Minutes GSO Prospectus Info Meeting

October 22, 2014; 3:30-5:30pm

Brian Reed, department chair
Juan Guerra, graduate program director
Alissa Bourbonnais, Graduate student panelist
Kirin Watcher-Green, Graduate student panelist
Chris Martin, Graduate student panelist
Rachel Graf, GSO co-executive officer

First Hour devoted to questions for Brian and Juan:
1. Can you give an overview of the “benchmark” system for evaluating graduate student progress, including its goals (from a faculty perspective) and its practical impact for students?
BR: Faculty have been trying to make our MA/PhD program more coherent, so that each step follows from the one previous. For a long time, we prided ourselves on having a flexible program, such that individuals could follow broad interests. Desire to maintain that, while having a “road” people can be on to evaluate their own progress. Decision to enforce benchmarks more follows series of student surveys on the program. Surveys were done to isolate moments people get stalled. There is pressure from above to think about time to degree, but also assume students want to move through the program faster. Wanted to draw added attention and clarity to moments of transition that have been stumbling blocks. The idea of enforcing benchmarks makes it “a trip wire element”. Not meant as punitive, but more encouragement. Average had been more than a year between exams and prospectus, even though it had been a guideline to do in a quarter. Time spent on first chapter will be more profitable than on prospectus.
JG: Looking at those surveys, we saw a number of problem issues. Stumbling blocks. A number of reasons for long time to degree. One reason is the exam itself is psychologically over-whelming, and has a negative effect of paralyzing people. Those of you who take exams know after you’re exhausted. Want to find ways to intervene (including info meetings) and develop them. A side effect of timeline problems is funding complications. Wanted to be fair, so that those working more efficiently get fair share of money, especially those who had entered the program unfunded. Now the problem is getting the faculty on board to support graduate students in finishing and meeting benchmarks. Faculty will retreat in spring, and the graduate studies committee will try to generate a set of proposals beforehand. It was a unanimous faculty vote to enforce benchmarks in this way.
Don’t want to burden anyone. Individual case-by-case extensions if there is need. If problems arise, Juan can extend the benchmark on the prospectus for someone for another quarter.

BR: previously we occasionally enforced things, which led to real inequity. Goal is to make the playing-field the same.

2. One of the big challenges in graduate school is mastering new genres, such as the prospectus. How would you describe the prospectus as it relates to other academic writing?
BR: The prospectus is point in the program where faculty have most divergence. The question of genre is sub-field specific in many ways, thus tendency to say talk to committee. B’s point of view is that the prospectus is first version of genre (book prospectus, fellowship application, many pieces of job application). Unless it’s been built into a class, it’s not a genre you’ve had the opportunity to practice before. Important skill set.
JG: Unless you’ve worked for an NGO or something of that sort it will be new to you. The prospectus is really a proposal. “I propose to do this and here is how I propose to go forward with it.” You can go look at examples, which is helpful especially if they are related to your research, but in the end, you do really need to go meet with your committee and they’ll tell you what their expectations are. I also certainly encourage you to talk to your peers for models, but in the end it is your committee who will decide. Thus, the conversation about prospectus with committee really needs to happen early on. I recommend to students to keep a file about prospectus ideas while reading for exams. So that when you do sit down to write the prospectus you have a starting point.
BR: To write a prospectus you need to have a clear idea what a dissertation is. In surveys, students do not seem to have a clear sense of that. Tackling not only prospectus genre but also dissertation genre. One problem is students trying to tackle a topic that is a life-time project. Another problem is the reverse, thinking of the dissertation as 4 seminar papers. It’s important to talk about the shape of a dissertation with your committee and peers.
Prospectus itself will typically have: abstract where you say “my dissertation will do this, and I will do so in this manner,”; some form of literature review (ie, “Judith butler has written about this topic”) blunt overview, often a paragraph devoted to each major aspect; some statement of “my contribution”; a section on method or literary approach; chapter breakdown (speak with certitude in the future tense about things that will change); some sort of logistic section that says timeline (archival trips, defense date, etc). Typical prospectus often has those pieces in some configuration. Committee will often tell you, “Too broad.”
JG: You will use this genre again, so it doesn’t hurt to try to do it well this time because then you have a model. I used this same structure for my book proposal for my manuscript, which when done doesn’t look anything like what I wrote in proposal. Important to acknowledge and understand that what you end up with is very different from what you propose, because in the course of writing it you need to learn new information, reading and connecting ideas, adding things that are not part of your original plan. Write a good, strong prospectus but don’t commit yourself to it to the death.
BR: Again why we want it done within a quarter, because it’s a step, doesn’t need to be rewritten along the writing process.

Student asks: Is this breakdown in the prospectus structure universal in the program or does it vary in and of itself?
JG: I think it varies. Your committee will define what they’re looking for, so you have to listen to their suggestions. What Brian described is a paradigm just like the 5-paragraph essay is a universal structure, with a lot of variation. Stress again: talk to your committee. Writing a dissertation the audience is not the field: it’s the three members of your committee. This year the faculty will try (maybe fail) to set parameters for dissertation and prospectus.
BR: amount of detail in each section varies quite a bit
Student asks: In relation to the prospectus needing to be done one quarter after exams, that seems to incentivize people to take exams later. Why would I take exams earlier then?
BR: If you take the exams in winter and write prospectus in spring, then you have summer to start chapter one.
Student: but the way that it’s tied with funding puts that pressure onto it.
NB: Brian Reed emailed following the meeting with this clarification:” I checked with Kathy Mork about the prospectus & benchmark enforcement.

Here is a clarification of the prospectus benchmark:

It must be completed by the end of fall quarter of ‘year five’ in the program (‘year four’ for those who enter the program post-masters).

Can you please circulate this clarification? I misspoke when I said it was ‘one quarter after exams.'”

Student: This is related to problems with the exam process.
BR: If you take exams in Spring, then you have the fall to do prospectus, but anyone in that position I advise to use the summer to write chapter one. In regards to enforcement policies [for all students], that would be one to talk more with graduate studies committee about specifics.

NB: Kathy Mork clarified the process for resolving individual problems meeting the benchmark versus enforcement generally speaking: “ If any individual “5th year” graduate student thinks he or she cannot complete the prospectus by the end of this current quarter (Autumn 2014), he or she should contact the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) NOT the Graduate Studies Committee (GSC).

If the graduate students would like to effect a change in department policy or rules, they should approach the Director of Graduate Studies with their proposal, and the DGS would bring the issue to the Graduate Studies Committee (GSC) for discussion.  Another way to effect a change would be to use the graduate student members of the GSC to bring up the topic for discussion and get the item on the GSC agenda.”

