January 30, 2005

2 weeks down, infinity to go

It's been a much longer break from cgbvb than I'd planned on, certainly. Part of the reason for my absence was work on my graduate course, which has gotten off to a pretty strong start. But a big part of it was the decision I made to hold advising appointments with all of the students in the program at precisely the same time as I've had to read applications from prospective students. Not the wisest of decisions, I suppose.

And for obvious reasons, I can't write much about either activity. The admissions process, though, has been especially frustrating for several reasons:

  • The absence of clear-cut information concerning deadlines for application
  • The institutional decision to centralize the graduate admissions process, channelling all materials through our Graduate Enrollment Management Center
  • The inability of the GEMC to process materials in a timely fashion
  • The depressingly small stretch of time from deadline to decision, necessitating frantic requests for materials, nagging, and frustrated attempts to read files that are incomplete, through no fault of the applicant or our own program.

Starting to get the idea? The initial deadline (for fellowship nominations) in the college is February 2nd, and in some places, our deadline is listed as February 1st. This is inconvenient, to say the least. And while I understand the desire on the part of the University to centralize the process, thereby giving them access to pretty important data, we are in the position sometimes of receiving materials 2 to 3 weeks after they arrive here. Also inconvenient. Finally, all of this is happening according to a very strict schedule, which requires a great deal of committee time at the point in the semester where we are all trying to get into a groove in terms of our classes, schedules, etc.

I'm not looking for pity or anything. Truth be told, this is part of what they pay me for. But I am looking for ways to tweak this system in such a way that we can give the process the attention and energy it deserves. That'll go on my long-term projects list this week.

February 21, 2005

Good walls make happy directors

And the good news is that my shelves arrived on Friday, which prompted a back-straining afternoon of box-hauling and -excavating.

Pictures soon.

March 1, 2005

Collin's big wall of books

Collin's big wall of books

I've been threatening for days to snap a picture of my shelves and blog it, but yesterday, I finally cleared out enough of the crap in my office to feel comfortable doing it. And the best thing? The shelves are thick, have rounded edges (no open head wounds!), and fresh cut, which means that my office smells like pine.

Very nice.

8 points

8 points

Amy would kick my ass if I didn't include a shot of the scrabble tiles she gave me at her defense last August. Thanks to some sticky mounting squares, they now rest securely above my secret Bat-exit...


Courtesy of the Rasterbator, the internal windows in the graduate office are now a little less drab.

August 21, 2005

And panic sets in...

I'm only slightly closer to figuring out what I'll talk about tomorrow, but thanks to some timely advice (and Ethiopian food) from Derek, I think I'll talk mostly about what I'm trying to accomplish with CCC Online, which is, if nothing else, my most concrete attempt to have an effect on this discipline where I find myself. And I'd be surprised if a paragraph or two doesn't come out of the essay that I've been working on as well.

My initial claim, I think, is going to be that our discipline is less than the sum of its parts. Now all I have to do is to think of a clever way to make that sound eminently reasonable, and I'll be home free. If I have time tomorrow afternoon, I'll blog the results of my thinking...

November 3, 2005


Minimal action here, as I've been preparing for, and as of today excuting, a Fall Symposium on Digital/Visual Rhetorics (flyer), wherein we host Jenny Edbauer, Jeff Rice, and Anne Wysocki for a series of teaching workshops today and talks tomorrow. I'm trying to be good about photos, and I'll get some stuff up here in the next day or two as I'm able.

That's all.

December 1, 2005

D-fence! D-fence!

Two of our extended ABD family returned this week, to complete the final step in the process that involves moving them from our program's student page to our alumni page. Which is to say, somewhat euphemistically, that we had two students return from their positions elsewhere to defend their dissertations, and both did so successfully. Congratulations to both of them.

