Feedback Needed for Symposium Date

I’m seeking feedback from anyone who hopes to attend this year’s symposium. The two possible dates for it are Monday May 20, or Saturday May 18, and I’m wondering which of those two dates would be more amenable to potential attendees. Commencement is on Tuesday May 21st, for what that matters. Both dates fall after the end of the regular semester, so the campus will be fairly quiet by that point (plus side: plenty of parking!). The Monday date would probably have a better chance of getting more program faculty to attend, just because it’s a work day so more faculty will be meandering around campus anyway; but for that same reason Monday might not be a viable day for possible grad-student or alumni attendees if they’re at work. Anyone who plans or hopes to attend, please send me an email at and let me know which of the days would work better for you, especially if you could make one day but not the other. In the end I’ll just go with whichever day gets the most votes from the students and alumni who plan to attend.

Even if you have no preference but hope to attend, please email me to let me know that. This feedback process is going to give me a sense of how many attendees we might have at all. Keep in mind that attendees can read papers at the event (highly encouraged, and I’ll explain more about that in an upcoming blog post) or can elect to be an audience member and just enjoy the camaraderie, enjoy meeting some fellow students, alumni, and faculty, and enjoy the complimentary catered lunch.

For those wanting to learn more about the symposium, refer to the blog posts about symposiums from the past few years. Click here to read about last year’s event. Click here to read about the 2017 event. And click here’s to read about the 2016 event.

A Few Things: The 2019 Symposium; & Any News About Achievements?

Just a bit of program business here:

First, we’re beginning to plan for the annual Graduate Student Symposium. In the past we’ve held this the day before commencement, and we’ll likely do the same again this year, which would mean the symposium would be on Monday May 20th. That date is still highly tentative. We’ll settle this up in the next few weeks, but for now just start thinking about if you might be able to attend and/or present a paper at the symposium in mid-May. Details and a more thorough call-for-papers will be coming soon.

Second, I’m collecting information on any recent student or alumni achievements and activities (e.g. acceptances into doctoral programs or subsequent master’s programs, presentations, speeches/talks, publications, etc.) to share sometime soon on the blog. Please send any such news to so that we can celebrate and salute our students and alumni, and inspire others among us to their own achievements and activities.

ENGL 599 Master’s Thesis Tutorial: How To Enroll

Just a reminder here: Anyone getting close to the end of the MA program needs to start thinking about the ENGL 599 Master’s Thesis Tutorial. Let’s look at some basic points about what it is, what you have to do to enroll in it, and what you do once in it:

  • ENGL 599 counts for three credits, like any other course, and is a requirement for the MA degree. Unlike any other course in the program, 599 is run as a one-on-one tutorial between each student and a chosen professor (mentor).
  • The tutorial is always taken during whatever you intend to be your final semester in the program.
  • During the tutorial you have one responsibility and goal: writing a 25-page thesis paper on a topic of your choice, involving primary and secondary sources that you select, all operating under the guidance of your mentor.
  • To pass the tutorial your thesis paper must receive final approval from your mentor and from a second reader selected from the MA faculty.
  • You enroll in 599 using a different process than for any other course in the MA program:
  1. First, during the semester prior to your final semester, think up a general topic or idea for your thesis and write it down. Your thesis topic can be based on a paper written for another course earlier in the program; you can even use that paper as the first draft for your thesis paper.
  2. Contact any professor teaching in the program and ask the professor if he or she would be your mentor. Include your general topic along with your request. If the professors says yes, you will then work up a more formal thesis proposal with that mentor; If your selected professor cannot mentor you, you can either just ask another professor or can contact the program director at and a mentor will be assigned.
  3. In the meantime, be aware that all students must take and pass the program’s Comprehensive Exam in the time between the penultimate and ultimate semester in the program. So while you’re developing your thesis proposal with your mentor, also start thinking about the Comp Exam which you must request from the program director upon completing your penultimate semester. Students must complete their Comp Exam before beginning their 599 tutorial.
  4. Once you have developed a formal thesis proposal under the mentor’s guidance, and once the mentor deems it acceptable, the mentor will contact the program director who then opens up an individual 599 section for each student with the mentor as professor. It is therefore impossible to be “closed out” of a 599 as each one is opened on an individual basis. The only way a student who needs to be in ENGL 599 might not get into one is if the student doesn’t do these steps in a timely-enough fashion as to have this all settled by the start of the final semester.