What is a good PhD graduation gift for an advisor?
June 7, 2011 7:20 PM   Subscribe

What is an appropriate gift to give one's advisor after filing a PhD dissertation and graduating?

Crap - I graduate in a few days and I realized that I didn't get my advisor any gifts.

I have learned via the Internetz that it is traditional to do a bound copy of my dissertation. However, it is 2012 and I find paper books wasteful. I don't know if my advisor would be happy to have a bound copy or not. (I guess that I could ask him though - is that weird to ask him?)

Factors at hand:

We are social scientists.

He is/was a wonderful and supportive advisor.

I have a great and close relationship with my advisor and we will remain close (I expect) and have lots of co-authoring to do in the future.

I always write him thank you notes for letters of rec, gave him an orchid/bottle of wine/some gourmet food after my qualifying exams, wrote a long thank you note after my dissertation defense, etc.

I am currently employed, which might put me in a different financial situation than a regular grad student.

I don't live in the same city anymore, so I only see him every few months, but we talk via email a few times a week.

He loves plants. I don't know anything about plants, but I could ask someone at a plant store for some assistance. He likes Calvin and Hobbes a lot. He really loves film. He has a sharp sense of humor. He is in his early 60s.

This mug is also a contender, although he might think that I am putting myself down.

posted by k8t to Education (23 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Scotch, if he drinks it. Actually, my advisor and I wound up trading single malts at my graduation.
posted by yeolcoatl at 7:23 PM on June 7, 2011

Response by poster: Oh, and do I need to get gifts for my committee members too? I already wrote them thank you notes.
posted by k8t at 7:24 PM on June 7, 2011

If you're graduating in a few days, I'll assume you already defended, so let's do this right. Congratulations Dr. k8t!.

Don't do the bound copy. The printing for those is a racket. Dissertations are outrageously expensive.

No gifts for the committee.

If you go the plant route, I feel like something that's incredibly delicate and takes a long time to nurture properly is appropriate. Like a bonsai or orchid. That's a good metaphor, right?
posted by yeolcoatl at 7:39 PM on June 7, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks - yes, defended last month. Filed today!
posted by k8t at 7:55 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

Congrats on graduating. Seconding yeolcoatl - I got my Ph.D. advisor a bottle of reasonably good scotch. But by that time I already knew he was an enthusiast.
posted by logicpunk at 8:03 PM on June 7, 2011

My PhD advisor loves Tequila. I gave him a very expensive bottle when I graduated. Two and half years later, he still has it on his shelf (and my picture is right next to the ones of his kids).

No gifts for committee members but writing them a thank you note (again not necessary) would be a nice gesture.

PS: Congrats to you!
posted by babby╩╝); Drop table users; -- at 8:06 PM on June 7, 2011

Two and half years later, he still has it on his shelf

The empty bottle I should add.
posted by babby╩╝); Drop table users; -- at 8:07 PM on June 7, 2011

A hand-written letter on nice paper in a nice envelope stating how much you appreciate the support, guidance, and discussions over the years. It's what teachers want most from their students. Any other gift should be a token item as it will take away from the letter.
posted by about_time at 8:10 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This might sound crazy, and is totally dependent on your budget, but what about an eReader with your dissertation on it? It's like a present and dissertation in one!

P.S. It's 2011
posted by smithsmith at 8:11 PM on June 7, 2011 [4 favorites]

It appears hard alcohol is more traditional than dissertations. Clearly the internetz lied to you. And yeah, I'd consider fancy tequila acceptable. Sufficiently fancy wine, maybe, but it's not liquor, so I can't vouch for it unless someone else comes in here with experience.
posted by yeolcoatl at 8:24 PM on June 7, 2011

Scotch, absolutely.
posted by halogen at 8:28 PM on June 7, 2011

I don't know why everyone says "scotch!" except tradition. If he likes plants, get him a plant. Or get him an annual membership to a botanical garden/horticultural society/etc. (you're in CA or used to be, right? lots of those there)
posted by slow graffiti at 8:39 PM on June 7, 2011

Response by poster: @Slow Graffiti, yes his wife is a docent at the botanical garden. Good guess tho!

