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That’s _Professor_ Bozo to you, Pal

Something odd about teaching at a university – everyone wants to call you Professor, or Doctor. I am always flattered by the upgrade, but I sometimes feel a little miffed. There’s lots of people who teach at universities who haven’t earned the doctorate, and lots of people who teach without being professors: lecturers, research scientists, graduate students. I enjoy telling people that I’m neither a professor or a doctor and that they should call me “Ethan”.

I guess I have one less thing to be miffed about.

MIT announced today that I have been promoted to Associate Professor of the Practice of Media Arts and Sciences, active July 1st. And while I make jokes about it, I’m deeply proud to take on the professor title. I love all facets of my work – the research, the software development, the writing and public speaking, the teaching and the advising – but I am especially proud of the work I’ve done the past five years in the classroom and working one on one with students. Many of my favorite people at the Media Lab hold the Research Scientist title, but I wanted the Professor title so as to recognize how much of my work is about students and their work.

Plus, I’m greying rapidly, and I look good in tweed.

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(Am I looking professorial yet?)

I am deeply grateful to MIT as a whole and to the Media Lab in particular for making it possible to take on this new role. MIT is especially open to recognizing those of us who’ve taken unconventional roles towards academic careers, and I am grateful for their flexibility. I owe special thanks to Pattie Maes, Mitch Resnick, James Paradis and Ed Schiappa, who’ve been tireless advocates on my behalf, to the wonderful reviewers who wrote letters on my behalf, and to Joi Ito, who has supported everything I’ve done and tried to do at the Media Lab. But the biggest thanks are reserved for my students and staff, past and present, who’ve helped me see that teaching is what I should be doing – thank you all more than I can say.

13 thoughts on “That’s _Professor_ Bozo to you, Pal”

  1. “Professor” is the safest form of address to default to, I think, because very few people will be offended at being addressed by a loftier title than they deserve, but most people will be insulted, some gravely so, by being addressed as if they’re of lower station.

    Also, congratulations!

  2. Nikita Katenga-Kaunda

    Congratulations! Hard work pays off (now if only I could take that advice for myself instead of saying, ‘just one more episode of Game of Thrones before I get back to work.’).

  3. You look *totally* professorial. Because you are. Good for MIT for recognizing that.

    Being annoyed, or in my case sort of strangely put off, reminds me of a very polite, hardworking recent immigrant from Central America in one of my classes in New Orleans. He always addressed me as “Teacher.” And, yes, you could hear the capital letter.

    I tried to tell him once, or maybe twice, that Dr. GrumpyBioProf would be the way to go, but he just couldn’t take to it. It obviously felt too familiar. So Teacher it was for the rest of the semester.

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