Title

Displaying Diplomas in Campus Offices

Do you?

September 20, 2018
 
 

Are your diplomas hung up in your campus office?

Will we find your framed sheepskins displayed on one of your office walls?

Higher ed people divide into two groups. Those who display their diplomas, and those who don't.

I'm in the display diploma camp.  Come to my office, and you will find two framed diplomas sitting on a shelf. They are both in Latin. I can't read either one.

Go to my wife's office, and you will find no documentation that she graduated from anywhere. She has about twice as many degrees as I have, but you wouldn't know it from her office walls.

Why do (some) academic display their diplomas? It is not like we are performing surgery and need to demonstrate to our potential patients that we have been certified to use a scalpel.

My guess is that not many people who happen to wander into our offices care about our degrees, or where we received them.

I think that I might display my diplomas out of a desire to validate my place in academia. See, I have the degree - the same degree as the traditional faculty. Doesn't that mean that this alt-ac belongs?

My wife, on the other hand, has no such need to signify legitimacy. As a traditional faculty member, she has different requirements for presentation of self.

When I asked her why she doesn't display her diplomas in her office, her answer was that to do so would be presumptuous. She is modest in her accomplishments and secure in her place.

Perhaps displaying our diplomas is not about insecurity, but more about tradition. As a student I remember getting a kick out of looking at my professor's diplomas at office hours. They were impressive. I remember thinking that someday I'd like to have a campus office with diplomas in Latin hanging on the walls. Now I do.

We are living in a time when the whole meaning of higher ed credentials is in doubt. Should those alternative credentials from edX and Coursera be displayed in offices right along with the traditional university diplomas?

How do we signal accomplishment and mastery when everything we do at work feels brand new?

Do diploma displaying behaviors differ between traditional and alternative academics?

Are there demographic predictors of which academics might hang up their diplomas, versus those who will leave them somewhere in a box in the basement?

How did you decide what to do with your diplomas?

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