I have 3 diplomas sitting on my desk shelves: B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. I never hung them up. I meant to a few times. I would be meeting with a colleague, or visiting my physician, and see their diplomas proudly displayed on their office walls. “Oh right,” I would think, “I should do that.”
But I never did. It may be because I hate doing anything even closely resembling arts and crafts. In grade school, my inability to use scissors and draw left me in tears more than once. But to hang my diplomas, I don’t need to cut anything. Or draw anything. Just have them framed and hang them up.
They say if it’s important enough, we’ll find the time and energy to do it. So clearly, given that I’ve put it off for almost nine years, I’d say that hanging my diplomas ranks pretty low on my priority list. (Probably somewhere near “learn to draw.”)
I value my academic training. I’m proud of my accomplishments. But, by not hanging my diplomas, it became clear that titles are not important to me.
Academically, I was brought up in first-name cultures. My fellow students and I always called faculty by their first names. So, when I first became a professor, I asked students to please call me Jen. It didn’t work. It felt weird to them. Different culture, different practices. I thus became Dr. Bunk to my students. But, once they graduate, I gently coax them to call me Jen.
I’m not against titles. I don’t hate them. But, I want people to know that I’m more than just my title. “Dr. Bunk” is the professor who teaches and does research. But “Jen” is a person who has a unique set of experiences, talents, and memories.
“Dr. Bunk” is an expert. But “Jen” is not perfect; she has flaws.
It may be easier for me to exert authority as “Dr. Bunk” but it’s easier for me to connect with people as “Jen.” I’m a real person and don’t want to hide behind a title when I don’t need to.
So please, call me Jen.
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