The dissertation season tends to be driven by graduation deadlines, and so typically, we look at the end of July and the end of November as our peak times in that regard. And as these events have rolled around, my attention is more easily grabbed by references to dissertation work than they might be otherwise. The latest issue of Academe, for example, has an article misleadingly titled "How to Grade a Dissertation." I say misleadingly because the article is really less about "how to grade" one than it is the results of a study that attempts to make more explicit the standards by which dissertations have been graded.

Attempts, and largely fails. While there's a mildly interesting chart or two at the back of the essay promising "criteria" by which dissertations are graded, these criteria are entirely predictable, and even a little insulting in their predictability. For example, would it surprise you to learn that "outstanding" dissertations

  • are original and significant, ambitious, brilliant, clear, clever, coherent, compelling, concise, creative, elegant, engaging, exciting, interesting, insightful, persuasive, sophisticated, surprising, and thoughtful;

  • are very well written and organized

  • are synthetic and interdisciplinary

  • Connect components in a seamless way

  • Exhibit mature, independent thinking

Probably not so much. Heck, we all sit down with most of the above as our goals when we write. The subtitle of the article asserts that professors "owe it to their students to make those standards explicit," which is only half true. The standards that we use are only half the story, because for the most part, they are the standards that our students themselves use to evaluate writing, whether their own or others'. A more accurate claim, I think, would be: we owe it to our students to teach them to be able to achieve these standards. And I'm not sure that we are any more explicit about how to achieve these standards than we are about the standards themselves.

Part of the difficulty with a study like this is that professors' self-reporting is going to be no more accurate than any self-reporting--by and large, we are going to offer up what we believe to be the appropriate criteria rather than the ones we use.

And this article bears this out. "The focus groups indicated that most of the dissertations they see are “very good,� which is the level of quality the faculty members said they expect of most graduate students. Consequently, they had less to say about very good dissertations than about the other quality levels." Ahh, how nice. Most of the dissertations fall into this category, about which the faculty studied have the least to say. (Also, the lowest number of criteria for this category are offered.) "Very good dissertations are solid and well written, but they are distinguished by being “less�—less original, less significant, less ambitious, less exciting, and less interesting than outstanding dissertations." If I were still a graduate student reading this, I'd be both a little depressed and a little angry--the majority of dissertations these faculty read, and all they can say about them is, "well, they're not quite outstanding"?!?!

I'm pretty sure I have a finger for that.

It'd be a lot more useful if the "criteria" offered here didn't basically parallel the categories themselves so completely:

  • Outstanding: Is very well written and organized
  • Very Good: Is well written and organized
  • Acceptable: Is workmanlike
  • Unacceptable: Is poorly written

But in order to gather any sort of meaningful data about dissertations, these criteria would have to be triangulated with the dissertations themselves, and they'd have to be studied by people who don't already have a vested interest in the answers being sought. And I suspect that the results would have to be separated out by discipline a bit--the study above surveys faculty in "four science disciplines (biology, electrical and computer engineering, physics or physics and astronomy, and mathematics); three social science disciplines (economics, psychology, and sociology); and three humanities disciplines (English, history, and philosophy)." I'm pretty sure that an electrical engineering dissertation looks a little different, say, from one in philosophy, and that the corresponding faculty mean very different things even when they're using the same language.

There are a few interesting tidbits in this article, but they come in the form of asides more than they occupy center stage. My colleagues in writing studies will find fascinating, I'm sure, the heavy emphasis placed on rubrics, both as a teaching tool and as a way of archiving dissertations. I don't disagree that making expectations explicit is worthwhile--far from it, in fact--but it's curious to watch yet another instance of current-traditional writing pedagogy being offered up, in a nationally circulated publication, no less.

Because, you know, I gave this article a 5 for clarity, a 5 for coherence, a 3 for compelling, and a 4 for concise. How that information would help improve the article or provide a record of anything other than my own opinions I do not know. Ah well. I'm being snottier about this than I'd originally intended. I think that there are good intentions behind a project like this, but an unrealistic estimation of what an aggregation of self-reported, unverified criteria can accomplish.

