Student and Faculty Resources

Students at an English program event

Student Resources

This short, practical guide is intended for students in the Ph.D. Program in English. You should also peruse the Graduate Center Student Handbook, which is also available in hard copy from the Office of Student Affairs, room 7301. If you have any unanswered questions, feel free to ask any of the staff or faculty - we'll be happy to help!

This Guide is a work in progress. Any errors, omissions, or general suggestions for improvement should be communicated to the Assistant Program Officer (APO).


  1. Basic Information

    1. The Program Officers and Staff

    2. The Place and the Space

    3. Affiliations with Other Units of the GC and Other Universities

    4. Other Features of the Ph.D. Program in English

  2. Proceeding Toward the Ph.D. in English

    1. Definition of Levels and Advancement to Candidacy

    2. Registration Procedures

    3. Course Credit Numbers and Credit Requirements

    4. Specific Course Requirements

    5. Independent Study Courses and Dissertation Workshops

    6. Transfer Credit

    7. Grades

    8. Grades of Incomplete and Their Removal

    9. Overseeing Satisfactory Progress

    10. Leaves of Absence

    11. Withdrawal from the Ph.D. Program and The Graduate School

    12. En-Route Master's Degree

    13. The New York City Doctoral Consortium

  3. Negotiating the Principal Hurdles

    1. The Foreign Language Requirement

    2. The Program's Major Examinations

    3. The Dissertation: The Prospectus, The Dissertation Itself, and Its Defense

    4. The English Program's Job-Placement Efforts

  4. Financial Aid and Teaching Internships

    1. Financial Assistance at the GC

    2. Adjunct Teaching and Graduate Assistant A Positions

    3. Dissertation Fellowships

      Appendix: Two Sample Schedules for Meeting the Requirements for the Ph.D. in English

I. Basic Information

All Graduate Center (GC) phone numbers begin 212-817-xxxx. The final four numbers are the extension (e.g., the English Program ext. is "x8315") and can be dialed from any GC phone simply by dialing those four numbers. All outside calls made from within the GC must be connected by dialing "9" first.

A. The Program Officers and Staff

  • Professor Kandice Chuh
    Executive Officer (EO) - Chair of the Department
    Phone ext. - 8353; Email:; Room 4406.03

  • Professor Tanya Agathocleous
    Deputy Executive Officer (DEO) for Placement
    Email:; Room 4409.01

  • Professor Siraj Ahmed
    Deputy Executive Officer (DEO) for Admissions & Financial Aid
    Email:; Room 4409.02

  • Nancy Silverman
    Assistant Program Officer (APO) - Academic Program Coordinator
    Phone ext. - 8334; Email:; Room 4409.03

B. The Place and the Space

The GC building has many amenable features, and a few disadvantages. The building was formerly the B. Altman department store, and remnants of its Beaux Arts style are still visible in the ornate staircase and elevator of the Mina Rees Library. Building security is excellent - if you ever experience any difficulties, call x7777 or press one of the blue assistance panels located in the hallways. There is a cafe located on the first floor and a full cafeteria with a ceiling skylight (through which you can see the tip of the Empire State Building) on the 8th Floor.

The English Program's offices are mostly clustered around the lounge, room 4406. There is a Thesis Room (4406.11) which is used for exams and meetings. The lounge features a bank of computers connected to a printer. There are also two scanners for student use. Paper for the printer is provided by the GC as part of the student technology fee. Unfortunately, there is no copier on this floor for student use - please use the copiers in the library. There are also a few printers in the library. You need a GC computer account to use any computer here.

Our other "space" is, of course, virtual. The Program's website should be checked often for information about events, courses, faculty information, etc. The GC website is at

C. Affiliations with Other Units of the GC and Other Universities

English Program students may enroll in seminars in other disciplines, and they may earn certificates in five areas (see third bullet below).

