Category Archives: Useful Program Info & Tips

The Incomplete “I”:

Sure, you thought this was going to be about the strangeness of the ego and the I, but instead it’s just a post about the “I” grade-placeholder some of you sometimes get. Let me explain here all about the “I.”

An “I” is something that a professor might give to a student temporarily in place of a final grade. The “I” signals “incomplete” and is not therefore a real grade of any credit or GPA significance.

It can only be given in cases where a student has met all attendance requirements and completed most of the other course requirements, but for some reason was unable to complete some of the written work by the final semester deadline. Typically in graduate English an “I” might be given to a student who completed most all course work successfully and on time except for the final term paper. In these cases the student may contact the professor and politely request a temporary “I.” Even in such situations, a professor does not have to grant the temporary “I” and rather often gives a real final course grade (A through F) based upon the student’s semester of work. It is not a student’s right to be granted an “I.” The granting of an “I” should be a special and rare event as it causes issues which extend beyond the semester and into future semesters. Students should never presume that an “I” will be granted and should aim to complete all work during the semester so as to avoid the issue of the “I” even being raised.

In the rare cases where an “I” is granted the student must complete the missing work which led to the “I” and submit that work to the professor as soon as is possible. As a general rule the work should be completed and submitted before the start of the next semester. The ultimate time limit for turning a graduate level “I” into a real grade is 12 months. But again, consider that if you’ve left unfinished work until the 11th month you’re now having to research and write on topics which you were studying almost a year ago, and you’re now asking your professor to consider work related to a course from almost a year ago. Again, in the rare event that you do need an “I” and are granted one by your professor, please be diligent and remedy it prior to the start of the next semester.

If the incomplete “I” is not remedied within the twelve month limit it cannot be turned into a real grade. In that case it remains a permanent “I” on the transcript and the student receives no credit for the course.

It is the student’s responsibility to be wary of the time limit for remedying an “I,” to submit all missing work to the professor within that time limit, and to maintain a record of the timely submission of such.

If you have any further questions about this, feel free to contact me at

Wondering how you actually apply for graduation, and when?

Mercy College confers degrees three times a year: in May, which is the traditional time to receive the degree and is for those completing the program in the spring; in August, for those who are completing the degree over the summer; and in February, for those completing the degree in the fall. There is no advantage or disadvantage to receiving a degree at any of the three times, it’s all the same and is simply based on when in a calendar year you complete the requirements for the degree. In order to be eligible for degree conferral at any of the three times you must submit your degree conferral application on time. Information on all of these degree conferral dates and procedures can be found here on the Mercy website.

If you’re planning to miss the fall semester, you must enroll in ENGL 899 Maintenance of Matriculation:

Just a note that students, if necessary, are allowed to skip a total of two semesters during the course of earning the MA degree. You must maintain matriculation, though, for each semester missed by enrolling in ENGL 899 and paying the fee of, I believe, $100 to remain active in the system and eligible to proceed to the degree upon returning to the program. If you stop attending and don’t maintain matriculation, and if you intend to return at some point for your degree, then a number of bad things can happen. Most likely the Registrar would simply deactivate your account and you would no longer be a student at the College. So please, if you plan to skip this or any semester, make sure you maintain matriculation by enrolling in ENGL 899. Thanks, -CL

Just a Reminder: Fall 2014 Semester begins on Wednesday, September 3rd.

As the title above states, please just take note of when the fall 2014 semester begins: Wednesday, September 3rd. Most online professors will open their first course unit on that Wednesday. As this is distance learning you don’t all have to check in on that first day, of course, since most professors run their units on a weekly schedule. You should check in as early as possible that week, though, to make sure you’re clear on everything for each course.

Be sure to read all of the syllabus information for each of your courses. Make sure you’re clear on when each next unit opens, and what is required of you for each unit. Each professor will run her or his course a little differently, and have different methods and requirements, even different unit-opening days (e.g., I tend to open mine on each next Thursday, while others might open theirs on each next Wednesday). Just take the time to read all of the information available to you in each course and make sure you’re 100% clear on what is required of you, and when, at the start of the semester.

For those of you who plan for fall 2014 to be the final semester in the program, take special note of the next blog post below.

For Students Planning to take the 599 (formerly 516) Thesis course this Fall:

To all M.A. grad students who plan to take the 516/599 this fall, which is to say for all students for whom the fall 2014 semester will be your last, please note: before the start of your final semester you must request from me and successfully complete the Comprehensive Exam requirement. Quite simply you just email me at requesting the exam. I email it to you and you then have ten days in which to administer it to yourself and email me back your responses. Also, with about two or three weeks to go before the semester begins, now is the time to finalize your thesis mentor selection and your thesis paper topic. Read the section here on enrolling for the Thesis Seminar for more information. Please let me know at if you have any further questions about the exam or the seminar enrollment after reading through the related posts on this website. Thanks all, and I hope you’re all getting ready and excited for another semester of exploring some great literature and yourselves.

How to register for more than one 514 or 515 course during a semester

As some of you may have noticed, the online registration system prevents you from enrolling in more than one 514 or 515 course during a semester (currently we’re running two 515s for the fall). This is because the software isn’t smart enough to know that multiple instances of the course code are different courses, it only sees a repetition of the same course code and so locks you out of signing up twice for what it thinks is the same course. You of course can sign up for two such courses, and the way you do that is by using the online registration system to sign up for one, then contacting me at and expressing to me that you would like to be enrolled in the other as well. Provided that the other has seats open, I can make it happen easily.

Anyone Hoping to Graduate this Spring Must Have Completed the Comp Exam By Now

Hi all, the Comprehensive Examination is a requirement for the degree. Everyone needs to take it and the proper time, determined by the Registrar’s Office, to take it is before the beginning of ENGL 516, your final-semester Thesis Seminar course. That means everyone taking the Thesis Seminar should have completed the Comp Exam by this point. If you are in ENGL 516 and you have not completed the Comp Exam, you must contact me immediately. I will send you the exam and you will administer it to yourself. At that point, whether or not the Registrar processes the result in time for spring graduation is entirely in her court. Contact me if you have any questions about this at Thanks all.

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 ( 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 faculty in the program will assess 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 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: