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.