That is all.

March 4, 2006


Attentive Obsessive combers of the archives here will recall that, just about a year ago, I discussed the virtues of what we call Visiting Days, our annual recruitment event. We bring the top 7 or so candidates to campus, pay for their travel, host them with current students, and wine and dine them for two days. It's a great way both for us to get to know them and for them to get to know us.

In the idealized world of "brains on sticks," we all choose graduate programs according to perfectly rational criteria, select our committees based purely on their explicit expertise in our exam areas and dissertation subjects, blah blah blah. In the real world, though, we work with people based on intuition, fit, compatibility, and all sorts of criteria that are, for the most part, immeasurable. It's certainly important to ask the rational questions about a given program, but I think we underplay the degree to which we make decisions by simply asking: can I imagine myself being successful here? can I see myself working well with this person? would I enjoy taking courses with these students?

In other words, I think it's important to give our prospective students as much access to the program as possible, and not just in the form of promotional materials. Likewise, it helps us to decide when we have a chance to actually talk with a student about his or her interest in X or Y, and not just attempt to intuit their abilities and interests from a generic 2-page statement of goals. As I said last year, this is an exceptionally ethical practice, and I think that it pays dividends for us in the quality of our students and for the students as well, both those who join us and those who don't. Even when we lose someone to another institution, I feel good about the fact that we've given them as much information as we could, and helped them to make the best decision possible.

As important as events like these are for us, they're also pretty taxing. Over the past 5 months, I've hosted a symposium of visiting speakers, co-chaired a search committee, coordinated 4 campus visits, and finally, as of a couple of hours ago, completed Visiting Days. None of this did I do alone; in fact, I'm deeply grateful for every single airport run, meal companion, feedback email, and general contribution that the people in our program provided throughout these events.

But oh. my. am I exhausted, physically, mentally, and emotionally. Saturday has just begun, but I plan to spend as much of it asleep as I possibly can. And then I can start in on all the to-do's that I've postponed during my event planning.

That is all.

April 8, 2006

There's a piece of good news for you

I came into the office Friday night to work on the manuscript (it being that time of the year and all), and what should I find waiting for me on my desk but a little missive from the Graduate School. Turns out that I've been selected as one of the recipients of this year's Excellence in Graduate Education Faculty Recognition Awards. Woo hoo!

Nice to be recognized, certainly, but this award in particular is for faculty who contribute by

  • organizing and providing a supportive environment for research and scholarship, including teaching and modeling responsible conduct, careful advising and instruction in teaching
  • enhancing students’ academic and professional skills
  • sponsoring students’ entry into the academic and professional community of the discipline
  • guiding students in administrative, organizational, and professional matters
  • helping students achieve career placement and professional success
  • serving as a role model of successful mentoring and training graduate students to effectively supervise and mentor

That's not a half-bad description of what I've been trying to do as graduate director for the past 1+ years, so I'm particularly flattered by this.

That is all.

May 22, 2006


For the second year in a row, in our program, I'm supervising our Summer Dissertation Writing Group, a group that meets every other week over the summer to give our dissertators a little more community, a place to bring drafts, and most importantly, some structure for their summer. Speaking as someone who does this almost annually, I know that it's easy to let most of the summer slip by, particularly when there's a big project looming. Gradually, this group is becoming a program event, as I encourage students not yet dissertating to join us as readers, in part to give them some idea of what to expect when it comes to their capstone project.

One byproduct of this is that I spend some time in the early summer every year thinking specifically about dissertations. I almost left this as a comment over there, but Parts-n-Pieces has a post today about reading a disappointing dissertation. To wit,

Yesterday afternoon I read a dissertation-- all 120 pages of it-- and it was crap. Really. Crap. And a few times I was quite horrified by what I was reading. Really. Horrified. Offended, even.

Now, it wouldn't be exactly ethical for me to talk about dissertations, given that I've only been sitting on committees for a few years now. I don't want to say something about them, and have colleagues worried that I'm talking about their work in this way. So let me say a couple of things about my own dissertation, instead.

