Ms. Academic Manners

I have taken note, Dear Reader, that of late I have been most blessed, for my afternoons are frequently spent in delightful conversation with both junior and senior members of the Clark intellectual milieu.

While sipping tea, we discuss the virtues of proper address, appropriate attire, and similar subjects whose aim is to advance junior members of the intellegentsia along their paths to wisdom.

You can imagine my surprise, then, when on one such afternoon, I was importuned to share some of my deliberations on these worthy subjects on the English Department’s website. After much thought and many requests, I finally succumbed, although I must confess, Dear Reader, that it is but a paltry offering that I pen here.

This, then, is the result, Dear Reader. Please, just tap on the little buttons if you wish to enter the world of Ms. Academic Manners.

Observing Classroom Decorum

For the intelligentsia, Dear Reader, the classroom is viewed as the sanctum sanctorum, the holy of holies. As is true of any sanctuary from the cares of the mundane world, the classroom too has guidelines to observe:

  • Do not call a professor by her or his given name unless expressly given the permission to do so.
  • Turn off your cell phone before entering class. If you forget to do so, apologize when the little thing goes off, but never speak on the phone during class, Dear Reader. If you absolutely must, please leave the classroom.
  • While members of the classroom are involved in discussion of heady import, or during an examination, do not chat with others.
  • It is considered, Dear Reader, a delicate negotiation process should you find the need to excuse yourself for the powder room. Simply starting up and bolting without a word to, or glance at, the deeply engaged Professor leaves all in doubt as to your motives. A simple hand raised, accompanied by a “May I be excused for a moment,” should suffice to allow all present to be comfortable with your momentary departure.
  • You will be pleased to read here that there are no guidelines with regards to attire. Dress as you wish and ignore, if you will, dictates from the fashion world!
  • However, when it comes to consumption of food or drink, the general rules of thumb are that the aroma of your delectable should not pass beyond the area you occupy and when masticating, you should not be overheard by your neighbor.
  • Although there are many more items we might detail, we’ll close this section with this: sleeping in class is rigorously frowned upon, as are any forms of prevarication.

Ms. Academic Manners wishes you the most scintillating cogitations, Dear Reader!


The Conference Paper

For those of us engaged in the heady realm of literature, Dear Reader, the conference paper is a signal honor. If your paper has been preferred by a professor to be presented to other literati, you should be most pleased. But with almost every pleasure, as we know so well, comes responsibility. The following suggestions, Dear Reader, should help you perform in a manner that will allow you to remember your participation with joy:

  • Most critical, Dear Reader, are the four "P’s": Do as much as you can to prepare, practice, polish, and perform effectively.
  • To begin with, do not, under any imaginable circumstances, depend on being able to expound upon your subject “off the cuff.” Your scholarly audience will expect you to present your material cogently. Thus, have a typescript ready, Dear Reader, and your audience will be appeased.
  • Of course, a typescript alone will not do. Practice makes perfect, we always say, and practicing your presentation will help enormously. You may find too that highlighting certain passages will help you in your delivery, since highlighting will remind you to pause, to emphasize, to indicate to your audience, “this is a passage to remember!” I have heard it said as well, Dear Reader, that it is highly advantageous to draw a pair of large eyes at various points of the typescript. Thus, you may remind yourself to look up at your enrapt audience.
  • The more you practice, as we have emphasized, the more polished you become. Do enlist a few of your comrades in intelligence to listen to your presentation and solicit their honest, frank opinions. It is far better, after all, to hear helpful criticism before and not after your formal presentation.
  • At the actual event, remember that your performance will excel if you respect your audience. If someone is brutish, disengage and suggest to the individual that you will have to think on the matter. If someone asks you a question for which you have no response, simply confess. The scholarly conference blossoms when each individual remembers one is there to learn, and a speaker who admits she or he must learn further is a most gracious member of The Academy.
  • In all your preparations and practice to polish and perform gracefully, do make sure you consult with your Mentor for valuable advice. The Mentor-Student relation thrives upon such opportunities.

Ms. Academic Manners wishes you the most propitious constellation for your presentation, Dear Reader!


Requesting a Recommendation

Dear Reader, when you have had the good fortune of acquiring most wondrous Knowledge at Clark University for a few memorable years, you will most certainly wish to disseminate what you have gained to others. You may wish to deepen your study further at a graduate school, or you may wish to enter the work force. Whatever momentous decision you make, you will most certainly desire the good wishes of your Mentors, known commonly as "recommendations". Please allow Ms. Academic Manners to help you approach your Mentors:

  • Always query your most trusted Mentors to describe your many abilities. If you are nonetheless troubled about Whom to approach, allow your Advisor or the Department Chair to aid you in your decision.
  • Never, Dear Reader, wait until the last moment to ask your Mentors for a recommendation. You will want them to have enough time to find just the right expression of confidence in your abilities. Since your Mentors are likely to have other commitments, approach them at least three weeks in advance.
  • Asking a Mentor for a recommendation can be a daunting task, Dear Reader, as you well know. Ms. Academic Manners advises that you enter the process thoughtfully. In her humble opinion, you will most certainly advance if you ask your Mentors first if they are willing to write on your behalf.
  • Once your Mentors have agreed, you should provide each of them with a list of each school or organization for which you desire a recommendation, along with each school or organization’s deadline date.
  • The recommendation is an important document, Dear Reader, and should be viewed with respect. To acknowledge its importance to you, do provide your Mentors with stamped, self-addressed envelopes.
  • As your Mentors are more aged than you, they may find it difficult to remember with precision, what work you have accomplished for them. They will be most pleased if you provide them with a list of courses you have taken from them, along with the titles of your final papers and final grades.
  • In fine, Dear Reader, it will allow your Mentors to be more expansive about your abilities, should you provide them with your resumé and should you be applying to graduate school with your Statement of Purpose.

Ms. Academic Manners wishes you the best of Fortune, Dear Reader, as you prepare your way in the world.