Welcome, graduate students new and returning, to the 2019-20 academic year. By now you’ve each hopefully checked into your fall courses and have begun your studies and explorations and conversations. Before I say anything else, anything practical about the new year ahead, I want to commend each of you in the graduate English program for your courage to pursue graduate literary studies. And I do think it takes a type of courage to be here. As many of you know from first-hand experience, being an English graduate student isn’t always easy in our world today, not just because of the cost of education but because of the current cultural tone. I mean have you ever had to explain yourself to your family or friends who could not fathom why you would invest in graduate literary studies? Some of you have, I know from conversations. But we can understand why others might doubt, can’t we? In an era and American culture that increasingly seeks to find ways to measure the economical value of this or that, and that is increasingly skeptical of pursuits or qualities that elude easy measurement or precise monetary valuation, the fruits of advanced literary studies might seem too subtle for many to appreciate or even detect. The irony of that should not be lost on us whose field of literary studies in part teaches us to feel-for and value the subtle, as much as to critically deconstruct and investigate what anyone might even mean by value (or measurement) in the first place.
But each of you here reading this, each of you now embarking on your fall-semester explorations into literature ancient to recent: you surely feel the value of it. In some unique and personal way you feel the power of words, writing, language; feel something of the mystery and immeasurable forces amid which we all dwell, to which the great literature of all humankind tends in its infinitely diverse ways. There is a value to our graduate literary pursuits, and some of the value is actually readily perceivable (e.g. the college teaching positions for which the MA qualifies you, or the PhD programs to which you can apply after earning your MA degree) but the greater value might be more subtle. And so I commend each of you in the MA program for your adventurer’s spirit and your courage to embark on such a journey as this, at such a time as this, in pursuit of what might often seem like subtle and mysterious things.
Okay now for the more practical stuff!
As you proceed into your fall-time studies you might keep in mind the School of Liberal Arts (SLA) theme for the 2019-20 school year, VOICE, and use that theme (whatever you interpret it to mean) as something to which you tend with your research and writings, your term papers, perhaps even a presentation at our 2020 Graduate English Symposium in May. Or not! But as I’ve said in the past in regards to the annual theme: if you’re looking for a way to increase the sense of connectivity across your courses, the feeling of being a part of a larger academic community, then writing toward the theme in the knowledge that others across the program are doing the same might help. The annual SLA theme is something started by Dr. Tamara Jhashi, who was our dean for the past five years but who just this summer moved across the Hudson to become the provost at another institution (a big step up the administrative ladder for her; a big loss for us as she was a stalwart proponent of English and literary studies, and of our MA program in particular). This year we have an interim dean, a faculty member from our Music Technology program, Steve Ward, holding down the fort while a national search is conducted this year for the next proper dean of the SLA.
Although the school year has just begin it is never too early to bring up the assessment criteria we use internally in the MA program when evaluating the final ENGL 599 thesis papers, which each of you will eventually write during your final semester in the program. These criteria are only systematically applied to the 599 thesis paper but they can still be useful for all of you to know and keep it in mind when writing any paper for any class: because as you can see in the assessment rubric we use, the criteria correspond to the program’s five “program outcomes,” which are the big-picture things we hope you are learning throughout your time the program. The criteria are also just the basic things all literature students should be working to address and improve in all of their scholarly papers, not just their final thesis paper. So I encourage everyone to download and look over the 599 rubric to see the sorts of things we look for and measure through it. The rubric and the outcomes and our 599 assessment practices are, if you’re curious, requirements for our college’s accreditation.
Before signing off let me provide you with links to some of the resources available to graduate students here at Mercy College. This information repeats information found elsewhere on this blog but some of you might find it helpful to have it repeated here all at once. Okay this blog post here contains a rundown of resources and contact-info that Mercy College provides for its students, whether on-campus or online. On this post here you’ll find critical information about the incomplete “I” grade which some of you might occasionally receive. For those approaching their last semester, you must pay attention to your required comprehensive exam, to the instructions for how to enroll in the final 599 course, and to the application you must complete in order to graduate. For those hoping to enter the college teaching job market check out this post here where I introduce a variety of resources and information on that topic. If you’re going to be applying to anything in any academic field you’ll need to have your curriculum vitae (CV) polished up and also need to know the difference between a CV and a resume. I talk about that here.
Finally, remember that although you can get advising from Student Services, I serve as faculty advisor to every student in the MA program. I am here to help and to answer any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a great school year and fall semester, everyone. Check this blog regularly for program news and info. In good time I will be putting up a post sharing recent student and faculty achievements (and please, anyone with anything to share in that regard, let me know at email@example.com). In just several weeks I will be putting up the course schedule for spring, so be sure to check that out in order to start planning your spring semester. Once I know the registration-opening date for spring I will post that here too (and the only way to ensure you get your first-selection of courses each semester is to pay attention to the registration-opening dates, and to register promptly once registration opens. Some classes fill up quickly, within hours of registration opening, so be aware). Onward we go. Cheers, all.