Why I don’t use my campus email address


What good things does an institutional email address do for you? Here is a list:

  • It gives you legitimacy. If you’re working at Important University, then people know this from your email address.

And that’s the end of the list.

What not-so-good things come with your institutional email address*?

  • It is ephemeral. If you are a student or postdoc, then you know there will be a day, not that far away, that emails to you at this address will bounce back to the sender.
  • It is subject to the changing tides of university IT office policies, support, and archiving practices.
  • In theory, and perhaps in practice, it can be read others in your university, (whereas all of your email can be read by big corporations even if you use your university account).

When people nowadays send you email, they find your email by typing your name in the header of the email and your address pops up. Ideally, the address that pops up will never change.

If you’re in grad school, you’re planning to do stuff when you get done, but you don’t know where that will be. (Unless you’re EO Wilson who transitioned from Harvard grad student to Harvard professor, odds are that you’ll be working somewhere else.) It’ll be just a little easier for your collaborators and everybody else to keep contacting you at the same email address no matter where you go.

How do I handle the mechanics of my personal and university accounts? My personal account grabs all of the mail that comes to me from my campus mail. And then I deal with it from my personal account.

I realize that lots of folks like to use university accounts for business, and personal accounts for personal stuff. That’s cool. While my life extends well beyond teaching, research and service, the bulk of my work-related email extends far before, and beyond, my current employer. The obligation to turn in a manuscript review ranks falls in the same category as the obligation to volunteer for my kid’s school, and the obligation to respond to a student email about homework falls in the same category as responding to a student from institution who has a specific question about the science that has come out of my lab. The obligation to pay an invoice for lab supplies ranks up there with paying my own credit card bill. So “one email account to rule them all” makes sense for me.

For the heck of it, here’s a history of the email addresses used: In college, when I was looking for grad school opportunities, I was using mcglynn@oxy.edu. (However, at this point in the early ’90s, some prospective advisors hadn’t joined the email bandwagon.) Our college told us that we could keep that address in perpetuity, so I always could have mcglynn@oxy.edu. A few years later, the campus IT people they realized they were naive and rescinded that commitment. (Now, there is some alumni.oxy.edu email address if want it, that I’ve never used.)

In grad school, after getting pushed around a couple weird domains like ucsub.colorado.edu, I got terrence.mcglynn@colorado.edu. When I applied for postdocs and faculty jobs, I used this address in my job applications. This account disappeared a few months after I graduated.

As a postdoc, I got mcglynn@uh.edu. I used this as my main address until I moved over to a 2-year visiting assistant professor position, where I used tmcglynn@gettysburg.edu. I left that job after a year, and then I started in a permanent position, where I would have some email address stability. I got tmcglynn@acusd.edu. That was a weird domain name (which apparently was created to represent “Academic Computing, University of San Diego”), so they eventually acquired a more normal one, sandiego.edu.

After about five years of using tmcglynn@sandiego.edu, I left that job for another one. My previous university account continued to exist for some while after my last paycheck, but I didn’t really notice because I was using my gmail account for all of my off-campus business.

This matters because even though I’ve been in my current job for several years, some colleagues think I still am at my old institution. If I had used that email address, I might be missing out on some important communications. But with my gmail account, my work travels with me no matter where I go. I started using it during the acusd.edu era, when I got an early invite.

Ironically, about twenty years after I lost my mcglynn@oxy.edu address, I got it back when I became adjunct faculty at my alma mater. However, a few months after I taught a course as an adjunct, that email address stopped working.

So, I’ve had several email addresses that I’ve used professionally throughout my career. None of which exist right now except my personal account and my current position. Which I might leave as early as six months from now, six years from now, or stay until retirement. All I know is that, whenever I do move, using my institutional address when dealing with journals, collaborators, funding agencies, friends, and everyone else will be a lot easier if my institutional email address isn’t the one that people are used to using.


*Of course, I could write a list of the not-so-good things that come with using a personal account with a corporate provider. It’s easy to find that kind of list.

