46

I recently had my delayed graduation ceremony and met up with an old lecturer who supervised my dissertation. It was nice to see them but we sadly didn't get the chance to catch up.

I was considering maybe sending them an email. Do you think this is a good idea? I'm sure they'd love to keep in touch since they taught me for 3 years.

Similarly, there was another lecturer who sadly left and they helped me to apply for my post-grad degree and served as head of department for the duration of my degree.

The bottom line is: Do lecturers appreciate hearing from former students? I'm in the UK by the way.

1
  • To the good answers pointing out the benefits, I can add: it can do no harm. The worse that could happen is that the lecturer is so busy they miss your message, but I am unable to see a reason why they could be bothered.
    – Miguel
    Sep 25 at 21:12
80

Actually, if you thank an old instructor it is one of the most wonderful things you can do. They will appreciate it tremendously. Even just catching up is fine. But don't neglect to add a thanks for their help.

I once had the opportunity to visit with and thank a mentor from my doctoral study days. He said that it was rare to be thanked so many years after he helped me advance. He was very touched.

Do it.


We old folks don't remember all of our students, of course, but we sometimes wonder how some specific person turned out in their career. Just yesterday, I thought of someone I taught in the 1970s, but have no way to find them.

5
  • 1
    Just yesterday, I thought of someone I taught in the 1970s, but have no way to find them. No results with Google?
    – Allure
    Sep 23 at 3:52
  • ORCID or an other researcher ID tag, a research specific database like Web of Science/Scopus/ResearchGate (i.e., via publications), directories of members of professional organizations (sometimes accessible to the members only [e.g., IEEE]), alumni group of the school could complement the search for Mr/Mrs/Ms Smith.
    – Buttonwood
    Sep 23 at 6:10
  • 1
    @Buttonwood and others. The person worked in government and not research. Confidentiality rules apply. They are in some databases that require subscription but not otherwise visible on the net.
    – Buffy
    Sep 23 at 12:38
  • 1
    To that last paragraph, even students who I absolutely would remember I still need a reminder. I'm happier when someone adds something explicit like: "I had you for class X in Smith hall, then ... ". I don't even mind the cliche "you probably don't remember me". Sep 23 at 16:15
  • 2
    @Buffy Last year my family reconnected with an old friend whom we hadn't seen for decades by searching for their name + city on Facebook. They have a very common name too (searching for the name alone yields 60 million results on Google). I think it's worth trying. If name + city doesn't yield good search results, you could try name + university.
    – Allure
    Sep 24 at 0:37
27

Yes!

This is what we live for as supervisors. Students are a terribly inefficient source of papers/CV entries/departmental brownie points, almost anything they do can be done by the supervisor in less than half the time. The main reason to supervise students is in developing them as researchers and as people. When we hear from students after they have left us, it is a complete validation of all the time and effort we spent on them. We LOVE it.

1
  • 1
    You don't say. If you're concerned about productivity, are you concerned about productivity?, then the fact that your students are unproductive is a problem with your system. Without students you won't have a culture to propagate forwards. I've seen my share of the most lousy institutions and departments where all they do is use students as scapegoats for severe failings and shortcomings in their own departments.
    – OS2
    Sep 24 at 13:11
13

Speaking as an ex-student:

To those who went out of their way for you - absolutely, yes.

Better still, let them know where you are so that if they need anything from that part of the world then they have someone to do the running around for them.

In the western hemisphere we don't appreciate our teachers enough. I know someone who never went further than middle school - and a vocational school at that - in China. Every year her class takes this favourite teacher out to a restaurant for a good meal and a sort of "class discussion" . . .

It's one of the things I have great guilt about myself. Good teachers are hard to find but exceptional teachers are nearly a couple in a lifetime experience. We shouldn't let their occasional human limitations excuse us from acknowledging their role in our lives.

1
  • 1
    This! Teachers/lecturers/etc are just people, like the rest us. If you parted on good terms, it can do no harm and at the worst you'll be just ignored. Maybe you'll even make their day better by an email!
    – KeyWeeUsr
    Sep 25 at 21:46

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.