Rice University

Department of English

1. General Information
2. Program Outline
3. Advising
4. Coursework
5. Evaluation Procedures
6. Grading & Academic Standing
7. Mentored Teaching Program
8. Independent Teaching
9. Prizes & Awards
10. The Preliminary Examination
11. The Dissertation Prospectus
12. The Dissertation
13. Procedures for Problem Resolution
14. Further Questions & Contact Info

1. GENERAL Information:
The Graduate Program in English at Rice University is supervised by the Department of English Graduate Committee, which consists of at least five faculty members appointed by the departmental chair, as well as two student representatives elected by the graduate students.

Graduate study at Rice University consists of course work, a Preliminary Examination, advanced research, the writing of a thesis, and practical training in teaching at the university level.  The program is a doctoral program only.  Students receive an automatic Master's degree after they have achieved Ph.D. candidacy.  Students withdrawing from the program before that point may qualify for a terminal Master's degree.

All students entering the program begin with the first-year curriculum, regardless of degrees they have earned outside Rice.

2. Program Outline:
Students entering the program will generally have before them two full years of course work, will take their preliminary exams and selected courses in their third year, and will spend the fourth and fifth years writing their dissertations.  

In addition, each year involves a different research or teaching responsibility to the department: in their first year, entering students will serve as research assistants to departmental faculty; in the second and third years they must serve at least twice as teaching assistants for departmental courses; in the fourth year students will teach a section of an introductory departmental course. The fifth year, students will focus on writing their dissertations.  Teaching requirements are subject to change in the case of university-wide teaching and funding initiatives.

Year 1: coursework and research assistantship (two semesters)
Year 2: coursework and teaching assistantship (two semesters)
Year 3: preliminary exams, third-year writing workshop (fall semester), and pedagogy (spring semester)
Year 4: dissertation work and independent teaching (one semester)
Year 5: dissertation work 

3. Advising:
At the beginning of the first year, each student is assigned a Program Advisory Committee (PAC) by the Graduate Committee.  The student and the PAC are responsible for preparing an initial individualized plan of study based on the student’s needs and training.  In most cases this plan will specify courses to be taken and establish a schedule for meeting requirements and deadlines within the university and the department (see “The Preliminary Exam” and “The Dissertation Prospectus,” below).  Both the PAC and student should keep records of the student’s progress toward completion of the plan by using a tracking sheet to be kept in the student's file.  After the first year and before preparation for the Preliminary Exam in the third year, the student must find a faculty advisor with whom s/he plans to work on the Preliminary Exam and dissertation.  Until the student has submitted a form with the names of Preliminary Committee members, the PAC will serve as the advisory body.  The student may make changes to the PAC membership at any time by filling out a new PAC form that requires the signature of new PAC members.  

The student is responsible for completing the various phases of the graduate program within the prescribed time limitations.

4. Coursework:
Students should always consult with their PAC before enrolling in courses each semester.  Ph.D. candidates must successfully complete a minimum of 13 graduate courses of which at least 10 must be graduate seminars. With the approval of their PAC, students may enroll in English 621, Directed Reading, either as a traditional directed reading course or as a 400 -level English course to which a graduate component has been added.  English 621 count toward the 13 required graduate courses but  not toward the 10 graduate seminars. 

The 13 required courses must include English 600 and 610, "Introduction to Literary Study," English 605, "Third-Year Writing Workshop," and English 510, "Pedagogy." Of the remaining nine, two must focus on literature before 1800, and two after 1800. Ordinarily, students will take 3 courses each semester of the first year, and a reduced course load for the second. Students should begin to study for the Preliminary Exam in the third year, when they will also take English 605, "Third-Year Writing Workshop," designed to help transform seminar papers into works of publishable quality. Students are also encouraged to take graduate courses in other departments related to their areas of interest.   These will count toward the thirteen-course requirement but not usually for distribution.  

5. Evaluation Procedures:
At the end of each semester, all faculty will write an evaluation for each first- and second-year student whom they have taught or supervised as a T.A. or R.A. These evaluations will become part of the student’s permanent file and will be available to the student about whom they are written.

At the beginning of year two and year three in the program, all second- and third-year students will meet with a small subcommittee from the Graduate Committee, including the DGS, to discuss their progress in the program. This discussion will include a review of all end-of-semester evaluations by faculty teachers and supervisors from the previous year.

Students in their third and fourth years are evaluated through the preliminary exam and the achievement of candidacy respectively. 

Students who have achieved candidacy receive a written evaluation from their dissertation advisors each semester.

6. Grading & Academic Standing:
The grade of (A+) indicates truly distinguished work; (A) indicates outstanding work; (A-) consistently very good work; (B+) good work; (B), work that, however competent, lacks originality or promise; and (B-), unsatisfactory work which falls short of acceptable graduate standards.  At all times students are expected to make reasonable progress toward the completion of their degree.  Students must maintain an overall grade average of B+ in order to graduate. A student will not revive course credit for a grade below a B-.

