Suppose you win a university-wide award for your research and you receive an e-mail from one of the dean's secretaries with the dean and your department head CC-ed.

Is there an established etiquette for how to respond to such an e-mail?

I was in this situation: I replied all (in two sentences) that this was great news(!) and thanking the secretary for letting me know.

My advisor subsequently upbraided me as an ignoramus and suggested I send very personal e-mails to the dean and department head telling them how much the award meant to me.

Culture shock I guess because sending such e-mails seems vain to me, first of all, whereas I would prefer focusing on it as a win for the team and otherwise minimize attention drawn to it (hence it's great news, full stop), not to mention getting back to work. (Also, I guess if I were receiving an outside scholarship with funding from a donor, the university would arrange for me to write a careful thank you letter --- which would go out in hard copy --- quite a different scenario.)

  • 3
    Are you faculty? Nov 8, 2021 at 5:00
  • 2
    Mostly likely this depends, among other things, very strongly on cultural aspects. Could you specify the country? Nov 8, 2021 at 7:10
  • While not entirely outside of what I would do (and did) in similar situations with similar reasoning, you better realize that the equivalent of "kthx" is perceived as a little bit too ungrateful. Whether you choose to convey precisely that or not is up to you. If not, it doesn't have to be a full-blown acceptance speech but engaging in a social dance and adding a couple more sentences telling how happy you are to be provided that research opportunity in the department and yadda yadda is much in order. Share a little bit of that success.
    – Lodinn
    Nov 8, 2021 at 10:26
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    @Lodinn That seems more of an answer than a comment.
    – Bryan Krause
    Nov 8, 2021 at 18:08

1 Answer 1


A simple reply to the department secretary as you did is fine. They had no part in the awarding.

But you can, and should still, follow up with something more personal as suggested by your advisor. I assume that the award was given by a committee. Use the mail to the administrators to thank the members of the committee for the award.

You were given something of value, even if it only recognizes your good work. Thank them for it. By mail or in person. Physical mail isn't a bad idea in this case, actually.

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