Question: Is there a benchmark that identifies when chapter one should be written? Inconsistency doesn’t seem equitable.
BR: no. If you’re doing a dissertation requiring human subjects it takes longer.
Student: Why was this the first change, rather than fixing flawed exam process?
JG: To wake people up. If we waited until we fixed the system the number of graduate students falling behind would keep increasing. Not trying to be heartless, but in department systems there are benchmarks you have to meet. This is the life you’re buying into.
Student: I understand that, and I don’t think any of us object to having to work under pressure. But my concern comes from lack of institutional support.
Student: Also stakes of financial incentives really high. Notification process is where conflict was created.
JG: hoping by September next year the faculty will have worked out system to make all of this run better.
Student: Do you anticipate faculty will have conversations about equity in mentorship? Is that an anticipated focus of the retreat?
JG: It is. We’ve been talking about trying to come up with some sort of Rights & Responsibilities as faculty and graduate students. I think Anis, will take on some of the responsibility of developing that. We know, of course, that some faculty are very responsive and some do not give feedback. With tenured faculty we cannot force them to do anything against their will, but we can certainly set benchmarks and guidelines for them and mentoring. We need to talk about integrating course work, exams and dissertation. I’m not sure which of the array of issues we discuss we will decide need to be addressed most quickly.
BR: This quarter I’m going to try to get a code of conduct that applies to faculty, staff and students, which we don’t have and need because we’ve had problems with micro-aggression on all levels. Once we have that in place we can have the kind of guidelines Juan is talking about. You have to understand that our faculty, always vote to make things tougher and more rigorous, but they don’t necessarily follow through in their individual actions. Faculty culture that we need to work on.
Student asks: Did you say that code of conduct has to do with micro-aggressions?
BR: Guidelines for social media use. Particularly concerning use of UW email. We’ll start with the faculty senate version of this.

3. You’ve both advised many graduate students at UW. What advice can you share based on that experience? Are there particular stumbling points you’ve noticed? Are there strategies you recommend to your own advisees?
JG: With my own students, and as DGS, I try to remind everyone that this is a comprehensive program with several moving parts. It’s important to begin to make sense early on of how they (course work, exams, diss) work together. Use course material for reading lists, so it becomes a matter of reviewing material instead of reading from scratch. Once you take exams find ways to try to imagine what dissertation might look like. Don’t end up reproducing and doing the same thing over and over again.
BR: If you’re at the point of asking “what do I do next?” Sit down and ask yourself, “What have I done? What do I love?” Even if you love it, some days you’re gonna hate it, but you need to do a dissertation you love. A dissertation is a rough draft of a book. It is not your book and not your career, but it is a step. The dissertation, people tend to be over ambitious. “What have you done? What do you love? Where do you want to go?” Ask yourselves, “Is the diss going to give me skills? An archive? An argument? How will it launch me where I want to go?” This what will get you through the prospectus, the dissertation, the job process. It helps you with set-backs, it helps you with opportunities.

Second Hour devoted to questions for experienced grad-students:
1. Panelists introduce themselves.
Chris Martin: Technically a 7th year, entered in MFA program. Writing last chapter, will defend either in winter or spring. Working on Medieval lit + textual studies.
Alissa Bourbonnais: 4th year, prospectus approved in the spring.
Kirin Wachter-Green: 5th year, turning in diss next week. Defending in Winter.
2. What do you wish you had known about the prospectus earlier?
KWG: (26p prospectus) I felt like the prospectus was a bureaucratic hoop, mystery genre. Frustrated by the project. If you feel resistant to it, you are not alone. I wish I had known how useful it ended up being. I was able to construct diss abstract for job market from prospectus, and turn prospectus into introduction, as well as being a touch stone as I was writing.
CM: (40p prospectus) Prospectus was really hard because I hadn’t yet done my research. Had to hypothesize what I would find and extrapolate from it. Took a year to write prospectus. You just have to bullshit, even though you don’t know what your dissertation is going to look like. The committee needs it more than you need it. Just give it to them. They also won’t look at it ever again.
AB: Mine, chaired by Brian Reed, was 10 pages. I drastically changed my topic between exams and early plan and what I turned in as prospectus.

Student asks: Do you feel like there’s a greater connection between exams and prospectus, or prospectus and diss?
AB: There are people who have their question and theoretical lens who then go look for objects, and there are people who have their texts and need to find their theoretical lens. I found that I had these texts I loved, but I couldn’t write about them, because of personal attachment to them. So the texts had to change. New texts seemed like completely different worlds, but it’s actually still very much the same theory and questions driving my project. I think you’ll find that some of the same questions you had in exams will come back up.
KWG: As a counter-point, you don’t have to change your project from exams. My project has stayed consistent. If you have a clear idea at the exam stage that you’re committed to, power through. Recycle, like Brian said.
AB: If you do think you need to get away from whatever you’ve been working on, you can mediate how far away you go. It is far more valuable to just pick texts you think your chapters should center on, and then if you change it later that’s fine, but otherwise you get caught up in the process.

3. How did you structure your prospectus?
CM: Mine was pretty much Brian’s structure. I had a couple of those parts. The ones most useful to me in the dissertation were the chapter breakdowns. Also the bibliography. Talk to your committee about what they want out of it. Mine didn’t expect my prospectus to be 40 pages, but they did want a comprehensive idea of what you want to do for each chapter. Then I would take chunks of those descriptions and use them writing the chapters themselves.
KWG: I had 5 pages of context, all historical, social, political context of big issues. Then 5 pages detailing my research interests and my rationale. Then 6 pages detailing research question and stakes. Then 2 pages of archive. Then 5 pages of chapter outline.
AB: Mine was what Brian said, because he’s my chair. I really do think of it as a recipe and he was helpful. What it is to write this piece of fiction, it was weird and satisfying to write the abstract, “My dissertation says this.” Just doing that made it easier to go ahead and write the rest.

4. What writing strategies have been most useful to you?
AB: Free-writing on one text at time just to get going.
KWG: When I broke the prospectus up into various parts it seemed reasonable. Start with whatever seems reasonable. Whenever I finished a section I sent it to my chair and got feedback. Then when I turned it into a cohesive piece I was able to streamline it.
AB: All underscored by it really mattering who you director is.
KWG: My chair didn’t encourage me to think of this as bullshit. He wanted me to think of it as really serious. I’m glad he pushed me to think of it as the chance to really figure out what my argument was.

Student Asks: Did in any of you consult rigorously with peers in addition to your advisor?
KWG: Yes, every week. I strongly encourage you to find a person or a group of people. It helps you hold each other accountable and work through things.
CM: 100% agree. For me the best thing was to see what other people’s writing had become. They had the same problems I had, so I didn’t feel behind. Read each other’s work.
KWG: Writing the diss is really isolating, unnecessarily. I looked at a student who also studied with my chair and read his dissertation, as well as similar topic. Get with people who are working with the same chair.
CM: The worst thing for me was transitioning from doing exams to doing the prospectus. For those of you writing a prospectus, I would say don’t stress out about it. Just get it done.

What are the things that helped you get going?
KWG: For me it was just to work. Do the easier things on days you can’t stomach to do much. Like writing quotes. I never tried to do it in a linear fashion. Truly, be gentle on yourself. Find multiple strategies for contending with the stress and the anxiety. Do one little thing everyday. Do not beat yourself up.
AB: The biggest piece of advice I wish I could give me before this, was just to stop reading, because I’ll read and take notes for ever and not write anything. Forcing yourself to stop and just start doing it.
CM: I also do what Kirin said. Sometimes I’ll just type out historical information, lit review the easier stuff. Same for the diss. I have a lot of hobbies. I use them as rewards for my writing.