One thing that I don't think I understood at the time is that the dissertation is to the book much like the seminar paper is to the journal article. In an ideal world, I would have made a living wage as a grad student, and I wouldn't have felt pressured to find a job so quickly (I finished in 3 and a half years), and this pressure wouldn't have transferred in part to my committee. In an ideal world, a dissertation would be approved only when it was at least good. Mine wasn't. It was good enough, and while there are still parts of it that don't embarrass me, they are only parts of it. The only way that external factors don't enter into the process is if the student can afford (economically, psychologically) to take enough time, and if that time is used really well. This was not the case for me, and speaking as someone who's witnessed (up close or at a distance) dozens of these processes, I can say that it's pretty rare. Just as it's pretty rare that you would simply send out a seminar paper for publication (although I've read a few such as a reviewer), I think it's rare to find dissertations that are "book-quality."

In itself, though, this is not a horrible thing. I'm nearing the end of my first manuscript, and honestly, I'm glad that it's taken me as long as it has. I feel as though I'm ready now, almost ten years out from graduate school, to say something book-length to my colleagues. I know for a fact that I was not ready to do so when I was writing my dissertation.

As I've written this book, I have no question, however, about my ability to write a book-length project. I'm not saying that it's been easy, but I don't doubt that I'm capable of doing it. That's no small advantage.

Dissertations also are a great source of practice for the student in terms of working with a group of readers, responding to multiple sets of comments, and even having to negotiate multiple perspectives, each of which is a common feature of the manuscript review process. The important difference, of course, is that your diss committee has a stake in your success and will want to see you succeed, ultimately. I understand that this is not everyone's experience with the process, but I think it common enough that this is the case.

You might have guessed this was coming: the dissertation is also training for the rhythm of the scholarly writing life, which is much different than writing seminar papers (read, read, read, read, purge) or comprehensive exams (an even more extreme version of the event model). I've written before about how graduate faculty aren't perhaps as good about explicitly teaching this different rhythm as we could be, but I am also somewhat embarrassed to admit that, as a student of writing studies who had spent 6-7 years teaching people to write, I was kind of stupid when it came to my own dissertation writing. All of the things that I had taught my students about the writing process? It took me way too long to figure out that those things also applied to my own writing.

And really, none of these things speak to the quality of a given dissertation (or lack thereof). It's tempting, I think, to go into the process thinking that this is your great contribution, and that by now, you've acquired the skills you need to in order to "join the profession." For me, this attitude resulted in a vast overestimation of what I needed to accomplish in my dissertation--the fact of the matter was and is that my dissertation did not "change the discipline," except in very indirect ways (and then only probably once my first book is finished).

In short, I think that the dissertation was an incredibly important stage for me as a scholar, writer, and colleague, but honestly, it wasn't for any of the reasons that I thought it would be at the time. I don't think any of us try to do mediocre work in our dissertations--I know that that wasn't my goal. But I also know that at the time, that dissertation, mediocre as it seems to me now, was what I was capable of at the time. And that's true, I think, for most of us.

When I teach courses on technology, I usually employ a standard that I think of as T+1. That is, regardless of where each student starts, I want them to push themselves to the next stage. I think that this is what the dissertation accomplishes as well; it pushes the student and gets them closer to being able to write a book-length work, B+1. For some rare students, B+1 is enough to get them to the point of being able to send out a manuscript. For most of us, though, it takes longer, B+5 or B+10.

Yeah, that's me hanging out there at around B+29. But that first +1 helped me get started on the journey to 29, and so, as weak as my dissertation was/is, I'm as grateful for that part of my education as I am for anything else about grad school.

That is all. Good luck to all you summer dissertators...