  • Other Ph.D.-granting programs of the GC, such as Anthropology, Art History, Comparative Literature, History, Linguistics, Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, Theatre;

  • The Master's Degree program in Liberal Studies (MALS);

  • Certificate programs in American Studies, Film Studies, Medieval Studies, Renaissance Studies, Women's Studies, Interactive Technology and Pedagogy (ITP), and Critical Theory;

  • Interdisciplinary study areas, including Cultural Studies, Language and Literacy, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Africana Studies, Twentieth-Century Studies, and Lesbian and Gay/Queer Studies

The Graduate Center is a member of the New York City Interuniversity Doctoral Consortium (including Columbia, Fordham, NYU, New School University, Rutgers, SUNY Stony Brook, and Princeton) and has a consortial arrangement with General Theological Seminary.

The GC is a member of the university consortium that in part comprises the Folger Shakespeare Institute in Washington, D.C. As a result of this affiliation, Ph.D. students in English are eligible for - and frequent recipients of - funding to participate in Folger Institute Seminars. The English Program is a member of the Association of Departments of English of the Modern Language Association and of the Dickens Project at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Two students are sponsored every summer to attend the ten day Dickens World event at the end of August. 

D. Other Features of the Ph.D. Program in English

1) Friday Forums and Sponsored Conferences

To ensure that some portion of every week is dedicated to fostering communal intellectual vitality and conviviality, the English Program sponsors Friday Forums, which bring to the GC internationally recognized scholars, writers, and publishers to discuss a wide variety of literary and cultural topics. This series of lectures and readings is followed by a reception with food and wine. Forums generally take place at 4 p.m. on Fridays, but many occur in conjunction with all-day conferences and interdisciplinary events. The Program sends out a full schedule at the beginning of every semester. Some Forums are devoted to special issues of student/faculty concern, such as financial aid, adjunct teaching, curricular changes, and the education job market. The first Forum of the Fall Semester is generally an orientation session for new students in the Program, and the last one in each semester, the Winter/Spring Revels, is a party not to be missed.

2) Program Communications (Including E-mail) and Changes of Address

A letter sent by the Program's EO to the faculty and students at the beginning of each semester functions as a general newsletter, summarizing information about faculty and student publications, special seminars, grants/fellowships, lectures, and upcoming academic events, including conferences.

Many important announcements are sent out via e-mail. Students are given an e-mail account at the GC when they matriculate, and you are expected to check this email regularly. Students may also provide a prefered e-mail address to the APO. Please update the APO on changes to e-mail addresses  Should you move or make a change in phone number or name, be sure to update Student Web in addition to providing this information to the Office of Human Resources.

3) The English Students' Association (ESA)

The ESA is a student-run organization that seeks to improve living and working conditions in the Program. The ESA provides a forum for student concerns via meetings and its listserv, sponsors a network of student mentors, and runs an annual public conference. Information about subscribing to the ESA email list is available on a bulletin board in the lounge area. The ESA also creates, distributes and collects anonymous class evaluations, which are made available to all students in a binder kept in the lounge.

4) The Doctoral Students' Council (DSC) and The Graduate Student Advocate

Students in all programs at the GC have formed the DSC, which brings their concerns to the administration; lobbies for their interests before the University Student Senate, the CUNY Board of Trustees, the Mayor's Office, and the State Legislature; supports intra- and interprogram student organizations; and provides legal services and funding for cultural activities. The DSC subsidizes the Advocate, a newspaper published six times annually. The English Program has three representatives on the council. The DSC is located in Room 5495, in the Robert E. Gilleece Student Center.
Phone: ext.: 7888.

5) The CUNY Library System and the New York Public Library

One of the consortial advantages of CUNY is its library system, which houses over six million volumes, 31,000 journal/periodical titles, and many resources available on microform and CD-ROM. Students enrolled at the GC have borrowing privileges at all twenty CUNY libraries, and they may return books, unless they are more than six weeks overdue, at any CUNY college. Renewals of books can be made only at the lending library; fines on overdue books can be paid at any system library (except Bronx Community and Hostos Community colleges and the Law School). The entrance to the GC's Mina Rees Library is on the first floor and is only open to CUNY students. An on-line public access catalog (CUNY+) permits users to determine the location and circulation status of nearly every book and periodical held by CUNY. Students and faculty can search CUNY+ from within any CUNY library, from many department and program offices, via the Mina Rees Library Web site, and from home. The site explains the library's hours and borrowing policy, hosts 60 full-text and citation databases and has may useful links and other services; it also provides interactive forms for making Interlibrary Loan (ILL) requests, renewing GC books, asking reference questions, and requesting library instruction. ILL arrangements make it possible to obtain material held in other collections throughout North America and the world. (When their research requires it, CUNY students and faculty may gain on-site access to collections at any of over 250 libraries in the New York City area using the "METRO card." For more information, inquire at the Library.)

