Jason Hackworth

Professor of Planning and Geography

Letters of Recommendation

Employers seeking letters of recommendation for a student

Please try to contact me via email, as I do not check my office voice mail very frequently.

Students seeking a letter of recommendation

I am generally willing to write letters of recommendations to students who have worked for, or taken a class from me.  Do however keep a few things in mind when deciding whether to ask me to write a letter.  I am fair in my assessment of students and tend, if anything, to write letters that err on the side of being overly positive.  When possible I try to emphasize your strengths and the positive interactions that we have had.  By the same token, I am not willing to fabricate positive interactions and experiences when they do not exist, nor am I willing to completely ignore poor performances that I have observed.  You need to be strategic before you ask me (or any other faculty member) for a letter; I am not going to spell out the contents of my letter to you beforehand.  If for example, you did poorly in my class, routinely turned in assignments late, had contentious interactions with me, and/or performed poorly as a TA or RA of mine, I am not going to write you a positive letter of recommendation.  If, by contrast, you did well in one or more of my classes, had pleasant interactions with me, were conscientious about submitting assignments on time, I will almost assuredly write you a positive letter of recommendation.  This may seem like common sense, but please think about these issues before asking me to write a letter.

A similar point also applies to students who have only taken large classes with me.  It is a (sad) fact that, because of our university’s size, many students do not have meaningful interactions with their professors.  In extreme instances, they can progress through their entire four years without having any meaningful interaction with a professor.  Several times per year, I get letter requests from students that I have never met (because they were in a very large class and never visited my office hours or introduced themselves to me).  If you are in this category, think very carefully about whether I would be the best person to write a letter for you.  I will not be able to convey anything in my letter that your transcript would not already cover (e.g. “s/he got an 85 in my class”).  These letters tend not to be viewed as positively as those that can meaningfully reflect on your potential, work ethic, interests, and personality.  In short, if you took only one of my large courses and we have not met (or met only in passing), it is probably best to ask someone else for a letter of recommendation.

If you think that I would be an appropriate letter-writer, I will need the following from you:

1. I need at least one month to write the letter (or letters).  This is the most important of my guidelines. I will decline requests for letters submitted less than a month before the deadline.  In cases of “rolling deadlines”, the date when applications are first accepted counts as “the deadline”.
2. I need all of the instructions and address information for the job, scholarship, etc. If you are applying for multiple awards/ jobs, I would appreciate a single sheet with all of the deadlines, instructions, and addresses listed.  If there are special forms that must accompany the letter, I need you to spell this out clearly.
3. Even if I know you quite well, it is essential that I have some background information to help me tailor the letter. I need the following:
a. A resume or CV
b. The statement, cover letter, or whatever you are sending to the granting committee, or job that you are applying for
c. A list of all courses that you have taken with grades received