July 25, 2006

Unbounded idiocy

One of the things we like to do in the graduate program here, especially considering how young we are as a program, is to buy program copies of our alumni's dissertations. This would be a substantial project at a program with the history of a Purdue or Texas or Ohio State, but it's not been so bad here. With a minimal budget, though, and at $63 a pop, we have to be strategic. It's not an automatic thing because we can't always afford it.

With a little money left over this year, and having fallen a bit behind in the stocking of our dissertation shelf, last week I placed an order for 6, 4 fairly recent ones and a couple from the days when we had occasional comprhetters earning degrees through English. So I head over to UMI, which I've used before for this very purpose, and like last time, I struggle a bit with their site, which seems to be designed specifically to prevent people from placing orders.

Finally, I punch through, and place the order. Hooray. But not, apparently, processing the following bit of information, sandwiched between the "secure server" and "delivery whenever we get to you" lines:

Dissertations ordered online are available in unbound shrink-wrapped format only.

Oh. Hooray. We got a box today that was full of reams of unbound paper, just the thing for our shelves. It was my screwup, I know, and it pisses me off that it cost us $250, but then I thought to myself: I can rage at myself anytime. Really: What. The. Hell? Why can I send a piece of paper to them to order bound copies, but they can't handle an order placed over the internet? Honestly, would it cost them that freakin much to offer 2 options instead of 1? And what's with defaulting to unbound reams of paper? And charging a price for it that makes Kinko's look like the bargain bin?

From their crappy website to their prehistoric e-commerce to their unchallenged monopoly, I'd rather save up my rage and extend it, wrapped and ribboned, to our friends at UMI, purveyors of the single-worst commercial experience I may have ever experienced. Thanks, UMI, for all your damn help.

Actually, you know, I'm thinking about how much more effective, both in terms of cost and personal satisfaction, it would be to keep ms. copies of our dissertations, and to go with a POD company like Booksurge. Instead of paying $63 dollars per dissertation through them, if we had .pdfs of our dissertations, a 300 page hardcover book would cost us less than $30, and it'd probably be a better product than we get from UMI anyway.


Update: I've never been happier to eat crow. MB called ProQuest today, and I don't know what she told them, but they've offered to send us bound copies, and rather than making us pay for the full price ($63 per), they're only charging us the difference between the bound and unbound price (about $22 per). The site is still far more of a pain to use than it should be, but I can't complain now about the overall service or their willingness to bail me out of my mistake.

August 15, 2006

From the Archives: Rejected Orientation Activities

Rhetorister: the game craze sweeping a nation!!

As many of you, not being members of the CCR program, will not know, next Monday is our annual orientation day for the graduate program. Typically, we schedule a couple of morning panels where faculty and more experienced graduate students speak to program issues. Past themes have included interdisciplinarity, getting started on your research, locating yourself materially and disciplinarily, etc. This year's theme is more of a life-oriented one--we're calling it "Balancing Acts" and asking speakers to talk about how to balance work with life, short-term duties with long-term plans, studenting with parenting, and so forth.

And what better game to go along with the theme of balance than Twister?

Except rather than actually using the names for limbs (left hand, right foot), you have to use epistemology, ontology, axiology, and teleology. And rather than calling out colors--how prosaic!--onlookers will read out passages from one of four rhetoricians. Finding the best position on the board is no longer simply a matter of physical quickness--only the intellectually quick will succeed! Yes, I bring you: Rhetorister!!

Or rather, I would have, had not the Semi-Official Ad-Hoc Subcommittee for Oversight of All Proposed Orientation Acitivity, Including but not Limited to Fun decided that perhaps this would not necessarily supply the rollicking good time that it appears to. Ah well. Back to the drawing board. (You can click for a closer look, though.)

That is all.

August 20, 2006

symbolic inaction

I think that I've spent the last three days hoping that, if I just don't post to the blog, time will stop and tomorrow won't be our grad program orientation, followed shortly by our department's fall conference, followed quickly by our first administrative staff meeting, followed by the beginning of classes, in just. about. a. week.

How's that workin out for me? Not so well.