What have you enjoyed about the process?
KWG: I love my topic. I’ve loved my project.
CM: Kirin has a magical experience. I don’t like writing my dissertation. I love research. I like the process. Grasp on to those things that make this a cool process. If you really like writing theory, relish in that, or whatever it is. You also become an expert on what you’re talking about.

Student: Embrace tangentiality. What has helped me is letting myself go when I find something interesting.

Student: How did you come to position yourself in relation to other scholars? Did the prospectus help you make that shift?
KWG: What I do is controversial, so I had to find a cluster of other scholars who had sown the ground before me, so I can say I am following in their wake. So then I said, “My dissertation builds on the work of …”
CM: Doing a textual approach, my authority has to be rock solid, so I need to stand on what I find. I definitely have other scholars that help me build my case and over-all argument, but at the core of my argument is all about reading texts side by side. There are 2 major theorists on the texts I work on, so it’s really hard for me to say anything that challenges them. So I have to be aware that they are also in some way my audience.
AB: I don’t feel like I shifted. I feel like this is brand new. Two of my texts no one has ever written on at all. So I’m pulling from and cobbling together different approaches. Which also speaks to why this is fun and enjoyable.

Student: I’m not sure if the research I do fits into Brian’s model of timeline. How much did you follow that?
KWG: I didn’t do a timeline.
CM: I did actually have to go do research, but I wasn’t sure when I was going to. Textual studies program is looking for a reason to give money away for research travel.

Addendum. Brian Reed followed up via email with additional information, copied below:

Hope it was helpful — sounded to me though like “what is a prospectus” begs the question “what is a dissertation.” I can say “abstract, lit review, etc” but it isn’t going to be a useful template unless you have a sense of what kind of project you should be describing. I’d be happy to be involved in a future event called something like “So, now you have to write a dissertation,” or “How do I prepare to write a dissertation.”

Here is another possible resource:

It is **not** a document approved by faculty in the English department, but it was written by Marshall Brown, who was in the EngDep for decades, and it is an official document over in CompLit:


It good provide another data-point for people trying to figure out what they should be doing.

Three things we didn’t touch on at the meeting concern the length of the prospectus & the bibliography & the prospectus meeting.

(1) Length. Varies based on committee. But typically, in the EngDep, 10-15 pages, double spaced, plus bibliography. American studies faculty though tend to like longer & fuller prospectuses.

(2) Bibliography. Varies based on committee. But often includes “List of Works Cited,” the items mentioned in the body of the prospectus esp. in the lit review, and then afterwards “List of Works Consulted,” where you show the fruits of your preliminary research. What stuff out there is going to be relevant for this project? I usually advise students to break the “List of Works Consulted” down into different thematic or methodological categories, so a committee member can see at a glance where you’ve been concentrating your energy & where there might be important texts that aren’t present. Finally: some committees expect the bibliography to be annotated; if so, it’s worth checking to see what kind & extent of annotations, so that you don’t kill yourself trying to note everything about every book.

(3) Prospectus meeting. Optional but recommended. Not an exam. An opportunity to get your committee into one room & talk about the prospectus with you & formally say “go forth & write.” Usually takes the form of “here are potential problems I foresee” and “have you thought about X.” If you have a meeting, the committee signs off there on the magic “go forth” form (or says “go make these revisions and get back to us about signing off”). If you don’t have a meeting, then you have each committee member sign off on the form at the point that she feels the prospectus is satisfactory.

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Meeting with EWP to Discuss Increased Student Enrollment

October 3rd, 2014

Candice Rai – Director, University of Washington, Expository Writing Program
David Parsons – UAW Local 4121 president
Bob Hodges – English Department Union Steward
Rachel Graf – English Graduate Student Organization (GSO) executive officer

Reason for meeting:
-Effective this term, EWP courses will now be capped at 23 (formerly 22) students. This change provokes concerns about work-load for graduate student TAs, and about ensuring quality of instruction.

Contract info:
-The contract is available online, https://www.washington.edu/admin/hr/laborrel/contracts/uaw/contract/preamble.html
-workload language stipulates a quarterly maximum of 220 hours, a calculation based on the quarter system, which translates to roughly 20 hours per week, plus preperation before and grading after days of instruction.
-contract negotiated with “basis of ‘excellence in teaching'” in mind, to ensure course quality
-consequently, the contract stipulates that should student enrollment increases (as is the case now), concerns should be addressed via on-going conversation with department

Candice shared a number of proposed responses, which the EWP team is in the process of integrating:
-teaching and grading demos from ADs
-TA mentorship program provides full lesson plans
-group conferences in lieu of individual
-reduce teacher evaluated short assignments by 1-2, instead using peer review to provide feedback to students
-creating resources to assist on the above, such as guidelines for group conferences and peer review

All present shared concern that new TAs will be the most impacted, as they are unable to compare workload before and after increase.

Going forward:
-Bob and David will survey current TAs to gather evidence and anecdotes about how this increase affects workload and teaching quality.
-Anyone with concerns for their own teaching/time management is encouraged to bring those to Candice, and the ewp ADs.

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Become a Mentor for Next Year’s Incoming Students

GSO Mentor Program Expectations and Guidelines:

Overview: The GSO will be piloting a graduate mentor program beginning in Fall 2014 to help transition incoming students to the program culture and foster a stronger sense of community among graduate students.

Please complete this brief survey to express your interest. Your answers will be used to make a compatible mentor/mentee match. https://catalyst.uw.edu/webq/survey/ahotz/239446

Expectations/Guidelines for Mentors:

· Foster social relationship between incoming/first-year students and graduates further along in the program.

· Meet with mentees once a quarter, with the first meeting occurring no later that week 2 of fall quarter (ideally before the quarter begins if possible)

· Winter & spring meetings times up to the discretion of the mentees/mentors.

· Attend group events with all 1st year students and all mentors. (approximately one per quarter)

· Year-long commitment

· Mentors will provide academic/professional mentorship to mentees, which may include but is not limited to:

o Encouraging them to speak with Kathy early and often about program requirements

o Becoming involved in graduate organizations such as GSO, GPSS, Englist, Lang-Gang, and reading groups

o Introduce them to students and faculty with shared interests

o Providing information about the TA Union

o Discussing graduate school survival skills

o Provide advice on curriculum and lesson planning if applicable

o Providing advice on class and committee member selections as mentees complete coursework and look ahead to M.A./exams process

o Providing strategies for making the transition from student to scholar through activities ranging from subscribing to academic journals within one’s field to submitting paper proposals to conferences and publications

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Placement Meeting Minutes– 5/16/14

