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
-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.)
-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!