September 26, 2006


(Note: I've been sitting on this post for about three days, and gotten to the point where it's keeping me from blogging other stuff. So rather than polish it up, I'm just going to post it.)

Now that the MLA job list has been released, it's been a bit of a challenge for me to turn my thoughts to questions of my upcoming job hunt. After all, this is the first time in six years that I've had to think about searching. I've been solicited for the occasional position, but honestly, not having to assemble materials, worry about MLA, or submit myself to the jaded scrutiny of search committees is in my opinion one of the advantages of the tenure-track. And there are real differences between searching for entry-level positions as an assistant professor and considering more senior positions--I'm only looking at advanced assistant or associate gigs this time round.

Part of it is that there are very specific reasons for requesting senior hires. They require more money, and one of the secret places that colleges balance their budgets is by maxing out the salary differential between retiring faculty and their entry-level replacements. Senior hires screw with that dynamic, and are thus much rarer. Still, there are times where it's warranted, and if you scan the available positions for senior folks in my field, you'll see what I mean. With very few exceptions, you'll find jobs that are explicit about the desire for middle management candidates: established scholar-teachers who can step into a program with minimal fuss and take over the administration of writing centers, writing programs, a large staff of teachers, etc.

Without getting too snarky about it, there are many positions where universities have acknowledged the expertise of rhetcompers, but that acknowledgment has yet to enter into the curricular calculations of the hiring department. And we've all heard the stories about how even search committees haven't really thought through what it means to hire, consider, host, or converse with rhetcomp candidates. I could get specific on either count, but I probably don't need to.

I'm still deciding about where I'm going to apply, but I've basically decided that I'm going to be forthright about it. There are good reasons for me to apply widely (e.g., leverage), but I've been on too many committees to feel good about applying for positions that I have no earthly intention of pursuing. For one thing, I'm not that great a liar. For another, there's a great deal of emotional and intellectual labor that goes into a search, and if someone's going to take the time to read my materials, they deserve some minimal amount of respect from me for doing it. If I'm not willing to go there, then it's disingenuous of me to apply.

And no, that doesn't reduce my list of possible applications to zero.

But what I've been thinking about lately is exactly what I would expect/want/need if I were to move. Some of those things are personal, certainly, and some are matters of taste. But I've had a couple of conversations in the past few days, where I've been thinking out loud about what makes a "good program" in rhetcomp. And I mean this specifically from the perspective of a potential senior hire--what makes a program attractive to people at the stage that I'm at?

So for example, if I were advising a PhD applicant looking at programs, placement would be a big issue. What structures are in place to help their students find positions, and how successful are they at it, both in terms of percentages and in terms of position quality? That stuff matters to me as someone who does a lot of that work locally, but it doesn't fall into the category of "make or break" for me as I look at programs. Make sense?

(I should note from the getgo that I'm only really interested in other PhD programs. I went to a liberal arts school for college, and have taught at a really good MA-granting program, but for me, a doctoral program takes advantage of my greatest strengths as an instructor, in my opinion. At some point in my career, that may change, but not right now.)

So here are some of the things I've come up with. I may add a post or two later on as I think through this stuff, but feel free to add things in the comments as well...

1. A critical mass of faculty

How many rhetcomp faculty are enough to maintain a thriving program? I'm tempted to say at least 8-10, and almost as tempted to go back and change that to say double digits. Does that mean that smaller faculties are somehow less than real? Of course not. But in terms of curricular variety and in terms of sharing exam and dissertation load, it's hard for me to imagine not feeling stretched pretty thin without that many colleagues. I may be relying too heavily on my own experience in a freestanding program without an MA, but if a program is admitting 3-5 PhDs in rhetcomp a year, as we do, and graduating them at the same rate, as we try to do, then 8-10 seems modest enough. Feel free to disagree, though.