@smithsmith, I emailed his wife for her opinion on the Kindle purchase. That might be a good idea!
posted by k8t at 8:43 PM on June 7, 2011

I'm getting gifts for my committee members, but only things that I know they'd appreciate and that I'd enjoy giving them, given a pretext. If you can figure out something for all of them, do it, otherwise don't bother. They also all requested a copy of my dissertation, so they're getting it on an individual flash drive that they can then keep and then do whatever with.
But in addition to a bottle of liquor, I think a non-consumable, small item that could live in his office would be great. A plant, if it's low maintenance, a framed picture with some meaning or a book. 21st century be damned, a physical real thing that can't be baleeted or have planned obsolescence will be meaningful and maybe make it into the boxes that he packs up and takes home when he retires. That's the sort of object I would think to give.
And congratulations Doctor.
posted by Cold Lurkey at 9:14 PM on June 7, 2011

Just finished myself in May, k8t. Congrats! I'll be presenting my advisor with a bound copy of my dissertation. In my case, this was an expected transaction; he has a bookshelf in his office with hardcover copies of all of his advisees' final documents. I checked with him in advance to get the specs (type of fabric, design) so that mine would match the others.

I put a thank you note (card) inside the cover. When I deliver it I will also hand him a good bottle of red wine, because I'm pretty sure he'd prefer that to the scotch.
posted by jamjames at 12:00 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'll tell you what I got my advisor: a biking jersey from a Dutch cycling team. Why? He's a serious biker and I was moving to the Netherlands. I think something that combines his interests with something personal about you is the way to go.

I got my second advisor a bottle of really nice Scotch, one that I was sure he didn't already have but would like. (I'd spent a lot of time in his kitchen, don't ask.) Due to distance/logistics, I have failed to get my third advisor the things I intended to. My final committee member, who was there for show, and didn't know me at all? I think I got him a handshake.
posted by knile at 1:15 AM on June 8, 2011

Keep in mind while considering presents that some universities have a limit on how much of a gift a professor can accept. Typically this is $100 or less.

I agree on the thank you note. I think a plant, a book of some kind, something edible, or the mug or a framed print of a relevant comic would all be great choices. One of my Dad's Ph.D. students gave him a Photoshopped print (or it may have been done in a more low-tech way) of a March on Washington event in which all of the signs talked about how he rocks inexpensively framed. It still hangs in his office and the student graduated about a decade ago.
posted by eleanna at 8:37 AM on June 8, 2011

Congrats on finishing/filing/graduating and all that.

In my soc. sci. department, it was traditional to give a gift of one bound dissertation copy to the department library rather than to each committee member, and I went in this direction.

Thank you notes are a must for each committee member. If there are others in the program, from department head to graduate secretary, who've made your life easier, then a thank you note may be appropriate there too.

I did give small gifts to each committee member. None were expensive. Each were idiosyncratic, based on where our interests overlapped. The gifts I gave ranged from a reproduction of a poster from France's May '68 protests to an mp3 recorder.

FWIW, I like Cold Lurkey's idea of the dissertation on a flash drive in addition to whatever else you decide upon.
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:43 AM on June 8, 2011

Or, depending on your relationship with your advisor, this New Yorker cartoon might look good on a mug.
posted by .kobayashi. at 9:45 AM on June 8, 2011

I second the scotch/plant sentiment. I'm a PhD candidate, too, and my thought is, it's hard enough getting your advisor/committee to read your dissertation the first time, that it seems like a stretch to think he's going to sit around re-reading it after you're gone.
Maybe a fruit tree? You can get a small, potted one that can be moved inside in the winter (if you live somewhere cold), and the fruit is a gift that keeps giving. Potentially, you could give a bottle of liquor that pears well with whatever fruit you choose. I mean, pairs well.
posted by pompelmo at 6:18 PM on June 8, 2011

If any of my future students ever read this, I want a bound copy of their dissertation with a handwritten note at the beginning. It's not because I'm ever going to re-read it (although I probably will re-read parts of it), it's because it's a really nice, traditional, and somewhat permanent way to commemorate several years of joint work.
posted by grouse at 1:40 PM on June 10, 2011

Of course, I'll probably make that known by displaying the previous dissertations prominently, so if your adviser doesn't do that, he might not care.
posted by grouse at 1:41 PM on June 10, 2011

Response by poster: Advisor loved the Kindle. Thanks AskMe!
posted by k8t at 2:07 PM on June 11, 2011

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