- Give a really broad picture of the search process and what you need to be preparing and thinking about from here until September. Answer questions and collect information about how we can support you – tell you what committee typically does – and then find out what you need.
– Went around introduced area of specialty – some finishing this year, some hoping to finish next year and not sure if they will be going on market this year, some earlier in the process.
– Mark – Think about the calendar – where you are now and what you need to be doing up until the job list comes out in the Fall and what you can expect in the fall. No right way to do the job search but it’s a lot of work and it takes a lot of concentration. You’ll be surprised the energy it takes to write letters, wait for replies. If you’re in the dissertation – think about whether you want to put energy into dissertation or job search because it’s really hard to do both. One thing to think about is if you’re going to go on the market – either on the bus or off. First, talk to your chairs, dissertation directors and tell them your plan/work out the calendar with them.
– Candice – There’s a value in just doing a small search. When we talk about kinds of cover letters to prepare, think about what it is your search might be: regional, national, R1, community college jobs. Make sure your dissertation knows and give letter writers a heads up now and remind them later. What would be ideal to have now: good to have 2-3 chapters done, a publication or two, plans for a talk that is not the same as your writing sample, and conferences that you’ve been to.
– Mark – The more you can have the better but the placement meeting generally raises the anxiety level a lot. It’s okay if you don’t but these are things to keep in mind as you go through the process. Having more chapters – allows you more options for materials. Briefly talk about the calendar – Fall is very later at UW. By October 1st the job list comes out (sometimes earlier) so you’ll be looking for jobs in your area. Be working on materials over the summer so they’re close to ready when Fall hits. Flurry of activity – finish letters, send them out and then a pause waiting for responses. You might get responses requesting more materials – syllabus, research proposal, etc. December – invitations for skype, interview at MLA. One of the new wrinkles is the skype interview. Placement committee will have a workshop on skyping. Sometimes there are phone interviews too. In some cases, may even be an on-campus interview in the fall.
– Candice – Since I’ve been on this committee (5 years), the market has really changed. It was very rare to have a phone interview/skype interview before December in the past but now everything’s moved back. It would not be shocking to have your first round interview in November. Some campus visits could be Nov/Dec. More commonplace to grab people earlier in the process.
– Mark – After Jan/MLA there might come on-campus interviews, preparing campus talks and classes to teach. After that, there’s usually a new wave of advertisements for jobs in spring as schools figure out they need part-time, replacements, 1-2 years of instructors. This year wasn’t as much.
– Candice – Any questions about the process? You should be declaring if you’re on the market now, talking to your committee, make sure you’re on the Catalyst site for the job search. If you’re not on it, let Candice know (Kathy does this based on your year). Get a sense of the genres. Be working on job materials over the summer and have them in near-ready draft by June 1st. What was your experience [Kirin]?
– Kirin – I didn’t use interfolio because I only applied to 6 jobs and they all wanted different things (mailed, pdf, etc.). None of them required interfolio.
– Candice – Interfolio is expensive but its very standard practice to use it. It used to be through snail mail, now there are so many different ways. Spreadsheets can be useful. Some people send out up to 50 applications.
– Trainor– Schools that post ads through interfolio its free to submit, you still pay to send letters ($4-6).
– Candice – You want to do interfolio at least for your letters. As a faculty member, we upload them and then you deploy them whenever you need them. Letters will sit there for a long time. I would suggest your committee update your letters each year. Most postings want recommendations within the year.
– Trainor– One more thing about interfolio: expect that schools will post applications through an in-house program. I applied to 16-17 schools and more than half I had to upload materials. Be prepared for the tediousness of that process and having to upload pdfs that are already in interfolio. And some schools that went to electronic applications earlier will use more antiquated systems, pre-interfolio. I had that experience with R1 schools – pay separately too.
– Candice – On faculty end, for those idiosyncratic ones we have to upload pdf recommendation too. Big thing now – begin materials and contacting people. Oct 1st – looking for jobs, apply for them in Oct/Nov. Let’s move on to talking about materials. In fall meeting, we’ll talk more about materials, specific questions but I want to talk through the genres. First, ask people you know for materials and go on the Catalyst site. They are somewhat formulaic but there is a target to meet and learn the genre. So the most important is the cover letter – can’t underestimate how important it is. You need various types. First thing committee looks at, decides whether you’re in or out. Prepare one that’s research oriented (starts with description of your dissertation and publications and then teaching – research is prominent). If you’re applying to different sets of jobs, you might need to tailor the research letters (ex: one for rhetoric and one for composition job). Don’t crazy with proliferating letters but keep that in mind. Also prepare letters that foreground teaching (community college, liberal arts schools – depending on the school). Still, keep research prominent unless it’s a clearly teaching oriented school. Two pages, single spaced – NO longer. Put it on department letterhead – it’s on the Catalyst site. Also get an electronic signature for your letter. You guys have any insights about the letter?
– Trainor – For lit jobs, unless it’s a community college they all want to know about your research first.
– Candice – In a liberal arts college working with undergraduates, still foreground your research.
– Kirin – Some of the liberal arts college that I interviewed at where I expected to talk about teaching, they asked about my research first.
– Caitlin – I’m curious how much you two were adjusting your letters for each institution.
– Trainor – For the most part, adjustments were to the first and last paragraph. The bulk of the letter – two paragraphs research and teaching. I might tweak it depending on the area of interest (18th century texts instead of Victorian for example).
– Kirin – I was applying to so many different types. Some of them wanted my administrative work, so some of them I talked a lot more about those positions. Kind of pulling from my CV what to include and what not to.
– Candice- Part of that will come down to the scope of your search. If you apply to 70, think about where is your time best spent. If there is a dream job and you feel a good fit – spend more time on that one. Choose your battles.
– Suzanne – Asking feedback from many people. You guys offer to read the cover letters? [Yes] Chair.
– Candice – Job placement committee- at least three people who are available and this is what we’re doing. Send us your materials. I’ll read over the summer, not sure if I’ll still be on this committee in the fall. Definitely the chair and its critically important someone specialized in your area reads the letter. Give it to peers. Your CV is very important as well – take a look online. Typically, it’s very formulaic: education, research, teaching, awards, administration. Might have two versions again for research/teaching. Don’t need editing experience.
– Kirin – Anis suggested having a summary experience on the first page of the CV. Bulleted list of all the things you’ve done as a graduate student and administrator.
– Candice – Some schools have a summary of research experience – list everything that you feel qualified to teach even if its not center of dissertation. Exam areas, coursework.
– Kirin – My experience this year, I’m applying to African American lit but they also want American lit, Caribbean lit (funding issue) so listing research/teaching you indicate all of the things you can do.
– Candice – Applying to departments outside of English – departments are shrinking, often they need someone to be five people.
– Trainor – In some ways its more of a wish list than a hard and fast. Thing is just say how you fit into it but don’t claim anything you can’t do. Don’t be discouraged by the long lists – you can still apply for it and recognize those lists come out of committee conversations.
– Candice – Dissertation abstract – one single-spaced page, two at the most. Key contributions, chapter overview. Do not let it go over 2 pages – short, concise. Balance tone between specialists thinking you know what you’re talking about but someone who’s really far outside the field could still understand what you’re doing. Don’t go over-jargony because committees will include people who don’t know the conversations. Writing sample – doesn’t need to be published, can be a chapter, but as close to publishable as possible. Polished, work really hard on it. Do I choose my strongest piece or the piece that best represents what you do? Choose one that best represents your research area. It would speak oddly if you choose a really strong piece that’s far off your dissertation topic and overall research.
– Trainor – Real variation in writing sample – 20 to 40 pages. Be prepared to imagine ways that you can truncate the example and still have a coherent piece, even if its just bracketing and briefly explaining the pieces that were cut.
– Candice – Shortest article length, 20-25 pages, is the most common. It might be worth preparing a 20-25 page piece and a 15 page piece ahead of time.
– Suzanne – If you have a solid 25 page piece, is it okay to go under the page limit?
– Trainor – Usually says, writing sample no longer than 35 so 25 is fine.
– Candice – Nobody wants to do more reading on the committee. Whoever is invited to MLA, your materials have all been read but initial round they’re not reading very closely. Your letter is going to be what’s read, that’s it. Letters of recommendation: 3-5. Most of them are going to be 3, maybe 4. Occasionally 5. It’s to your advantage to ask for more letters. You must have your chair write one – single most important letter. Prepare a teaching letter, someone who’s observed you and reviewed your teaching materials. You can ask someone to review your teaching materials, have them observe them if there’s time. It could be someone who tucks teaching into a research letter – shouldn’t be your chair, someone else. Make sure your committee can write a concrete letter – give them reminders about what you worked on in their class.
– Heather – Still relevant if they’re reading your dissertation?
– Candice – Just anything that might be relevant beyond the dissertation. Don’t go crazy with that but just give some helpful reminders.
– Tony – Teaching philosophy/portfolio. Doesn’t that have people who have observed your teaching in it as well.
– Candice – We’ll talk about that in a bit.
– Sarah – I heard you’re supposed to have someone order your letters and read them to make sure they’re okay?
– Candice – You can ask someone on the committee to go through your letters for unintentional red flag. We can go into the application and read letters and if we find anything we’ll very gently get in touch with the faculty member. More than likely they’ll all be awesome. We wouldn’t read them for “say more about this” just for yowsers that would put you in a bad situation.
– Sarah Kate – If a committee wants 4-5, do they all have to be from English?