2. An articulated rhetcomp curriculum

I don't expect that other programs have the degree of control that we do at SU over graduate curriculum (or undergraduate, for that matter). But still. Rhetcomp students have certain curricular needs (methods, e.g.) that literature students do not, and vice versa (e.g., foreign language requirements, although how much of a need is debatable). I think that a good program is necessarily one where the rhetcomp faculty have some say over how their students are treated curricularly, i.e., not as lit students who take a pedagogy course or two. That definitely means different courses, and it may even mean different procedures, honestly.

3. Sponsored Networking

This may happen in the form of external events (e.g., Watson or the Penn State Conference) or internal (in the form of ongoing Speaker Series, annual symposia, etc.), but good programs set aside the resources to bring in people. (Sending the program's faculty and students outward in the form of travel support is also important, but not quite enough.)

4. The Vision Thing

This can be many different things, and perhaps this is a sign of my quasi-administrative status, but more and more, I find that I'm impatient with programs where the vision is just "keep on keepin on." Y'know? I have my own opinions about what a responsible vision is, and I know that it's not the only one, but having some long-term goals to work towards feels more important to me than it used to, and I think good programs think beyond the immediate semester. Not all the time, and it's not to say that their plans can't change, but some sort of guiding vision is a good thing.

5. Doing unto others

I wish that this went without saying, but I think that part of a program's vision has to include how everyone in the department is treated, not just the TT faculty. If nothing else, everyone in an English department has some sort of stake in the teaching of FYC, and how they account for that stake and support or neglect it institutionally is one of the things I think about.

* * * * *

So those are five things I'll think about this fall as I consider where to apply, and as I go deeper into the process. I could say much more about each of them, but considering that this entry has been clogging up my blogging passages for the last few days, I'm going to post it, and add as I feel like it...

February 23, 2007

Teaching Assistantships and Time to Degree

Update 1/19/08: I've updated the list below based on a conversation at WPA-L, and I'd be happy to fill in the 20+ schools listed below that don't currently provide this information to prospective students. I want to stress that the data below lists the number of guaranteed years of funding (assuming satisfactory performance of duties, of course), not "actual" or "possible" years. At Syracuse, for example, a number of students are supported beyond the 4th year, but the 4 years are guaranteed.

Also, I'd like to recommend, as strongly as possible, two things: if you are a faculty member in one of these programs, particularly one for which I couldn't find data, providing this sort of information is an ethical imperative--you owe it to incoming students to tell them, up front, what they're getting into. Seriously. Secondly, I'd love to see us as a field have conversations about these kinds of data, and to provide them in a centralized (online, updatable) location, whether it's attached to the Doctoral Consortium, NCTE, Rhetoric Review, or whatever. It's not the kind of project I have the time or energy to initiate, but clearly I've already contributed my fair share.


In light of Steve's mention of the Consortium list (which was painstakingly mapped by Derek last year), I thought I might share some information that could be of use to those shopping for graduate programs. One of the factors that prospective students should consider is not only the fact of financial support, but its amount and length.

One of the things that we've been working on here at Syracuse is the amount of guaranteed support we can offer to students. Currently we guarantee 4 years (as with most places, that guarantee is contingent upon adequate progress and performance), and as almost anyone who's gone through a PhD can tell you, that places a pretty serious burden on both incoming students and on that 4th year, when the equally full-time activities of the job search and the dissertation coincide. The prospect of being able to uncouple those activities is an appealing one, particularly if we heed Semenza's (Amazon) advice, which suggests no less than 2 publications, in addition to having drafted a substantial chunk of dissertation prior to sending out applications.

One of the questions that's come up in our discussions about funding is a field-related one. Namely, we've asked what other programs in our field guarantee and/or expect of their students. So I did a little digging, and came up with what follows. It's a list of programs and how many years each guarantees. Some caveats:

  • I only looked at assistantships, assuming (rightly, I believe) that this is the most common form of financial support for PhD students
  • Because we only offer a PhD, I restricted myself when possible to information about PhD students only
  • I made a good faith effort to locate the information, but I didn't perform an exhaustive search of each site.
  • "No Data" means that I located information about TAships, but that I couldn't readily infer information about how many years were guaranteed
  • "Couldn't locate" means that I was unable to find any page that provided information about TAships. That may be my fault.

