I am generally happy to provide letters of reference for past students, if contacted with adequate lead time. E-mail is the best way to contact me. Letters are most effective if they are detailed and specific, which requires that you provide me with some information when you contact me:
- A general description of the program or jobs to which you are applying;
- Instructions for where the letter(s) should be sent, including addresses;
- A clear indication of deadlines;
- A sample of how you are representing yourself (a draft cover letter, or statement of research interests);
- A recent CV or resume;
- A copy of your unofficial transcript (just the one you download from the web is fine);
- A list of courses you took with me (including year taken), grades received, and if possible a summary of any written work or projects from the class that you are particularly proud of;
- Any other information that would help me provide a rich sense of your strengths (specific and relevant travel or volunteer experience, personal challenges overcome, career goals, etc.).
Having access to this kind of information helps me to contextualize my impressions and judgments, which often makes them much more persuasive. If you are using me as a reference on a resume, it still helps me to have this information to draw on when doing telephone references.
Finally, I always appreciate it when I hear the outcome after I give a reference: send along the good news when you are accepted to a program or get a new job!