– Candice – Not at all. More than often they’ll be tenured faculty, might include someone else on campus that you’ve worked with closely. Let them know sooner, send them a reminder in August. Teaching philosophy/portfolio – written in 567. Probably want to refresh it. Shouldn’t be focused on teaching composition but your field. Don’t say anything that’s going to raise a flag, like if you have a political edge to your teaching, be mindful of the kinds of things you suggest about how you approach teaching. Often, the teaching portfolio isn’t a first round thing.
– Kirin – Teaching portfolio ended up being a 70 pg pdf, framing statement, teaching philosophy, snapshots from three different courses, syllabus, activities, sample papers and feedback, student comments in evaluations.
– Candice – Be representative – all the things you’re committed to, there should be an artifact. Research statement was a new one – apparently this is on the rise. We need to put some examples online. It’s a similar genre to dissertation abstract but it’s used in the sciences commonly. Diss abstract is a broad orientation to your project, research abstract zooms out and orients people to your trajectory and identity as a scholar. Talk about publications in each area, talk about your next book (imagine, obviously you don’t know).
– Trainor – The dissertation abstract, more what you’ve done, the research statement is much more future oriented, what are you going to be producing.
– Candice – Most likely R1 schools.
– Trainor – All over the place for me – liberal arts colleges asked for it. Have a 1 pg and a 2 pg version of both the dissertation abstract and the research statement.
– Kirin – The way that you write about dissertation and research in cover letter, have to change it in the abstract. Markedly different. Heard from
– Candice – Different ways of phrasing/language. Patchwork your own writing.
– Jennifer – Diversity statements?
– Trainor – Interested in schools with religious affiliations, lots will want a statement of faith or at least you won’t destroy the faith of our students. Jesuit, Protestant schools. Want something that says that you won’t challenge the philosophy of the school.
– Candice – During mock interviews we’ll talk more about what students can ask legally – they can’t ask are you a Catholic? But they can ask you to think about how you would encounter Christian beliefs in your classroom.
– Trainor – Some private schools, they wanted a statement of my involvement in my local congregation. You have to decide if something you want to do.
– Candice – Diversity statement – Shon had to write one later on for Highline community college. Some of that might come through in your cover letter. Not a bad idea for anyone.
– Chelsea – Seen ads that ask for evidence of teaching effectiveness? Does that mean evaluations?
– Candice – It’s not exactly a genre so often people send their portfolio as evidence of excellence. Definitely what they want is to see some of your artifacts, students evaluations. That’s evidence.
– Chelsea – I didn’t know if that was too much evidence… but that’s good.
– Candice – If you do a lengthy portfolio, make sure your framing helps people to navigate because they won’t go through the whole thing.
– Kirin – Framing for portfolio – like a one page statement, here’s what here and how to navigate it?
– Candice – Can also do a brief framing of each artifact that ties it back to your teaching statement. Help a reader navigate and understand connections to a philosophical principle that you have. Meta-commentary, very discrete. Other two things to keep on the back burner – think about what a job talk would be. Has to be different from your writing sample. Depending on what kind of institution, can be very different. Standard is 35-40 min talk. Common to read a 20 page paper for English department. In some fields, like TESOL, you probably don’t want to read a paper because standards are different. Your adviser will be in the best place to know the expectations. Sometimes, people want powerpoint of your dissertation. Keep in mind the teaching demonstration – lead a class that demonstrates your teaching and speaks to your philosophy/research area.
– Sarah – How does that work?
– Candice – Take over class – either real or fake student. Have to do something that doesn’t require them to read anything. Students don’t know anything about rhetorical theory. I might do a mini-lecture on whatever… needs to be connected to your normal teaching but they need more context. Then, get them into groups and have them do some activities.
– Kirin – Definitely the way you teach, not always in control of the material that you’re teaching. So you’re going to teach ______, sometimes not until two days before.
– Candice- Could be undergrads, grads, fake students. You can ask what they’re expectations are for talk and demonstration. Don’t just lecture, but just a mini-lecture and then vary activities – handouts, group work, etc. See how lucidly you explain concepts? How do you engage students? Are you a good teacher? Everybody knows its weird and acontextual.
– Caitlin – List of jobs/presentations – job talk, teaching demo, all have to be different content from the writing sample.
– Candice – The most used thing is the 35-45 min. talk where you prepare and read a paper and then people will ask questions. You won’t do a teaching talk but depending on the disciplinary expectations, some fields have different kinds of talks. In TESOL, more common to talk extemporaneously than read papers. Don’t prepare two versions but know what is the most common form. For most people in literary studies, should be reading a paper, obviously making it as engaging and conversational as possible. Resources – make sure you’re on the job resources catalyst site. The JIL – main place you go to see jobs cross all the fields (login 5698, password dog). Start looking in September, there will be trickle in in September, most will come in in October. Chronicle site, language and rhetoric, and interfolio.
– Jessica – Is Catalyst going to continue to exist?
– Candice – We really should move the stuff over to Canvas… it won’t disappear. I just want to take 4 minutes to brainstorm ideas that we can do to help you. Some of my ideas – Sept. 1st or during the summer, writing workshops around your materials. Any kinds of social events or meetings, resources that would be useful? We haven’t had a practice of doing sample job talks – they would need to happen earlier so it would be great to do that. So suggestions…
– Kirin – Lots of role-playing, mock interview was great but I had a lot of curve balls during interviews. Get practice being weird… low stakes practice. You will have people interviewing you who are super antagonistic. Really weird, inappropriate questions.
– Sarah – Practicing skype interviews and phone interviews on skype or phone. Having a room devoted to skype interviewing so we don’t have to do it at home. Connectivity problems too.
– Kirin – More real talk – I’m curious about interview persona. The way you dress, interview protocol, persona. Real talk about that.
– Chelsea – Some of those things could be accomplished with the panel of job speakers. Get their perspectives on what they wore.
– Suzanne – I liked practice job talks idea. Obviously we could all be there – speaking across narrow and broader field. Faculty too?
– Candice – Generally this department doesn’t create spaces to share their work. Faculty isn’t sharing work – great to institute a practice of sharing work. Not just a practice but a talk where we’re learning more.
– Suzanne – I would love to hear sample job talks from faculty that got the job too.
– Candice – This committee has been providing resources, we could do more. You guys will figure out the genre, but experientially we need more practice.
– Caitlin – Seeing an excel sheet that people used for tracking applications.
– Sarah – Similar to mock job talks – doing an off the cuff teaching demonstration too.
– Jennifer – Have a placement listserve where we can post about things that are going on on campus like the OWRC’s elevator talk.
– Sue – I’m a lot more worried about written materials, have to get through those first. I would be open to a workshop in the summer for materials.
– Emily – Even like a one-credit seminar that meets throughout the quarter and has you produce material, like Carolyn Allen’s writing for publication course.
– Tony – How do you make links between your teaching and research when we mostly teach composition?
– Candice – A really plump paragraph in your letter – highlight the way you tailored your composition courses to your interests, talking about range of classes that you’ve taught, looking forward to the kinds of courses you’d like to teach. Also diversity statements – experience with diverse, multi-lingual classrooms.
– Chelsea – Very general question. How do you decide which jobs are worth it?
– Candice – This process will test your sanity – not just academically but all the personal things you go through will come to a fore. If you feel you’re not worthy, that will surface. Prepare for that and stick your fridge with chocolate. Know that that’s a normal part of the process. Thank you for coming – feel free to go when you need to. In literature areas, jobs are so competitive, I wouldn’t recommend reaching for jobs that are out of your reach. I wouldn’t apply to those jobs but it depends how wide your search is, but if you can imagine framing yourself as that robustly. You’re most likely to get called in if it feels like a really good fit but you also never know what the thing they didn’t mention.
– Chelsea – Is it worth it to do a visiting professor job?
– Kirin – Apply for everything from postdoc, to lecturer, to visiting. If you want a job and you need a job, set yourself up to have options.
– Candice – The thing worth knowing is that the English department funding for AI or extending past your time here, is really dwindling. Being able to rely on an AI position to continue funding your job search. For that reason alone, its worth opening doors because you never know. It’s a balance – people have partners, reasons they need to stay, but you can open the door and not walk through, so apply to places you can imagine not hating living.
– Sarah – I feel like I have all these things that I don’t know when to mention… partner?
– Candice – Don’t reveal any personal information until you’re at campus or have an offer. Even things that would be deal breakers… by the time you get to the place, if an institution is interested in hiring you, most institutions will do anything they can do to accommodate that. Spousal hires, lecturer positions, they’ll do what they can. People can ask questions outside legal bounds during campus visits, most will be total innocuous.
– Jennifer – Do you redirect?
– Candice – Use your intuition – could be even more awkward to side step.
– Kirin – It also depends on when it’s asked. If it’s asked in an interview, it’s illegal. The career center said if they ask those HR questions in an interview. The best way to respond is to get the underlying question. If you’re asking if I can commit my time, then absolutely… or a robust research agenda, yes! What they really want to know is how much you’ll be able to commit.
– Candice – We’ll troubleshoot more in the fall.
– Heather – CV and letter question. Some activities that are ancillary to core interests, graduate student interest groups. I’m unclear about whether to bring those in and what to call them.
– Candice – List them all. Probably put it under service. I mentor students in XYZ program and I’d put that under service. Something that’s really substantial and needs to be unpacked then you can find a way to unpack it in the CV (sentence of description). People are going to list everything they do. Could bring up relevance to teaching in the teaching statement.
– Tony – Are letters of rec mostly just talking about your dissertation?
– Candice – Definitely have a teaching letter. This would be the ideal – have a letter written by faculty member, goes to class, observes you and describes your teaching. If you don’t have that, it can be tucked into another letter. Your dissertation chair is going to talk most about the dissertation, other people will speak about coursework and qualities as a student.
– Caitlin – I have observation notes from people sitting in on my class. Can I include those?
– Candice – Ideally those insights will go into a letter. Could go into the teaching portfolio if you wanted.

