What to call me?

My experience in New Zealand and, to my surprise the UK, got me accustomed to the idea that professors and students operate on first name terms.  That seems not to be so in the US; I find myself referring to close colleagues as Dr Cavener and Dr Marden when students are around, even though they are obviously Doug and Jim.

But what should I encourage the students on this course to call me?  I opted for Andrew – science is about ideas, not hierarchy.  I am happy to eat humble pie from anyone who knows better or has an interesting idea, no matter their pay grade.  It was a privilege to learn that from John Maynard Smith.  I did slightly worry that there might be title problems when the Dean joins the course, and I noticed that none of the students called our visiting Nobel Prize winner ‘Barry’, at least not without the ‘Marshall’ attached too (12345). Perhaps they were right in that, and I should not have been so informal.  But, hell, he is Australian.
Now I note that some of the SC200 students can deal with Andrew, but most can’t. Its Dr Read – or no name at all.  Perhaps I should never have put them in a difficult position. I dunno. I still think its best to teach the true nature of science by example.

3 thoughts on “What to call me?

  1. Cole W. Camplese

    Hi Andrew … loving the blog and the ongoing reflection. This is something I see more and more of my faculty colleagues tossing around with their students. I ask my students to call me Cole and I notice how uncomfortable they are with that. I do like the comment that, “science is about ideas, not hierarchy.”


    This idea is still so hard for me to grasp. Growing up I would probably have been hit (joking…or maybe not…) if I called one of my teachers by their first names. Even know, I stay in touch with my 7th grade teacher, my 8th grade teacher, and my 11th grade english teacher. They all say “Call me…Karen; Bill; Amber…” but I can’t. It feels disrespectful and not proper to call people I learn(ed) from their first name. Dr. Read, you are not my only teacher who told us to call you by your first name. My Thea 100 teacher tells us to as well, but I just can’t do it. I like the idea of calling you Andrew, I really do, but sorry…I just don’t see it happening.

    Interesting article from Australia…

  3. Human Hair Wigs

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I am also an instructor and my students call me by my first name. I admit the fact that at first, I had difficulty understanding my students because just like you, I was used to be called by my last name in previous schools. Sometimes we just need to understand and try to adapt their ways, tradiiton and culture.


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