Saying thanks

Last year, when I was putting together my tenure file, I kept thinking that a section was missing. Where was I going to thank all the people who had helped me over the years? Of course, it makes all the sense in the world that a tenure file does not have an acknowledgements section. After all, talk about a situation where one would feel obligated to include everyone, rendering the exercise completely pointless. Nonetheless, while academic work is often characterized as a lonely enterprise, feedback from others – whether on research, teaching or professionalization – is an essential part of the process. Thus it seemed wrong to put forward one’s materials without acknowledging all the assistance and support offered by colleagues and friends near and far.

When I heard that I got tenure, I said thanks to people as I let them know about it. But it didn’t quite seem enough. While there is room in articles to acknowledge others’ contributions, they tend to be focused on the specific actions related to that particular piece. Book acknowledgements can be a bit more inclusive, but even there, it is not clear how wide a net one would cast.

When talking to one of my colleagues about this, he suggested that the appropriate thanks is to pay it forward by mentoring future generations. That is a nice and generous idea and I’m happy to do it. Nonetheless, I still wish there was a way for the many people to get credit. This is part of all that invisible work in academia (and probably many other professions) that never shows up on CVs. Thanks to those who engage in it, it means a lot!

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