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2nd GSO Spring Quarter Officers Meeting

GSO Spring Quarter Officers Meeting 5/23/2014

Stevi Costa
Rachel Graf
Elloise Kim
Caitlin Palo
Liz Janssen

Meeting Begins 2:30 pm

Old Business:
• Next Coffee Hour: Wednesday June 4th, 2-4. Iced coffee, if weather appropriate. Will share graduation/job data, discuss program suggestions and publicize mentorship program.
• Welcome Liz as new UEC committee rep. Caitlin Palo transitioning to officer-at large. Looking for pre-exam GSC rep.
• Mentor/mentee program to re-start next year with cooperation from DGS. Call and info survey to come soon. Mentors and mentees will meet at department fall reception. Mentor event late summer/early fall.
• Continued interest in faculty works in progress workshop. Hoping to begin this programming next year.
New Business:
• Graduate students at last week’s MA/PhD forum proposed a micro-seminar model to help students meet benchmarks and professionalize. GSO Executive-officers will present this idea to DGS.
• Kathy Mork has data on job placement. GSO will solicit this data to share with interested Grad Students.
• Grad students have raised concerns about the impact of funding scarcity on department culture, recruitment, diversity and productivity. The GSO will strive to open lines of communication between students and faculty.
• GPSS has a budget surplus. Elloise is seeking suggestions for how the English Grad program might use money. Improvements to grad lounge possible.

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GSO Spring Quarter Officers Meeting

GSO Spring Quarter Officers Meeting

Stevi Costa
Rachel Graf
Joe Telegen
Elloise Kim
Gianna Craig
Alysse Hotz
Caitlin Palo
Sunao Funagawa

Meeting Begins 2:30 pm

Preliminary announcement: Elloise is running for GPSS secretary

Mentor Program
1. Expectations for Mentors (Alysse will draft these guidelines):
• Fostering social relationships
• Meeting with mentees once quarterly. Fall quarter: should occur no later than week 2, and ideally before the quarter begins if possible. Other quarters at discretion of mentor/mentee.
• Year long requirement
• Mentors should recommend/discuss with mentees: talking to Kathy regularly about program requirements, becoming involved with the GSO, GPSS, Englist, information about the TA Union, program requirements, teaching, planning coursework, grad school survival strategies, transitions from student to scholar
2. GSO will check in with mentors/mentees during first quarter to see if the relationship is working out, and will assist in finding new mentors/mentees should there be personality conflicts.
3. GSO will conduct a survey during spring quarter to solicit interest from current cohorts and collect data on: when they entered the program (post-MA/pre-MA), funding when they entered (fellow/TA/unfunded), areas of academic interest, extra-scholarly hobbies, place of origin. We will collect the same data from incoming graduate students in late summer and offer mentor pairs in early September, at the latest.
4. Mentors will each be paired with 1 mentee, unless the number of incoming graduate students is larger than the number of available mentors.
5. Each 1-1 pair will also have another 1-1 pair with which they can meet/correspond/share resources. These dyads can meet either in addition to or in place of individual 1-1 meetings.
6. GSO will offer mentor/mentee events in Fall quarter so that the larger social group can foster relationships outside of the 1-1 mentor/mentee pairs and dyads. This will likely take the form of a happy hour prior to the annual fall event at the Roanoke.

