My Recommendations Policy

It is my responsibility to write recommendation letters for students (for graduate school, fellowships and other awards, and jobs), and I am almost always very happy to do so. If, however, I think writing for you might present a problem, I will tell you so in advance and let you decide whether you want me to write. Send information to me by e-mail or attachment in Word, rtf, or pdf so cut-and-paste is made easy.


I need a minimum of two weeks' notice (more if school breaks intervene) to write the initial letter. After it is on my computer, however, I need only a couple of days to send additional letters of the same general kind if you end up applying to additional places.


Send me a reminder of

  1. what courses, if any, you took with me, and in what semesters and years;
  2. any referee forms, or URLs to such forms, provided by the institutions or programs to which you are applying (note that such forms often include portions that you must complete first, so URLs are not always useful, and you may need to print and sign them, then let me know that you are leaving them for me in 503 SKH);
  3. the person, persons, or committee to whom the letter should be directed (unless you want a single, generic letter);
  4. the addresses to which the letters are to be sent (if you plan to pick them up, signed across the seal, from the Philosophy Department office at 503 South Kedzie, I need to know that);
  5. the deadlines for the letters' receipt;
  6. and a draft of any statement (e.g., "personal statement," "statement of interest," "letter of application") that you are providing to the program, institution, or employer.

If you are providing information to institutions about your referees so they can be contacted, the telephone number you should use for me is (517)381-4494.


In addition, it is often helpful, though not required, to see a student's résumé, CV, or at least to read what s/he has been doing since the course ended. These materials sometimes spark ideas for content that may add connections across the application, and give the addressee a better sense that the reviewer knows the student. These too should be sent by e-mail attachment.


When a member of faculty writes a recommendation for a student or former student —regardless of how very much s/he hopes the student will succeed — s/he nevertheless has an obligation to colleagues elsewhere to provide an assessment of the student's qualities that does not deliberately hide anything relevant to the position sought.