One of the greatest storehouses of information and research material anywhere is the Humanities and Social Sciences Library of The New York Public Library (NYPL), located just ten minutes north of the GC, on Fifth Avenue between 40th and 42nd Streets. Faculty and students at the GC may secure a place to work in the Wertheim Study, located on the second floor of the NYPL where they are able to get material specially delivered to them, to keep most books on a designated reserve shelf for one month, and to enjoy a private place to study. If interested, students should take current GC ID to the Office of Special Collections in (NYPL) Room 316. Any member of the public has access to the noncirculating resources of NYPL; users can discover more about its abundant holdings by searching on-site catalogs (for material acquired before 1971) or CATNYP (an on-line public access catalog for material added to the collection after 1971). Older material is being gradually added to CATNYP: currently 2 million records for titles catalogued prior to 1972 have been added. Information about all branches of the NYPL is available here.

Please note that Brooklyn ( and Queens ( have independent public library systems.

II. Proceeding Toward the Ph.D. in English

Students in the Ph.D. Program in English complete the following requirements in earning their doctoral degrees:

  • 60 credits of course work (with grades of B or better), no more than 25 of which may be transferred from another graduate institution

  • A single required course: ENGL 70000, Introduction to Doctoral Studies in English (prior to Fall 2013, English 79500, Theory & Practice of Literary Scholarship)

  • Evidence of proficiency of two languages other than English

  • The written First ("Comprehensive") Examination

  • The Second ("Orals") Examination

  • A dissertation prospectus, acceptable to an officially constituted faculty review committee

  • A dissertation, acceptable to an officially constituted faculty review committee (not necessarily the same one that evaluated the prospectus, though it may retain one or more members of the prospectus committee) and so certified by them after a successful defense

Each of these requirements is explained more fully below.

A. Definition of Levels and Advancement to Candidacy

Tuition charges are based on a student's "level" within the Program, which is figured as follows:

  • Level I students have completed fewer than 45 credits of graduate work (including approved transfer credits).

  • Level II students have completed at least 45 credits and have passed the First ("Comprehensive") Examination but have not yet been advanced to candidacy. (After completing the required 60 credits of course work, Level II students maintain their matriculation status by "registering on record" [ROR] for "weighted instructional units" [WIUs].)

  • Level III students, in addition to having passed the First ("Comprehensive") Examination, have completed at least the required 60 credits of course work (including the single Program course requirement [ENGL 70000 or 79500]), passed the Second Examination ("Orals"), and demonstrated proficiency in two languages besides English. This constitutes "Advancement to Candidacy," which can occur only in a semester during which a student is registered, and requires the student to provide the APO with a tentative title of the dissertation, expected date of completion, supervisor's name, and tentative committee.

B. Registration Procedures

There are usually approximately 25 courses offered each semester in the department. Course descriptions for each semester are posted on the Program's Web site. Continuing students who are enrolled may sign up for courses during the initial registration period that runs about four weeks (usually in December and January for the Spring Semester, and in May and June for the Fall Semester). At that time, on-line registration is open to all students who do not have holds because of financial or academic concerns. There is a fee for late registration. All students are strongly encouraged to avoid this fee by registering on time.

In planning their course work students will want to refer to two publications:

  • A set of course descriptions, each one written by the designated professor and made available  on-line; and

  • The "Announcement of Courses," published each semester by the Office of the Registrar and available online only. Go to and click on Student Web to access it.

To register online, go to and click on Portal, then "CUNYfirst."

Students can change their registration during the add/drop period which extends through the third week of every semester.