Continuing/New Officers
• Caitlin will not be continuing on the UEC, but will likely continue in another capacity
• Alysse’s UEC slot will convert to post-MA next year.
• We will need a new pre-MA officer on the UEC.
• GiGi will be on leave next year, opening up a post-MA slot.
• Rene may/may not move into this position.
• We will possibly need 2 new officers on this committee: 1 pre-MA, 1 post-MA
• (Elloise may be interested in the post-MA position)
• Rachel, Stevi continuing
Diversity Committee
• Elloise would like to continue, but Leanne will also be post-exam. One of the two will stay in the post-exam slot.
• We will need a pre-exam member.
GPSS Senators
• Elloise interested in continuing (if she isn’t elected secretary)
• Joe continuing
• Need participation from MATESOL, MA Program
Officers at Large
• Disband “committees officers” – convert to Officers at Large (Caitlin)

Elections: vote week 1 Sept; collect/recruit this quarter

Each committee member and GPSS senators write descriptions of their jobs and send to Rachel so she can create a recruitment email

All officers should make a habit of producing notes from any meeting they attend – this should take the form a list of topics with no details. When we disseminate these notes, we will use the phrasing, “If anyone has any input on these topics, feel free to see me.”

Wednesday, June 4 2-4 pm

Rachel will look into Earthcore for a 1-day work party

2 hour info sessions on topics related to the program. Encourages transparency. Discourages misinformation. Hour 1 is invited speakers:DGS/Faculty, 2nd hour is a panel with students
• Fall Quarter: Dissertation/Prospectus (Week 2)
• Winter Quarter: Benchmarks/Transitions (Week 2), Exams (Week 8)
• Spring Quarter: MA Essay/PhD Letter (Week 2)

GSO will conduct a forum with grad students to send data about grad student wants/needs to the faculty retreat. We will schedule this for Thursday, May 15. We’d like to invite Juan and Sandy Silberstein

Thursday, June 12. We’re gonna go dance somewhere. Stevi will take point on this – will also figure out our budget to do so.

NEXT GSO MEETING: week of May 19th

Meeting adjourned: 3:45 pm

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GSO Ex-officer Conversation with Graduate Studies Office

GSO Ex-officer Conversation with Graduate Studies Office
Tuesday, April 16th 2014
Meeting began at 11:30 am

Juan Guerra – director of graduate studies
Kathy Mork – graduate program coordinator
Stevi Costa – graduate student organization executive officer
Rachel Graf – graduate student organization executive officer

Discussion Highlights
Peer Mentor Program:
• We agreed to solicit current graduate students to volunteer themselves as peer mentors for the incoming graduate cohort.
• This quarter (spring 2014) the GSO will create a document of guidelines and expectations for mentoring, provisionally including: meeting once a quarter, sharing first hand experiences, and introducing new students to other grads with similar interests.
• This quarter the GSO will send an email to Englist with this description and a catalyst survey to identify new mentors and their research interests to better match them to new students.
• This summer, the graduate studies office will forward list of incoming students to the GSO, so that we may assign mentors in advance of Fall quarter.
Graduate Studies Website:
• The GSO will recommend where to place a link to the GSO website on the Graduate Studies Website.
• The GSO will solicit current graduate students to share their CVs for the graduate studies “current students” page. (Summer project)
GSO Sponsored Panels:
• The GSO will coordinate with the Graduate Studies Office to organize regular informative workshops for graduate students.
• Possible session topics: Completing Dissertations, Professional Development (publishing and conferences), MA essay, Exams (Reading lists, Note taking strategies, Exam weekend), Prospectus, PhD Letter, and Benchmarks.
• The GSO will select three topics from the above for the 2014-2015 academic year.
GSO Forum on Curricula Revision:
• The faculty is slated to discuss potential changes to the graduate studies program at their fall retreat. The GSO would like to gather graduate student feedback on the current program to provide the department with any useful perspective and suggestions.
• In late May, the GSO will invite Juan Guerra (and other interested faculty) to discuss the graduate program. Topics may include: the function of course work, the MA essay, reading lists, exams format, and preparation for the dissertation.

Meeting concluded at 12:30 pm.

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Notes from Graduate Student Funding Meeting 12/6/13 1:00pm-2:30pm

Major points

1. This year we know some solid information with respect to funding early, largely because there is not a big state budget situation

2. TA salaries going up again next fall—this changes how many TA positions we can have

3. Our cuts have been less significant than in other departments because we teach composition

4. TA salary increase, going up this fall and next fall
-this is a good thing because many of us are working extra jobs
-this may be a significant factor when we’re looking at how long it takes grad students to compete dissertation
-hopefully this will lead to more focus on the academic work
-big issue right now for faculty is time to degree
-grad students need to adhere to criteria for finishing on time

5. until recently, we’ve had almost automatic admission into PhD program from MFA and MATESOL programs

6. If you have funding in your contract, you don’t need to worry about renewal so long as you still stay on track/meet benchmarks

7. We are assessing how much the raise is based on a study of comparable schools and how much they pay their TAs

8. By January there will be another meeting. We hope to be able tell 6th year people that they will receive funding at that point—this is a hope, not a fact.

9. Graduate Studies Committee: student recruitment is being decreased, thus providing more support for students in department

10. There are 3 groups looking at same group of TA positions,
-6th /7th year and over
-incoming students
-locals, or students already enrolled, not 6th year, but without funding

11. There will be more conversations with IWP, trying to make it easier for grad students to apply to this department

12. if you are able to pick up a position outside of English, you are more likely to be re-hired within that department

13. after recession there was extra money that allowed us to make new TA appointments; that “backfill” and “temporary” money is gone; thus, there will be fewer positions than there were 5,6,7, years ago


Q: “What is satisfactory progress”

A: you must be within range grade-wise 3.7-4.0
you must meet benchmarks (letter for PhD, prospectus, exams, etc.)
Teaching evaluations

-Right now the major benchmarks are master’s essay and exams; there are two new benchmarks that will be proposed to faculty: prospectus and PhD letter. By next September the above should all be benchmarks

-On the website there is a detailed guide about these benchmarks
-eventually dissertation chapters may become benchmarks
-these benchmarks end with the prospectus;
-once you are working on the dissertation—or past “renewal period”—your dissertation chapters are major factor in determining funding

-The purpose of these benchmarks is to remind you that there is a timeline, and to help students finish the program as quickly as possible

Q: Has there been a study conducted with regards to average time to completion; and what factors tend might extend this timeline?