A graduate student will be placed on “academic probation” and a warning letter will be sent to the student if, during any semester, the student (1) fails to earn a grade of B+ in courses taken to satisfy requirements for the Ph.D., or (2) fails to maintain a B+ overall GPA.  A second semester of probationary status will lead to dismissal by the Office of Graduate Studies unless a plea for exception is presented by the student's department and approved by the dean of Graduate Studies.  A student may be dismissed by departmental action after only one semester of performance at the probationary level.

Students who have achieved candidacy receive a grade of “S” or “U” from their dissertation advisors each semester. Effective Spring 2012, a grade of “U” will result in the student being placed on probation.  A grade of “U” for a second, successive, semester will result in dismissal from the program.  

The Mentored Teaching Program is designed to provide support and resources for graduate student teaching at all stages of the program. Student move from teaching under direct faculty supervision to designing and teaching independent classes. Discussions on pedagogy are integrated into the curriculum at key moments.
While the department requires that students teach only one independent course, students can take advantage of competitive  teaching opportunities inside and outside the department (extradepartmental opportunities are noted below in italics). By the time of graduation, most students will have served as the instructor of record for 3-4 courses.
Year 1
Students serve as Research Assistants (R.A.s) to faculty both semesters. R.A ships are governed by the document, "R.A. Rights and Responsibilities." Issues on the place of pedagogy in the university are addressed in English 600 and 610.
Students are eligible to serve as tutors in the Program in Writing and Communication (PWC). This is independent of the English department, although they employ many of our students. The PWC trains all of its tutors, T.A.s, and teachers (see below).

Year 2
Students serve as Teaching Assistants (T.A.s) for undergrad courses (one each semester) T.A.ships are governed by a contractual document, "T.A. Rights and Responsibilities" which frames the TA experience as a learning experience for the student, and not, primarily as a grader for the faculty. T.A. supervisors are requires to fill out an evaluation at the end of the semester; this goes into the student file and becomes part of the decision-making process about future competitive teaching opportunities. We also ask for special T.A. evaluations from the students. After a review of the evaluations, the graduate committee can require more supervised (T.A.) experience before the student can move on to independent teaching.

Students are eligible to T.A. for the PWC first-year seminar (FWIS) classes.

Year 3
Students enroll in a 3-credit course, ENGL pedagogy course taught by the department
510, "Pedagogy," designed to prepare them for independent teaching.

Students are eligible to T.A. for the PWC first-year seminar (FWIS) classes.
Year 4
Students teach an independent departmental course, usually ENGL 175, "Global Literatures in English." Students have also taught "Literature and Medicine" and "Introduction to American Literature."

A Faculty Teaching Mentor visits classes, provides feedback, and takes notes for a possible future teaching letter. 

Students are eligible to T.A. for the PWC first-year seminar (FWIS) classes.

Year 5
No department teaching or research obligations

Depending on availability, the department may offer competitive co-teaching or replacement teaching opportunities.

Students are eligible to teach independent FWIS courses for the PWC. These are first-year topical communication-intensive seminars; students and faculty propose courses in the spring for the following year. The PWC provides required training for graduate stunts in the form of a week-long late summer workshop.

Students can also apply for teaching opportunities through the Humanities Research Center (HRC)

Students can apply for (very limited) independent summer school teaching through the department. They submit a formal application to the Graduate Committee.

Year 6
Depending on availability, the department may offer competitive co-teaching or replacement teaching opportunities.

Students are eligible to teach independent FWIS courses for the PWC. These are first-year topical communication-intensive seminars; students and faculty propose courses in the spring for the following year. The PWC provides required training for graduate stunts in the form of a week-long late summer workshop.

Students can also apply for teaching opportunities through the Humanities Research Center (HRC)

The PWC also offers competitive postdoctoral fellowships for those who their degrees by the end of the spring semester.

Teaching assistants are assigned by the DGS through a  process of matching student and faculty requests. While every effort will be made to match students and teachers according to heir preferences, the assistants will be assigned to specific courses according to the following guidelines:

 200-level courses will be privileged over 300-level courses.
 300-level courses will be privileged over 400-level courses.
 Large (40 person) courses will be privileged over smaller ones, and, if possible, one T.A. will be assigned per 20 students over the minimum of 40.

While it can be valuable for a student to assist in a course in his/her field of specialization this cannot always be arranged, and students are encouraged to apply for assistantships outside their fields.  Teaching assistants must register for six hours of English 602 or 603, “Teaching Practicum.” These experiences are assigned course numbers so they can appear on students' transcripts; English 602 and 603 do not count towards the 12-course requirement.

8. Prizes & Awards:
Every year the department is asked to nominate one or more students for university-wide prizes or awards.  It is the responsibility of the Graduate Committee to solicit nominations from the department faculty as a whole, to decide among the various nominees, and to provide for the timely presentation of application materials.  Students should be prepared to respond to requests for materials by maintaining an up-to-date vita at all times, and (for advanced students) by having ready a one-page description of the thesis topic.  The vita will also be useful in helping the department in compiling its annual list of Honors and Awards for graduation.

