Lifelong tenure

Written by: Stephen Hsu

Primary Source: Information Processing

Good evening, everyone.

Let me add my sincere congratulations to those you’ve already heard tonight. Tenure at a great research university is a milestone in the life of a scholar. I hope you will take some time to reflect and to enjoy.

In psychology there is a well-known phenomenon called the Hedonic Treadmill. Individuals who achieve an important goal — whether it is becoming a millionaire, or sports champion, or tenured professor — are often quick to discount the achievement. Happiness levels rise only briefly, and then it’s back to the treadmill, with some new goal in mind and no measurable increase in life satisfaction.

Please do your best to resist the Hedonic Treadmill, and allow yourself more than a brief moment of happiness on this important occasion :-)

With great gifts come great responsibilities. I have two requests for each of you, now that you are firmly ensconced at the very heart of our university.

1. Think about the last 6 years you’ve experienced in your department and college, and ask yourself: what can MSU do to improve the experience of junior faculty? Can we be clearer about the promotion and tenure process? Should we do more to protect new faculty from service burdens? Is there enough communication and mentoring within your department? No one is in a better position than you are, at this moment, to recognize necessary improvements, and to help make them a reality. If you don’t do it, who will?

2. Make use of your tenure. Take risk in service of great achievements. Think great thoughts, ask deep questions, and attempt challenging and original projects. This promotion means that you have all the potential required to make a lasting contribution to human knowledge. With luck and hard work, you will carry it through.

Congratulations to you all.

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Stephen Hsu
Stephen Hsu is vice president for Research and Graduate Studies at Michigan State University. He also serves as scientific adviser to BGI (formerly Beijing Genomics Institute) and as a member of its Cognitive Genomics Lab. Hsu’s primary work has been in applications of quantum field theory, particularly to problems in quantum chromodynamics, dark energy, black holes, entropy bounds, and particle physics beyond the standard model. He has also made contributions to genomics and bioinformatics, the theory of modern finance, and in encryption and information security. Founder of two Silicon Valley companies—SafeWeb, a pioneer in SSL VPN (Secure Sockets Layer Virtual Private Networks) appliances, which was acquired by Symantec in 2003, and Robot Genius Inc., which developed anti-malware technologies—Hsu has given invited research seminars and colloquia at leading research universities and laboratories around the world.
Stephen Hsu

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