Category Archives: Useful Program Info & Tips

A note on the new MA Program requirement structure

As some of you know, I’ve been working on a slight revision to the current structure of the program. The revision has been approved by the many layers at the College and will be implemented in fall 2014.

The reason for this (minor) revision is two fold.

For one thing, I and the previous three Directors have all felt that the current structure, which though generous in electives, requires that all students take a relatively strict sequence of required courses. The courses it funnels you toward are valuable for building a comprehensive foundation of literary knowledge. However not everyone is here for the same reason, and not everyone wants the same thing out of the program. And so we felt was time to open things up a little and give students more freedom to customize their individual paths toward the degree. Some things will still be required–everyone will need ENGL 500 Theory, and everyone will need ENGL 516 Thesis Seminar (which will be renamed to the more accurate Master’s Thesis Tutorial). But more choices will be added for fulfilling the other currently required areas.

The second reason is because I sent around a survey to current and former students in the fall asking for feedback on this, and the response was almost unanimously in favor of this evolution.

Going forward, the program will still continue to offer all of the courses we currently offer. And so in the future a student will still be able to earn the degree in exactly the same way you are currently required to earn the degree. But you will now have the choice over whether to take the traditional sequence or a more eclectic sequence.

We are working to implement this new structure in fall of 2014. Students have nothing to worry about concerning this implementation: the change will be seamless and everything about it will take place behind the scenes and without any of you needing to do anything at all. All currently met requirements will of course still count. All you’ll find next year is that you may have more choices about how to meet your remaining requirements. This is a pro-student evolution of the program.

You can get a look at the new structure in the working draft of the 2014-15 Graduate Student Handbook downloadable from the left-hand side of the screen. You will see all sorts of new courses in the curriculum section, with new and different numbers for some existing courses. Please keep in mind that this handbook is a prototype and is not currently implemented. The new courses, the renumbering of courses, the new 30-credit degree structure in there: none of this is in the official system and won’t be until next year. And some of this could still change. I mean to say if you go asking your adviser about any of this they will have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about because I’m giving you a look at something which is still technically in development.

I just wanted to keep you all updated on the latest and give you a look at the handbook prototype.

The Comprehensive Exam

The Comprehensive Exam is an essay exam which all students must take and pass in the time between the penultimate and ultimate semesters in the program. All students preparing to enter their final semester and hoping to take their ENGL 599 Master’s Thesis Tutorial  must pass the Comp Exam in order to do so. The Comp Exam therefore functions as a gateway to the final semester.

So how do you take the exam? Upon completing your penultimate semester, contact me (cloots@mercy.edu) and request the Comp Exam. I will then send you the exam instructions as an attachment. You then have ten days in which to open the attachment and respond to its instructions. There’s no big secret here: the exam asks you to write two essay responses to your choice of a list of topic questions. The questions are phrased in a way where you can apply anything you’ve studied in the program to your answer. Students don’t always read the same exact materials over the course of the program and this is taken into account in the phrasing of the questions. The questions don’t exactly “test” you as much as they give you a platform to really show us what you know and how you think.

Though you have a ten day window in which to administer the exam to yourself, the exam itself only allows four hours. This gives you time to write two brief essays that show what you know. The exam is administered on the honor system: we trust students on their honor to adhere to the four hour limit, and to keep the questions confidential.  The essay responses must be returned within ten days at which point the Director assesses them.

I’m Here to Help

All students in the MA program should know that as the Director I’m happy to help each of you with any questions or issues you might have about anything related to the program. Each of you has a Student Services or Graduate Admissions adviser, and I know a few of them and the few that I knew are very good. But I can also advise you on course selection or look over your transcripts. Don’t hesitate to drop me a note at cloots@mercy.edu anytime if you have a question. Sometimes I know things that advisers don’t. I want to help make your experience in the program the best that it can be. So don’t hesitate to drop me a note if you’re ever in need. Again: cloots@mercy.edu