your work. She can add it to her tenure file for a little added sparkle. Seriously this is way way better than any give you could get, so even if you get a gift, you should also write a card/letter.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 8:52 PM on April 20, 2010 [5 favorites]

If I only I had a penguin has a nice idea. The other thing might be to buy her a copy of a new book coming out by an author she's partial to or that is significant to your work, and sign it. As the grad student receiving a gift from supervisors, this has always been meaningful to me.
posted by iftheaccidentwill at 8:54 PM on April 20, 2010

A colleague and I were just talking about this exact thing. As someone who occasionally supervises graduate students in an internship position, I've only ever gotten thank you notes (which are personal and extremely meaningful), but my last student bought me a gift. It was not particularly expensive, but the whole situation was awkward and weird and extremely uncomfortable for me.

My friend (who has been supervising students for much longer than I) told me that she has never been comfortable receiving gifts except on 1 or 2 occasions where she had cultivated a personal friendship with the student (which of course is unethical and fraught with its own kind of weirdness).

Don't underestimate the power of a well-written thank you note. When I completed my internship, I found a unique artist and bought cards with prints of their work, and used those as my thank you cards. Years later I visited one of my supervisors and saw my chosen card hanging on her office wall. I thought that was pretty cool.
posted by lilnublet at 9:16 PM on April 20, 2010 [1 favorite]

Get her a Rotring 600 mechanical pencil: http://farm1.static.flickr.com/167/412428577_28546256d3.jpg . They're absolutely beautiful, very useful, and they last forever.
posted by jpcooper at 1:15 AM on April 21, 2010

nothing material a student ever could give me would beat out a well written and thoughtful note or letter, which makes explicit what you think (and assume she knows) about her impact on her. Seriously. And whether it could be used for tenure/work file is secondary.
posted by kch at 7:34 AM on April 21, 2010

I agree that a note would be better than a gift. My workplace has a social work program and social work interns. A $50 gift would be outside the norm. It's a nice thought, but it's not necessary.
posted by Mavri at 9:37 AM on April 21, 2010

spa certificate is the best thing to give
posted by ivanka at 7:41 PM on April 21, 2010

I got my college adviser a beautiful snowflake pin made by a friend of mine. It was not too expensive, I got to support my buddy with some cash, and it was more personal than just a piece of jewelry.

I got my high school adviser a pin of a lighthouse made by another friend. I wrote her a note that simply indicated that she was an incredibly guiding light to me throughout my time there.

Even people that don't wear jewelry can usually find a use for a simple elegant pin. And they don't have to cost you a bunch.
posted by nursegracer at 9:54 PM on April 21, 2010

« Older Looking for new digital camera for travel &...   |   What condition could cause twinges in veins in an... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.