Thank you to thesis committee
April 21, 2020 12:29 PM   Subscribe

How to thank my thesis committee?

How do I send some besides an email, "Thank you" to my dissertation committee? In these weird times, I presented online and haven't even had a chance to see these individuals face to face in months.

They aren't at work either, so sending a thank you note to their work is a no-go. Is it creepy to look up their home addresses? Should I assume someone at the university is forwarding mail? Challenging factor, one committee member is abroad and I've had difficulty getting just basic mail sent to regular addresses.

Finally, is a 'thank you' enough? If we had had an in-person defense I would have had the chance to at least bring some cookies and such. Things just seem a little unfinished somehow, but perhaps just a card sent, somewhere, would resolve that feeling.
posted by aetg to Education (10 answers total)
Best answer: You could send a card to their work addresses. It will presumably be there when they get back (which will happen, eventually). I'm not sure how to overcome the overseas challenge factor, but theoretically it would remain for any physical thing you would want to do.

I baked cookies for my last meeting with my thesis committee (before the defense) and one of them didn't show up. Them's the breaks, no cookies for them. I guess my point is, unless your thesis committee has really gone over and beyond, this is a bigger deal for you than it is for them, and a genuinely written thank you email/card should be both sufficient and really the most meaningful thing you could do.
posted by quaking fajita at 12:40 PM on April 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think a thoughtful, personalized thank you e-mail is more than enough during these distanced times. You could also include a professionally-appropriate selfie, maybe of you holding a ...copy of your thesis? USB with your thesis on it? glass of champagne? cookie that you would have baked for them? and include a note to the effect of, "if we were in person I'd be baking/raising a glass/otherwise celebrating with you so for now this will have to do!".
posted by stellaluna at 1:20 PM on April 21, 2020 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I sent nothing written to my dissertation committee when I graduated and still regret it (and, frankly, cringe at the memory). I thanked them graciously in person, but I just want to smack my past self for my cringe-worthy lack of social graces.

As a professor (although not one that supervises dissertation students), I love getting notes from graduating students talking about what they got from working with me. I think a note expressing your thanks would be wonderful. Given the vagaries of mail delivery right now, I'd mail the note/card to their work address and also send them an email along the lines of, "Thank you so much for all your guidance in this project. I've sent a brief note of thanks to your office, but since you probably won't get that for a while, I also wanted to thank you over email."
posted by Betelgeuse at 1:21 PM on April 21, 2020 [3 favorites]

I agree with sending a card to a work address. Nobody is forwarding mail. But, presumably your committee will return eventually and receive it.

If you really want to go far beyond what's expected, you could send a brief email note and ask for an address to which to send a small gift. I'd avoid anything expensive or time-consuming. (I've received cookies, tea, cheap wine, and regional folk crafts as gifts from students in similar contexts. . . all of which seemed nice. Anything more would have been uncomfortable.) But, it's entirely unexpected and not required, at least in my experience in US research universities. Looking up home addresses of faculty who haven't given them to you would seem very odd to me.

Also, congratulations! I'm sorry you didn't get a defense party.
posted by eotvos at 1:22 PM on April 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I'm a professor and the problem of mail for my department during this crisis has actually not been trivial, necessitating that a staff member be present to sort faculty mail (most of which, frankly, is junk anyhow). I would honestly suggest emailing them individually and asking them each where to send a card if you want to send a card. For what it's worth, I've been on several dissertation committees and I have never received a handwritten thank-you note for serving on a committee. I do always get thank-you emails from students. So truly, an email would be fine here. I would not suggest sending a gift, even if it is small.

posted by k8lin at 1:28 PM on April 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Send them a nice email, then go forth in your field and do good work! For bonus points, check back in with them in later years and let them know how you're doing....
posted by LadyOscar at 1:50 PM on April 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

I sent my committee hand-written thank you notes, and gave my dissertation advisor a framed picture of my study species that I was particularly proud of. I'd send them an e-mail and ask where they'd prefer mail.
posted by ChuraChura at 1:55 PM on April 21, 2020

Best answer: I would send a heartfelt email now. It would be nice to add something physical but under the current circumstances it would create an extra hassle for everyone.

Is it creepy to look up their home addresses?

It could certainly be invasive. I'd skip this.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 1:57 PM on April 21, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This may vary by discipline and location, but when I asked my advisor for advice he told me that anything more than saying "thank you" would be inappropriate. His view was that examining graduate work is part of the job, and sending gifts (even cookies) to people who might have to write a letter of recommendation for you creates a weird conflict of interest.
posted by caek at 4:52 PM on April 21, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I've been on a few thesis committees and an email would be fine. I would think a gift was kind of strange (although I've had a glass of bubbly or a piece of cake when in person), but perhaps that is from a UK perspective. A nice email saying you thank them for their time and effort is plenty in my opinion - it's part of their job to do this.

Mail is complicated at the moment and would make more work for people who are already doing a lot - I'd skip it and certainly not try to send anything to a non-work address.

And congrats by the way!
posted by sedimentary_deer at 3:27 AM on April 22, 2020

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