C. Course Credit Numbers and Credit Requirements

Courses in the Ph.D. Program in English - including the practicum for new teaching interns - are normally taken for 4 credits and a letter grade. Students may enroll in most regular (4-credit) English Ph.D. seminars for 2 credits; in such cases, the professor stipulates the amount of work that is required. Four-credit courses taken for 2 credits can be assigned only a pass/fail grade. Students who enter the Program with a baccalaureate degree alone may enroll in a maximum of three seminars for 2 credits; students who enter with a master's degree may take a total of two seminars for 2 credits. Note: 3-credit classes in other programs cannot be taken for 2 credits.

Students must take a minimum of seven credits per semester to maintain full-time status. Students must complete a minimum of 60 credits of approved course work (including transfer credit) for the Ph.D. degree, maintaining an average grade of B or better. Once 60 credits have been completed, students may continue to take classes for credit if they wish as long as they are at Level I or II.

D. Specific Course Requirements

While students are expected to take most of their seminars within the English Program, they should not overlook courses offered in related disciplines or listed in groups at the back of each semester's "Announcement of Courses" booklet under:

  • Interdisciplinary Studies (IDS) Concentrations in Cultural Studies, Language in Context, Language and Literacy, Lesbian and Gay/Queer Studies, Modern German Studies, Twentieth-Century Studies;

  • Certificate programs in American Studies, Film Studies, Medieval Studies, Renaissance Studies, Women's Studies, and Interactive Technology and Pedagogy (ITP).

Students interested in earning a certificate in one of these Programs while working toward the Ph.D. in English should be in contact with these Programs.

All students in the Program must take in their first year of enrollment a course in research and critical methodology, ENGL 70000, Introduction to Doctoral Studies in English (formerly ENGL 79500 "Theory and Practice of Literary Studies) for 4 credits. The 2-credit Pass ("P") grade option does not apply to this course.

E. Independent Study Courses and Dissertation Workshops

Although the Program's course offerings are ample and wide-ranging, some students may want to undertake an independent reading or research project with a member of the doctoral faculty. Currently, the Graduate Center has imposed a cap on the number of courses, including independent studies, which all Programs can offer. Therefore, the Ph.D. Program in English can offer only a very limited number of independent study courses per semester. If a student wishes to do an independent study, he or she must first confer with a faculty member who will direct the independent study.  Students should be aware that while faculty members receive little or no compensation in their teaching schedules for an independent study, they may find reward in directing investigation into a mutually intriguing topic. Thus, students should take the initiative to define a specific project, one that relates to a professor's expertise and interest, before they ask for faculty sponsorship. Independent studies generally involve substantial reading, regular meetings, and significant written work. The student must then prepare a description of the course and give a rationale for why this course can be done only in the format of an independent study. The faculty member who will direct the independent study must sign off on the description and the rationale. The request, accompanied by the description and rationale, should be submitted to the Executive Officer no later than the first day of registration for the following semester. The EO will make the final determination as to which proposals will be approved.

Students who have completed their course requirements, the Second Examination ("Orals"), and preliminary work on a thesis may find it helpful to enroll in "Dissertation Workshop" (English 91000), which is offered (for zero credits) each semester. The workshop is led by a professor with considerable experience in directing dissertations. Students prepare and read each others' work (including drafts of the dissertation prospectus), as well as discuss the job market and the academic profession.

F. Transfer Credit

The English Program will accept a maximum of 25 credits earned in another graduate program toward the 60 credits required for the Ph.D. The following restrictions apply to these transfer credits:

  • The course(s) must have been completed with a grade of B or higher;

  • The course(s) must have been taken in English literature (courses in creative or professional writing are not acceptable for transfer credit) or in areas of study that the Program deems directly relevant to a Ph.D. in English;

  • The course(s) must be comparable to courses offered by the GC English. Program

A Program Officer evaluates each first year student's work in another graduate program and sends written word, usually before the end of the student's first year of study, regarding the amount of credit that will be accepted in the English Program. Only course work recorded on official transcripts will be considered for transfer credit. Students enrolled in a master's degree program at the time of their application must, upon matriculation, submit an updated official transcript that shows all grades and/or the conferral of a degree in order for their work to be evaluated. Students transferring credit from outside the CUNY system may need to furnish the Program an appropriate university catalog and/or class syllabi.

