Bon voyage gifts for departing staff
December 22, 2017 6:39 AM   Subscribe

I manage a small team of research assistants (RAs). They are typically just out of college and stay with us for 2 years before going off to grad school (or, rarely, a non-academic job). My first crop of RAs is departing this year in the spring/summer and I'd like to get each of them a little farewell gift.

Other things to keep in mind:

* I'd like to spend $50 or less per gift.

* We work in behavioral economics. I'm hesitant to get them books because they've read the most important texts in our field.

* They often move away for graduate school so the gift should be small and easy to move.

* I want to get each of them the same thing, to avoid any appearance of favoritism.

* This year's departing RAs are all men, but ideally the gifts would be totally gender-neutral (e.g., not cufflinks or anything like that).

* We live in the Boston area in case you have New England-specific gifts to recommend.
posted by schroedingersgirl to Work & Money (14 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Maybe something they use regularly but a better quality one. Like a cross pen, moleskin notebook or planner or a local consumable item like coffee or cooking oil, etc.
posted by eisforcool at 7:00 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

A fountain pen, maybe engraved?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 7:07 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I got a pewter keychain when I graduated college 20 years ago and I still use it for my keys. It is from my sorority, so it has meaning to me but is also small, portable, very durable, and a nice reminder of my time as a collegiate member. Maybe you can find something symbolic of their time as a pewter keychain for them? (If it had been the University seal I probably wouldn’t have kept it nearly as long but I think that is because of sentimental reasons). Something Boston related would be nice (and could probably go with a consumable so they have something to use and something to keep).
posted by MultiFaceted at 7:08 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I don't know if kids these days use pencil and paper for anything at all any more, but this is the very best mechanical pencil money can buy.
posted by OrangeDisk at 7:12 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

A nice hydroflask for coffee. I have one for water and it's changed my life. You could do a flip top in the 12 or 16oz size, which I've seen for sale in stores. They are very nice waterbottles/thermos/coffee holders, but kind of prohibitively expensive, so they'd make a nice gift. You can do some fun custom colors here too. Maybe include a sticker of the organization they worked for, since hydroflask is hand wash.
posted by Drosera at 7:17 AM on December 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

Does the organization you all work for sell stuff with its logo? I'm quite fond of the actually nice organizationally-branded weekend bag I got from my former employer (during my time as an RA), and young people are less likely to have a have a full set of luggage (or any at all) so that sort of thing comes in handy.

If everyone likes each other, taking them all out to a nice dinner together could be an option, especially as they're unlikely to have much budget for nice restaurants as grad students.
posted by snaw at 7:31 AM on December 22, 2017 [3 favorites]

A nice business card holder is something you don't think to have when you're a student, but is so useful when you attend conferences.
posted by itsamermaid at 7:33 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'm in line with snaw's thoughts. Are they all stocked on "Schroedingersgirl Lab 2016-2018" T-shirts, thin fleece vests and coffee mugs? Seriously, alumni fleece vests are popular here in our cold offices. You could custom print one with your specific lab name.

And in addition to a nice coffee/dinner before they leave, future meetups at the big conferences are also great. While the institution may do its own all-alumini event, many of the PIs sponsor and organize smaller graduate alumni hostings to meetup for coffee, etc. Self-funders buy the first drink or a round of appetizers for everyone who shows up on time, but often and especially as the gathering grows, they figure out a way to carve it into the departmental 'continuing education' line item.
posted by beaning at 7:55 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

nice organizationally-branded weekend bag

This is what we do. We give out a small messenger bag and an insulated travel cup. I know people like them---I see people using them as their work bag and for coffee every day. Something specific to the field is nice too: we have branded photoreferences that we give out as calling cards. Always cute seeing one of those in a talk from another research group.

You can get these things from commercial conference giveaway companies. It is worth the time to look samples though. Some stuff is really junky. But if you get items you like, they can become your giveaways for a long time. They're equally useful for visiting dignitaries.

Just don't do pins or ball caps. I have drawersfull of those.
posted by bonehead at 8:24 AM on December 22, 2017 [4 favorites]

It's worthwhile to get some nice embroidered patches and stickers with the seal of the Uni and the name of the Dept. You can then glue or sew a patch to a laptop bag, polo shirt, fleece jacket, etc. I got a bunch of University seal stickers when the bookstore went to a different design, and used them on gifts to workstudy students when we had no budget.
posted by theora55 at 9:14 AM on December 22, 2017 [2 favorites]

Seconding a good hardcover notebook (Leuchtturm1917 or Moleskine), laptop bag or thermos flask of some persuasion. You can easily get those customised and they're actually nice.

A keyring could work, if it was a very nice one (not one that's just a bit of paper sandwiched between two bits of plastic).

A good-quality custom hoodie or sweatshirt or fleece vest would also be nice, but might run into the wrinkle that you can't bulk order if you're doing your-specific-lab ones, since you have to ask for sizes.

I would avoid stickers, baseball hats, tote bags, post-its or pins, those often end up being dime-a-dozen and easily forgotten in a drawer.
posted by sailoreagle at 9:41 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

I was given an engraved business card holder after an internship and I thought that was nice. Similarly, I was given a good luggage tag as a freebie at school graduation which was similarly thoughtful.
posted by mosst at 10:29 AM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

My lab gave me an engraved pewter cup when I graduated. It has my name and graduation year on one side, and the school seal opposite. It's a lovely memento, and very easily transported.
posted by basalganglia at 2:38 PM on December 22, 2017 [1 favorite]

hahaha, the fleeces! I have one of those that's been mouldering away in a closet for more than a decade now. I loved it for in the office, but it seems somehow too nerdy to wear out in public (plus it has my name embroidered on it, which is a nice touch, but not great for roaming around the city in). All of my friends from that job still have theirs too (except for the one who somehow sent theirs home with a terrible internet date and never got it back) but no one has worn it in public since we left.
posted by snaw at 9:08 AM on December 23, 2017 [1 favorite]

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