6 thoughts on “Why I don’t use my campus email address

  1. I appreciate your comments about campus email addresses. I have found they offer a few benefits in addition to the one you suggest. The reality is the address itself is not important, but the “.edu” domain is important. I have been able to leverage my .edu domain to obtain books for review, for example. I may not have been able to use the same leverage with my generic “gmail.com.”

    A ditched a formal .EDU account a few semesters ago – stopped using it for my classes. I gave another account to my student to use as the “official” email account. My institution was not pleased and demanded I use the email address they had assigned to me. In fact, they won’t recognize any email I send them from my alternate account in spite of me registering the email address within the Personnel Management System. I suggested they stop cluttering my inbox with campus-wide emails about “we’ve got leftover cupcakes in the break room,” and “don’t use the water fountain in Jefferson Hall.” Not only was my suggestion ignored, I seem to have energized them into even more frequent and less useful emails. Being an adjunct and living an hour away no way can I take advantage of left-over cupcakes, and “No, I have not seen a green back-pack with floral designs embroidered with “Little Sis” in pink script.”

  2. I’d love to hear more details about how you deal with email once it lands in your personal account. Strategies for organizing it all and making sure nothing falls through the cracks?

  3. My biggest frustration with a recent “upgrade” of my institutional email is that I can no longer forward everything to my gmail. Now that I have to manage two accounts, things are slipping through the cracks :(. I consider it incredibly arrogant of the university to force us to use their system when many of us are only there on temporary contracts.

  4. For inbox management, let me refer to you to these two links:

    Things do slip through my cracks when I’m stressed. But, here in theory is how they aren’t supposed to. Once per work day (or more often), deal with email. Delete the junk, take care of quick items, and for other items, add tasks to your ‘to do’ list and then archive the mail.

    For example, today I got a ton of junk. I also have an email that requires getting something back to a collaborator that’ll take a few hours. I got emails requesting rec letters for grad school and a letter for a Teacher Ed preparation program that I run. And a review that I accepted. Those all get put on the ‘to do in the next few days’ list.

    I dealt with some stuff when I get to it. Like putting on my calendar appointments from a committee I’m on. Replying to an email about bloggy stuff. Travel plans for January. A student who wanted more points from the last exam.

    Things fall apart when I don’t deal with the inbox as it builds up. And when I use the inbox as a default ‘to do’ list. Because that just gets overwhelming. The last few months have been difficult in a variety of ways and some things have slipped because I haven’t had the discipline to manage the inbox well – which means not managing time well. I imagine that as long as I make a point to exercise and choose the right priorities, that I can manage time and my inbox well.

  5. Agree completely! That’s why I created a gmail account and use it exclusively (to CG upthread, I have used it to get books to review). At my last position, however, there was an admin that wouldn’t answer my e-mails unless it was from the .edu address created for my (temporary, aren’t they all?) position.

  6. Hi Terry, I think this is a good idea for all reasons stated. No qualms.

    However, to provide a counterexample, I would like to note that in my case (the generality of which I do not know), every email address that I’ve ever had since my PhD training still works–that’s the PhD institution email, the first postdoc institution email, and the second institution postdoc email (and I’m currently transitioning to another institution). All of these are forwarded to my Gmail account. A full slate of emails dating back to 2008 are still working for me now 10 years later.

    So, I receive mail from one of the other accounts, which are listed on my papers, and I reply with my Gmail address. Then, interested parties have one or more of my academic-inst email addresses as well as my Gmail address and they can choose which one to use when desired. The only real issues with this occur when sharing or receiving data files hosted on the cloud, specifically on Google Drive. Sometimes, if a collaborator sends a file to my non-Gmail account, or I send a file to a collaborator’s non-Gmail account, then I/he/she could have issues opening a Drive-hosted file. That’s it!

    To place this in current context (4 years since your original post, looks like), using your Gmail for academic correspondence is now a generally accepted approach that I have recently seen others recommend on social media, but sometimes in the case of when you are applying to non-academic jobs.


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