G. Grades

The following grades (and quality point values) may be given to students at the GC:



4.0 (not 4.3)






















To remain in the English Program, students must maintain at least a B average.

The following grades may be given in particular circumstances:



 A P or an F must be assigned in any
 course taken for 2, rather than 4,



 A grade that can be assigned only for
 students who enroll in English 90000
 ("Dissertation Supervision"), and only
 when the supervisor has seen
 evidence of a student's continuing
 progress on a dissertation during the
 semester (without such evidence,
 supervisors may give a grade of "
 NRP" [No Record of Progrss]).


 No grade

 This appears if no course grade has
 been received by the Registrar.



 See below.



 A grade that is assigned by the
 Registrar on the final grade roster for
 a student who has registered as an
 auditor for a seminar, with the
 professor's approval.



 A grade that is assigned by the
 Registrar on the final grade roster for
 a student who has appropriately
 requested a withdrawal between the
 fourth and the tenth week of the


The following restrictions apply:

  • A grade of P can be awarded at most three times.

  • A grade of W cannot be given to a student who withdraws after the tenth week of the semester without the written permission of the course instructor, the EO, and the Vice President for Student Affairs.

H. Grades of Incomplete and Their Removal

Students who are unable to complete their work for a course within the allotted time period may request a grade of incomplete ("INC") from the faculty member. The Registrar puts a hold on the registration of any student who has more than two grades of incomplete, and the English Program's Student Progress Officer oversees all such student records. Courses in which an unresolved incomplete grade is recorded do not count toward the 60 credits required for the degree (or the 45 credits required to advance to Level II). Students with multiple incompletes are in jeopardy of losing financial aid - both from the GC and from the Program.

I. Overseeing Satisfactory Progress

The English Program takes very seriously each student's steady movement toward the doctorate. One member of the Program's administrative team is the Student Progress Officer, who pays close attention to the following impediments to a successful completion of the degree:

  • Failure to pass the First ("Comprehensive") Examination after the first year of study in the Program and before the completion of 45 credits of coursework (including transfer credits);

  • Failure to maintain a B average in coursework;

  • Failure to pass the Second ("Orals") Examination within one year after completing all course work and before the end of 10 semesters of matriculation;

  • Accumulation of three or more grades of incomplete ("INC") or two grades of no record of progress ("NRP"); and

  • Exceeding the established time limits for completing the Ph.D. (eight years from the time of first registration for students who enter with a baccalaureate degree alone, or seven years from the time of first registration for students who matriculate after completing a master's degree).

Working with the student and appropriate graduate faculty members, the Student Progress Officer attempts to establish reasonable time limits for the individual to move through the Program more expediently.

J. Leaves of Absence

Students who wish to interrupt their doctoral study may be granted leaves of absence for up to a total of four semesters. Students should apply for a leave at least two weeks before the first day of classes for the semester in which the leave is to begin. If the leave is warranted, the EO will forward the application to the Office of the Registrar approving it. Leaves of absence must be cleared by the Office of Financial Aid, the Mina Rees Library, the Bursar, the Business Office, and (if applicable) the Offices of International Students and Residence Life. During the period of the leave, no changes in academic status - including the scheduling or taking of any of the required examinations, moving from one tuition level to another, applying for an en-route degree, advancing to candidacy, and defending a dissertation - can occur. Students who are not United States citizens should ensure that a leave of absence does not affect their visa status.

The Office of the Registrar automatically generates registration materials for returning students based on the period of time stipulated for the leave of absence.

K. Withdrawal from the Ph.D. Program and The Graduate School

Students who voluntarily withdraw from the Program must Request a Withdrawal to the EO. Withdrawals must be cleared by the Office of Financial Aid, the Mina Rees Library, the Bursar, the Business Office, and (if applicable) the Offices of International Students and Residence Life. To return to the Program, a student applies for readmission and is evaluated by the Admissions Committee. Students who have been withdrawn from the program for four years or less fill out an Application for Readmission. Students who have been withdrawn from the program for more than four years will be required to apply to the program as a new student, and must obtain an Application for Admission from the Admissions Office.