If there is a program missing, let me know, and I'll add it. Likewise, if you know where a page is located that I've missed, please leave the URL in the comments for me. If there's more up-to-date information than can be found on the web, ditto. I've tried in each case to link to the webpage where this information either is or should be (imho) located.

Alabama: No Data
Albany: 3 years
Arizona: 5 years
Arizona State: No Data
Ball State: couldn't locate
Bowling Green: 3+ years (see comments)
Carnegie Mellon: couldn't locate
Case Western Reserve: 5 years
Central Florida:No Data
Clemson: 4 years (specifies length of program, not TAship)
Connecticut: 4 years (Not guaranteed)
East Carolina: No Data
Florida State: No Data
Georgia State: 4 years (apply for 5th)
Illinois: No Data
Illinois (Chicago): 6 years
Illinois State: 4 years (see comments)
Indiana U of Pennsylvania: 4 years max (2 years asst./2 years assoc.)
Iowa State: 5 years
Kent State:4 years (see comments)
Louisiana-Lafayette: 4 years
Louisiana State: 4 years (apply for 5th)
Louisville: No Data (4 years)
Maryland: 3-4 years (Lectureships beyond 4th yr)
Massachusetts-Amherst: 5-6 years (see comments for link)
Miami (OH): 4 years
Michigan: 4 years
Michigan State: 4 years
Michigan Tech: 5 years
Minnesota: 4-5 years
Missouri: 5 years
Nebraska: No Data
Nevada-Reno: 5 years
New Hampshire: 4 years
New Mexico: 5 years
New Mexico State: 5 years
North Carolina: No Data
North Carolina-Greensboro: 4 years
North Carolina State: 4 years (specifies length of program, not TAship)
Northern Illinois: 5 years
Ohio State: 4 years (conditional on progress--see pp. 64-65 of PDF Handbook)
Oklahoma: 5 years
Old Dominion: No Data
Penn State: 6 years (MA/PhD)
Pittsburgh: No Data
Purdue: No Data (5 years)
RPI: No Data
Rhode Island: No Data
South Carolina: 4 years
South Dakota: 4 years
South Florida: 4 years
Southern Illinois: 4 years
Syracuse U: 4 years (Apply for 5th)
Tennessee: 4-5 years
Texas: 4 years (max of 5, if funding is available)
Texas A&M: 5 years
Texas-Arlington: No Data
TCU: 4 years
Texas-El Paso: 4 years
Texas Tech: couldn't locate
Texas Women's: couldn't locate
Utah: 4 years
Virginia Tech: No Data
Washington: No Data (5 years)
Washington State: 4 years (No data on site; personal correspondence)
Wayne State: 4-6 years (6 may include MA)
Wisconsin: No Data

February 27, 2007

Updated list

I've updated the list of programs and how many years each guarantees its assistantships. In the meantime, Clancy asks some good questions about the ways that programs spin their placement statistics.

Two things occur to me: first, our answer to some of those questions is to keep our alumni page relatively up-to-date. We don't track selectivity or search length, although some of that information would be fairly easy to track as well.

The second thing that occurs to me is that it wouldn't be the worst thing in the world for us to put some pressure on the Consortium to develop a central location for information like this (and like my list). For better or worse, we don't always do a great job of understanding exactly what it is that prospective students want to know about a program. I never shopped for a PhD program, for example. I fell into mine largely by accident. I've gotten better as a DGS of identifying that data, but as of yet, I know of no attempts to gather it together, given that our programs don't overlap completely with the programs tracked by ETS.

So if I'm still missing info, please let me know, particularly if it's online and I've missed it. If it's not online, encourage your programs to put it up there. And give some thought to what kinds of information it might be good to centralize.