A: 7-8 years to completion is average; some people finish in 6; the average is pulled by dissertations that take 12 years; the average is going up; it may have much to do with “bad job market”

-We are looking at peer institutions, what they are doing: 8, 9, and 10 year students have been contacted; we are trying to figure out the roadblocks to completion; we want to anticipate the challenges that we might encounter; there is a wide range of problems that might extend the time it takes to finish

Q: is there a way to publish information with respect to how long other students have taken, and what problems they have faced so that future can anticipate potential problems

A:We have a new endowment: we can have four more dissertation quarters (a term just to write)

Q: Students coming in with MA, have four years of funding—leaving MA students with one year to dissertate

A: There are discussions happening with respect to restructuring the program; are we going to be a 5 or 6 year program? We do have a de facto 6 year program so we would like to guarantee 6th year students funding

Q: is there a way to increase transparency with respect to how the 200 level classes are allocated

A: we are given so many classes; start by assigning to 5th year students; we try to give students their top choice at least once, but it is more often the case that some specialized courses are not being offered; sometimes a lot of people all pick the same one or two classes (if you have all American lit students and only 2 American lit classes…)

-How do we make the teaching as efficient as possible for the people doing it? 1) Everyone wants to teach a course that would be exactly as you want it. 2) But it’s a myth that you will not get hired because you have not taught all the cool classes. It is, after all, hip to be square.

Q: Back to the labor issue: It’s counter-productive to teaching harder classes at the level of dissertating.

A: We will all “die” (dramatic pause) “professionally” if we don’t learn how to teach given the time we have. Not all your classes will be as good as you want them to be; that’s okay.

Q: But if our evaluations are part of how we are being judged/hired…
A: Once you’re 6th year or higher, you’re really being awarded funding based on performance not so much your teaching evaluations. Also your teaching evaluations are averaged, so your lowest score may not matter

Q: for local TAs (in related departments, e.g. rhetoric) what counts as progress?
A: benchmarks across disciplines are fairly equivalent

Q: teaching different 200 level class every term makes it hard to progress
A: we can adjust the preference form so that people can indicate if they would like to repeat classes in a year while teaching at the 200 level

Q: 1-does progress mean a history of progress, or just hitting one benchmark at a particular time
2-less comfortable with rankings; even less comfortable without public rankings; what’s the possibility of making those rankings public?
3-dept. ought to be more up front with students with regards to funding; what can we realistically expect in terms of funding

A: #3 is the whole point of current discussion; we’re not entirely happy with how funding has unfolded, but much of the blame goes to the state budget—but we are past the budget crunch
-Rankings are not going to be published;
-according to Graduate Studies Committee: if you are meeting benchmarks within renewal period, you’re not in jeopardy with respect to losing your funding. But once you are no longer within the renewal period, progress is how you are being evaluated (see emboldened above)

-Part of the problem is that we have had only two benchmarks for years, but they have not been enforced; if you get behind, you will have to catch up to where you are supposed to be according to your year, not according to your own personal dissertation vacuum.

-With respect to being more “up front” about funding: the local students are the ones who receive the “murky” answer; up until a couple years ago there were good chances that local students would get funding the second year if they could demonstrate progress

-next term we should be having conversations about going to a 6 year program structure (see above)

Q: given statistically that only 1 in 5 of grad students will get a tenure track position in our field, is the department doing anything to prepare students for non-academic jobs?
A: the numbers, in the long run are closer to 50%. The number of people teaching part-time jobs is going up
-We tend to place students more often in tenure track jobs than other schools; not always R1, but usually UW does a “pretty good job” of helping students place in tenure track positions
-There is a national discussion regarding how to train students in English departments for non-academic jobs when that is not what the faculty is trained to teach

Q: We could make public data regarding what non-academic jobs our students are getting (5+ years after graduation);
A: we will build that into our website
it might also be useful to post schools that tend to hire UW English students (while you’re still dissertating)

Q: different ways the dissertation could be written given non-academic career goals
A: We can do workshops; send ideas to Juan, complaints to Anis (laughter ensues)

Q: thanks for the transparency; can we have a dissertation committee (like the placement committee)…the cohorts fall apart after 131 training; should we institutionalize support?

A: finding human resources is part of the problem; committee is trying to consider whole system, and hopefully such committees (like the jobs placement committee) can be integrated into that system

We are trying to build a mentoring guide, so that students and faculty know what their responsibilities are in this student/supervisor relationship

Exeunt English department.

– Thanks to Aaron Ottinger for taking these!

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EVENT: Kylee-Anne Hingston, “‘As Seeing’s Believing': Illustration, Focalization and Disability in Victorian Children’s Literature,” Feb. 22, 12-1:15 PM, SAV 408

Please join us for the second UW Disability Studies brownbag talk of the Winter quarter:

Kylee-Anne Hingston, “‘As Seeing’s Believing': Illustration, Focalization and Disability in Victorian Children’s
When: Friday, Feb. 22, 12-1:15 pm
Where: Savery 408

Abstract: This presentation combines formal narrative analysis with the lens of disability studies to expose what
Victorian children’s literature tells us about the Victorian concept of the disabled body. Using as a case study
Dinah Mulock Craik’s fairytale “The Little Lame Prince: A Parable for Young and Old” (1874), Hingston challenges
previous critics’ readings of disability as a code for gender struggles in Victorian children’s literature;
instead, she argues that examining the role of disability in “The Little Lame Prince’s” illustrations and narrative
focalizations (that is, the point of view from which the story is told) reveals the complicated, and at times
incongruous, Victorian understanding of disability. Indeed, although the novel’s narrative structure suggest an
understanding of disability as abnormal and in need of compensation if not cure, in contrast, the illustrations and
focalization destabilize the notion of physical aberrance.

Biographical Sketch: Kylee-Anne Hingston is a PhD student at the University of Victoria, where she is writing her
dissertation on focalization and disability in Victorian fiction. She has published on disability and L.M.
Montgomery’s novel “Blue Castle” and has published articles on disability and Victorian fiction in the journals
“Victorian Literature and Culture” and “Women’s Writing.”

For more information, contact Joanne Woiak, jwoiak @ uw.edu

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CFP: “At Face Value: Re-thinking Surfaces,” Friends of English Southland Graduate Conference, UCLA

Friday, May 31, 2013 at UCLA
Keynote speakers: Professor Rachel Lee (UCLA), Professor Daniel Tiffany (USC)

Sir Peter: Aye, ever improving himself!–Mr. Surface, Mr. Surface…Well, well, that’s proper;  and you make even your screen a source of knowledge…
Joseph Surface: Oh, yes, I find great use in that screen.
–Richard Brinsley Sheridan, The School for Scandal (IV.3)

What does it mean to take something “at face value?” Recent literary scholarship has attempted
to reclaim the notion of “surface” in the face of critical tendencies to relegate surface to the
superficial and therefore the inconsequential. Such scholarly approaches have taken a number of
different forms, ranging from post-suspicious inquiry (Felski) and reparative reading (Sedgwick),
to distance reading (Moretti), object-oriented criticism (Latour), and systems theory (Luhmann).
Inspired by this recent critical turn, this conference proposes a reorientation of our cultural
predisposition towards depth. “Resurfacing” the surface seeks the destabilization of binaries
such as true/false, spiritual/corporeal, eternal/ephemeral, complex/simple. Surfaces have been
relegated to the realm of the slight, the shallow, the casual or unexamined, the insignificant. We
ask: how can we challenge, disrupt, and reconfigure the idea of the surface as we have come to
understand it, and what implications for the field of literary study would such a critical move

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