Information regarding proportionate tuition refund appears each semester in the GC Student Handbook . The Office of Financial Aid has details regarding the repayment of federal loans when an individual's status as a student changes. Students should familiarize themselves with these fiscal schedules if they are considering withdrawing from the Program. To avoid full tuition liability for a particular semester, for example, they must withdraw before the end of the third week of classes for that semester.

L. En-route Masters Degree

Students enrolled in the Ph.D. Program in English may apply for an en-route Master's degree. Students interested in this degree must first have already completed 45 GPA hours, all with a B or better, of which no more than 12 hours are from transfer credits.  The student must also have passed the 1st exam and have a B or better in ENGL 70000 or 79500. After ensuring that that they have met these requirements, students then approach a faculty member to supervise their MA capstone paper or project (an MA thesis equivalent). Ideally, this professor should be one the student has worked with in the past, and the thesis equivalent may build on but must significantly devlop a paper originally written for a course. It is expected that the paper be 20-25 pages in length. In collaboration with the supervisor, students choose an additional faculty member to serve as a second reader. Please be aware that professors do have the right to refuse to take on this extra work. Once students have completed the paper/project and it is acceptable by both the supervisor and reader, they fill-in the en-route MA approval form and have the supervisor and second reader sign it, and submit it along with the paper to the APO for Program approval at least one week prior to the filing deadlines. The APO will submit the application for an en-route MA to the Office of the Registrar on behalf of the student.

M. The New York City Interuniversity Doctoral Consortium

The Consortium helps to unite graduate students at seven New York area universities by enabling them to take courses at any institution within the consortium, which is made up of Columbia University (including Teachers College), Fordham University, New School University, New York University, Princeton University, Rutgers University (New Brunswick campus) and SUNY - Stony Brook. Participants are subject to the academic regulations of the host institution - including its calendar, grading system, and academic honor system - but they pay tuition to their home institution. These requirements apply:

  • The student must have completed one year of study at the home institution;

  • courses for which a student registers should not normally be available at the home institution;

  • a student's cross registration must be approved by the appropriate deans at the home and host institutions;

  • a student must register at both the home and the host institution.

Students who want to register for courses through the consortium should first try to contact the professor teaching the course or at least the department to make sure the course is indeed open. Students complete a "Permit Out" form getting EO signature and submitting it to the Office of Student Affairs. If approved by Student Affairs, the student will be provided with an Inter-University Registration Form. The student then gets signatures on the Inter-University Registration Form must be obtained from appropriate personnel at here at the GC and the host institution. Students return this completed form to the Registrar no later than the end of the third week of the CUNY semester. Students who drop a course at a host consortium institution must notify both institutions and follow the appropriate instructions for withdrawing.

Students may also take courses at the Bard Graduate Center for Studies in the Decorative Arts, Design, and Culture.

Students affiliated with the Medieval Studies Certificate Program may register for seminars in the doctoral program at General Theological Seminary, where they also have access to the library. They should see the Coordinator of the Medieval Studies Certificate Program.

III. Negotiating the Principal Hurdles

A. The Foreign Language Requirement

Students are not required to meet the language requirement within a fixed number of years, but they must do so before they may advance to candidacy and, thus, achieve Level III status. Therefore, students are encourage to meet the language requirement in their first 3 years.

Students must demonstrate language proficiency in two languages besides English in any of four ways.

  1. Students may take and pass one of the English Program's regularly administered translations examinations in French, German, Ancient Greek, Italian, Classical Latin, Medieval Latin, and Spanish. Members of the Program's Languages and Comprehensive Examination Committee prepare tests in each of these languages; they are given three times a year (in August, January, and May). The examination dates are posted on a bulletin board in the English Program Lounge (room 4406) and are announced via e-mail. Students are asked to sign up for an exam in the Program Office at least three weeks before the test date. Each examination lasts two hours and consists of a written passage of approximately 350 words taken from a text that is identified several months beforehand. Students may bring and use a dictionary, which is the only translation aid that may be brought into the examination room.

