Welcome, graduate students in the MA English Literature Program, to the 2020-21 academic year. Hopefully by now you have settled into your courses, have secured your books, and are already finding yourselves exploring interesting paths alongside your peers and professors in each of your courses. In any normal semester I would wish mostly for your graduate studies to provide you with keen and interesting challenges into which to focus your mental and creative energies. This September, though, I hope as well that your studies bring some sense of health, balance, and of supportive community to your lives.
Strange Days Indeed.
When the pandemic erupted in the States back in March and April, our MA program was among the few in the world that experienced no technical disruption due to us already being fully actualized in cyberspace (or in the metaverse for you Neal Stephenson fans). As academic programs around the world scrambled to shift online, we were already all there together deep in our collective studies. But being academically positioned to weather the tempest proved cold comfort to those here experiencing havoc in your lives, I know; I know because I heard your stories. Some here were deemed essential workers and so had to carry on armored in PPE and the slim hope that the PPE would actually matter. Some here fell ill or were suddenly caring for others who fell ill. Some here lost jobs. Some here even lost homes. And still, you were expected to keep reading, thinking, writing, conversing, and striving with your graduate work. As much as you could, if you were in the MA program at the time, we know you did.
Five months later, our science has made some headway and we are somewhat better informed and equipped to weather the COVID storm. But still, so much remains in jeopardy, so much remains unknown, and I know that many here in our MA program are still at risk and suffering in so many ways. Uncertainty can be healthy in many situations, but too much of it can leave us unbalanced and feeling like we’re perpetually reeling. And so again: I hope you are each finding that this return to your studies (whether after years or just a few summer weeks) is providing you with some succor from the pandemic in the world at large, as much as from whatever other struggles you might be experiencing as a result of the pandemic (or as a result of anything else).
We can make it be so for each other, this semester, and all throughout this academic year. We can make it so by watching out for each other in the classrooms; by being encouraging, responsive, supportive, and kind to each other (even if/when questioning the ideas or positions of each other). Each one of us has been through a lot this summer. So let us be good to each other here. Banded together as we are here by our love of literature, writing, story, idea, critical inquiry, and perhaps above all else by our sensitivity to and belief in the power of words, let us remember that all of these works and words we study in the grad program hum with the power to reveal, illuminate, inspire, preserve, even heal. Keep attentive, and attuned, to the possibilities.
On A Practical Note
The School of Liberal Arts “annual theme” this academic year is: Resilience. The theme is meant to conceptually unify the school and all of its various programs and students so that, even when working in our distinct classrooms, we might all feel ourselves a part of something bigger (a part of the School of Liberal Arts). Students might find the theme useful when, for example, coming up with term paper topics. The SLA will be holding virtual events throughout the year on the theme, starting with one being run by our own Dr. Boria Sax this October 6th from 1:30-2:30pm eastern: “The Resilience of Story.” Everyone is welcome. You can access the zoom event, on the appropriate day and time, by clicking here. The passcode is 501424, and the meeting ID for those who run zoom through the app is 834 874 3230. Please let me know if you plan to attend at firstname.lastname@example.org. (If any of this event info changes I will update everyone who has responded to me.)
In recent years I’ve taken to sharing here in the annual welcome the assessment rubric we apply to the ENGL 599 thesis papers because the criteria in the rubric correspond to the program’s five “program outcomes,” which are the big-picture things we hope you are developing 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.
I also want to provide you with links to some of the resources available to graduate students here at Mercy College, as well as program info that everyone should keep in mind:
- First, each of you have what’s called a PACT advisor. The PACT advisor for every graduate English student is currently Erika Tremblay at email@example.com. Also know that as the Program Director I am the faculty advisor to every graduate English student, so you can always contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Enrollment Services is the general office/portal where you can find info about many of the things that students normally need info about.
- The College’s Office of Accessibility is the place to contact if you need to discuss or register any accommodations.
- We also have an office of Counseling Services for those in need.
- The Center for Academic Excellence (CAE) provides tutoring and other such assistance. The CAE provides assistance to our online students as much as to our on-campus students, so don’t hesitate to contact the center when working on papers for your MA courses. Sometimes your professor might even require that you contact the CAE to get help with your writing.
- Mercy has extensive online library resources. All of you have already been or soon will be using these to some degree, as each course (except for Creative Writing) requires some form of research paper. JSTOR, Academic Search Premier, and MLA are the main databases for literary research, though there are others you’ll find in there. Additionally, Mercy has digitized versions of many scholarly books. To search the ebook selection use the advanced search option for the library catalog and under “format” select “EBook.” Then search away and check-out/download any useful books you find.
- 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, note that registration for the spring semester will be coming around sooner than you might expect. There isn’t a date yet set for when it will begin, but it will probably happen sometime in mid to late October. I always post the registration-opening dates on the blog as soon as I learn them. Registering promptly, first thing in the morning on the day that registration opens, is the only way to ensure you get a seat in your preferred courses. Some courses fill up quickly, sometimes even within just a few hours, and once they’re filled that’s usually it. We sometimes open an extra seat or two later but only if all of the other courses are getting near full. The spring schedule currently looks like this:
- 507 Narrative Strategies in the Novel (Dr. Fritz)
- 515 Fairy Tales (Dr. Sax)
- 540 Irish Literature (Dr. Dugan)
- 543 American Renaissance OR 560 Hemingway/Modern Cryptography (Dr. Loots)
- 546 Working Women in the USA 1865 to Present (Dr. Gogol)
- 5XX sixth course TBD
Okay! Off we go together into the fall semester and into the 2020-21 academic year. I wish you well in your studies, and in all things.