9. The Preliminary Examination:
All students will devote the Spring semester of Year 3 to the qualifying examination process, which must be completed by the final day of the Rice examination period for that semester. Students will compile two reading lists—one devoted to a field/period, and one devoted to a critical or theoretical approach or orientation which will frame the specific mode of critical intervention in the field. Each list will be accompanied by a “qualifying paper” of about 15-20 pages which should make clear the rationale for texts included in and excluded from the list, summarize past and current key debates and motifs in the period or critical approach, and so on.  Once the reading lists and the qualifying papers are approved by the committee, the student may proceed to the final stage of the examination process—an oral examination of 2 to 3 hours on material covered in the readings lists and qualifying papers. The student receives a passing grade on the qualifying examination when the committee deems that all elements of the examination process—reading lists, qualifying papers, and oral examination—have been completed satisfactorily.  Students who are unable to complete the examination process successfully by the end of the spring semester of Year 3 are required to repeat the process and complete it successfully by the end of fall semester of Year 4.

10. The Dissertation Prospectus:
By the end of the first week of the Fall semester of Year 4, students are required to submit a brief dissertation prospectus of 5-10 pages (1250-1500 words, excluding bibliography and footnotes) for approval by their committee. The prospectus succinctly defines the topic of the dissertation, the particular thesis that the dissertation hopes to develop about that topic, the relevance and importance of the dissertation’s thesis to debates and discussions in the student’s chosen field, and the methods and approaches to be pursued in the dissertation. The prospectus should also include a one-page bibliography.

The prospectus and a satisfactory draft of a chapter (which need not be the dissertation’s first chapter) must be approved by the student’s committee by the end of Fall semester of Year 4 (regardless of when the student completes the examination process) for the student to advance to candidacy. 

When the prospectus and chapter are completed, the department thesis director(s) and second reader should signify approval by signing copies of the prospectus and signing a form indicating that the chapter has been approved. The student will send the signed copies of the prospectus (but not the chapter) to the Graduate Administrator for circulation among the Graduate Committee members. The Graduate Committee may approve the initial submission or ask that the prospectus be revised and resubmitted. Candidacy is achieved when the prospectus is approved and appropriate forms are filed with the Office of Graduate Studies. Students must be admitted to candidacy by the end of their fourth year or they will not be eligible for fifth year funding.

11. The Dissertation:
The dissertation should demonstrate a capacity for independent work of high quality in either scholarship, critical interpretation, or critical theory.  Although it may be a monograph rather than a full-length book, it should be the beginning of a major work of criticism or scholarship.  The student should be able to complete the research and writing of a dissertation within twelve months.  The dissertation must essentially be finished by mid-March of the year in which the student intends to graduate, so that revision, the oral exam, and final proofing can be finished in time to award the degree.  The dissertation will be written in consultation with a dissertation committee consisting of the director, and second reader from within the department, and at least one outside reader from another department at Rice.

12. Procedures for Problem Resolution:
Problems or conflicts may arise during a student’s graduate education. Students should take responsibility for informing the appropriate faculty of any such problem. All parties involved should work together amicably with the goal of resolving the problem informally if possible. If appropriate, a student may petition to replace the thesis advisor or a member of the dissertation committee. When attempts to resolve a problem informally do not meet with success, the following grievance procedure should be adopted.

a) The student should submit the grievance in writing to the departmental chair, who will then attempt to resolve the problem.

b) If the student remains unsatisfied, the problem should be presented to a departmental committee for resolution. This committee should be a standing committee and not the student’s own review or dissertation committee. In the English Department, the Graduate Committee is the appropriate standing committee. Both the student and the Chair should submit a written record of their views to this committee.

c) If the student remains unsatisfied, the problem should be referred to a standing subcommittee designated by Graduate Council and composed of three faculty members (representing diverse disciplines within the University), and one graduate student. A written report of proceedings should be presented to the Chair of Graduate Council, for forwarding to the sub-committee, together with all other written materials generated during the investigation. The decision of this sub-committee will be considered final.

In situations where a faculty member who is actively involved in a student problem has a designated role in this grievance procedure, that role will be transferred to a suitable senior faculty member. This substitute should be chosen by the department chair, if appropriate, or by the divisional dean if the chair must recuse him/herself. The substitute should be acceptable to all parties immediately involved in the dispute. Additional information may be found at http://graduate.rice.edu/Content.aspx?id=73.

13. Further Questions & Contact Information:
For all questions about Rice University policy (about leave of absence, loans, etc.) see the section Graduate Study in the Rice catalogue.
Rice University English Department
Herring 225
Tel: 713-348-4840
Fax: 713-348-5991

Department Chair
Rosemary Hennessy
Herring 331 (Chair’s Office: Herring 226)
Tel: 713-348-2666

Director of Graduate Studies
Helena Michie
Herring 316
Tel: 713-348-2823

Department Administrator
Linda Evans
Herring 227
Tel: 713-348-4846

Graduate Administrator
Dina Galley
Humanities 105
Tel: 713-348-2078

Program Coordinator
Anne M. Smith
Herring 225
Tel: 713-348-4877


[English Graduate Program Handbook updated 9 March 2017]