The Role of the Graduate Advisor
As soon as a prospective graduate student is accepted into a MA program of study, the Director of Graduate Studies assigns that student an advisor based on the student's intended area of interest and the availability of faculty. Students are asked to contact their advisor when they are admitted. At the initial meeting, advisors should make sure that students have the official description of their program's requirements. Each semester advisors should meet with students to plan their courses of study for the following semester.
Meeting Program Requirements and Asking for Exceptions
Advisors should make sure that students understand the requirements that must be fulfilled for their emphasis. If students want to do something different from the normal requirements, they should seek advice from their advisor and gain support for the change. To depart from normal requirements, students petition the Graduate Studies Committee through the Director of Graduate Studies. Advisors do not have the authority to approve special courses of study or to waive or substitute any requirements. Note that if students satisfy a requirement, no memo to the Director of Graduate Studies is needed (as when students have had two years of study of a second language in high school with a grade average of B).
As students proceed through their course of study and determine whether they will write a thesis or pursue a non-thesis option, they may continue to work with the initial advisor selected by the Director of Graduate Studies or they may elect to work with a new advisor. Students are not obligated to continue working with the advisor initially assigned, and faculty are not obligated to direct theses, portfolios, or master essays, nor chair examination committees for the students they advise. Customarily, the thesis director or examination committee chair assumes the role of the advisor. If or when students elect to change advisors, they need to secure the permission of the new advisor, and inform the old advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies (in writing). A copy of the memo describing the change in advisor should go into the student's file. It is important that the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Secretary know who each student's advisor is.
Application for Admission to Candidacy (Program of Study)
As soon as the student has decided what his or her courses will be, the student needs to file an Application for Admission to Candidacy (Program of Study) form with the Graduate School, listing courses taken and courses to be taken. The advisor approves and signs, as does the department head. If necessary, this plan can be revised subsequently. The Graduate School requests that the application be filed when the student has completed 12 credits towards the MA. Advisors should be sure students have filed this form as they enter the third semester as a full time student. The form must be in place and accurate for final oral examinations to take place. The student must make sure the form is filed with both the Graduate School and the English Department.
Final Oral Examination Committees
The student and advisor (or thesis director) should decide together upon the student's final oral examination committee, which must include two members of the department and one faculty member from outside the department (who generally serves as the representative of the Graduate School, aka the Dean's representative). This committee meets only once for a non-thesis option (portfolios and master essays), at the final oral examination. It generally meets twice for a student writing a thesis, first for a thesis proposal hearing and then for the final oral examination. The advisor chairs the thesis proposal hearing and chairs the final oral examination, though the representative of the Graduate School opens and closes the final oral exam. The proposal hearing is a department matter and does not involve the Graduate School. The final oral examination is a requirement of the Graduate School and the Department; it needs to be officially scheduled and conducted within deadlines published in the Graduate School calendar (which differ for thesis and non-thesis final oral examinations).
Graduation Deadlines and Fees
It should be understood that each semester the Graduate School sets deadlines that must be observed for graduation (published at their website and in the Graduate School Catalog). A student who wants to graduate in a given semester must file a degree application and pay a non-refundable graduation fee. Students need to schedule final oral examinations according to the thesis or non-thesis deadlines established by the Graduate School, and complete the "Committee for Final Examination" form according to the deadlines established by Graduate School. This form must be signed by the student, the advisor, and the department head, and delivered to the Graduate School ten working days before the final oral examination is held.
Students who are completing theses or master essays, or preparing portfolios to be discussed and reviewed (or defended) at the final oral examination, should deliver a copy of the thesis, essay, or portfolio to each member of the examination committee seven working days before the final oral examination. Two hours are set aside for the final oral examination, though the examination itself may not run the full two hours. It is the responsibility of the student to schedule the examination, but advisors should alert students to the potential difficulty of scheduling exams at short notice. The thesis director/advisor should try to keep the student informed of these deadlines, but it is the responsibility of the student to stay on top of all such deadlines.