  2. Students may enroll in the Graduate Center Language Reading Program (LRP), taking an intensive reading course - either Level One or Two - and earning a course (not final examination) grade of at least B. The LRP schedules several courses in various languages throughout the year. There is a separate tuition fee for the LRP. Students who must fulfill requirements in an ancient language should also consider the Latin/Greek Institute (LGI), an eleven-week summer program of total immersion, which includes instruction in language and literature.

  3. Students may demonstrate that they have passed a foreign language reading requirement in another graduate program within five years of matriculating in the English Program; they should present appropriate documentation - such as a transcript - to the APO.
  4. For one of the foreign languages, students may demonstrate proficiency in a specialized language or symbol system, the study of which would be outside the usual parameters of English literary scholarship. Examples of such a language might include coding, musicology, or neuroscientific discourse. A student who chooses this option will be expected to demonstrate proficiency in the specialized  language at a level equivalent to the proficiency we require in a foreign language, and it must have direct and demonstrable relevance to the student’s dissertation research. Students interested in this option complete an application to be submitted to the EO.

B. The Program's Major Examinations

These examinations are:

  1. The First (or "Comprehensive") Examination, which all students take before beginning their second year of study in the Program;

  2. The Second Examination (or "Orals"), which students take only after they have completed all their course work (they are also encouraged to meet the dual foreign language requirement beforehand);

1) The First ("Comprehensive") Examination

For students first entering the Program Fall 2016 or after, the First Examination - often referred to as the "Portfolio" - tests students knowledge of a historical range of literary texts; the knowledge of a variety of critical theories and the ability to use these theoretical approaches to elucidate different features and meanings in specific texts; and the ability to write in multiple formats. To read the Learning Goals of the First Exam, click here.

All students, regardless of educational background, are required to take this exam at the end of their first year of study. Students who have open grades (INC or NGR) will not be allowed to submit the Portfolio Exam.

The Portfolio consists of four sections: A Framing Essay, Conference Paper plus two of the following: Review Essay; Annotated Bibliography; or Syllabus.

Each Portfolio will be read by three faculty members who assign a grade of pass or fail to each part. To earn a grade of pass each part of the Exam must not only fulfill the explicit instructions and requirements for that part, but must also be clear, detailed, and carefully written.

Students may best prepare for the Portfolio Examination by taking a wide variety of courses and writing parts of the exam in those courses. Students also form study/writing groups with their peers.  

For students entering prior to Fall 2016:
The First ("Comprehensive") Examination - often referred to as "the Comps" - tests student reading skills, as well as the extent and particularity of students' knowledge about the range of literature and criticism in English. To read the Learning Goals of the First Exam, click here

All students, regardless of educational background, are required to take this exam at the end of their first year of study. This all-day exam is usually scheduled for the Friday of the third week in August; the APO will announce the exact exam date at least 4 months in advance.

The examination consists of four sections (divided into two parts). Students arrive with the first section already prepared, they take the second and third sections in the morning (from 9:00 to noon), and section four in the afternoon (from 1:30 to 4:30), on a single day. Students will not be permitted to sit for the written examination if they do not bring Essay I-A (the "passport essay") to the testing room. Results are available within three weeks and before each semester's deadline for filing for a change in registration level.

Information about examination dates is distributed via e-mail. Each examination is read by three members of the doctoral faculty, who award grades of pass or fail to each section of each part. When their judgment is not unanimous, the section(s) in question will be read by an arbitration committee and the EO; the same is true of any section that all three readers grade a failure. Students must retake any section of the test they fail, but they need not repeat sections they have passed. The retake day is usually scheduled for the Friday of the third week in January; the notification letter will contain an exact date. Students who fail the Comprehensive Examination twice will usually be asked to withdraw from the Program. Readers may pass particularly distinguished examinations "with distinction," a notation, reserved for work that is uniformly excellent, that appears on the student's official transcript.

Students may best prepare for the Comprehensive Examination by taking a wide variety of courses; many also form study groups, meeting during the months before the August test date. Most student groups make up practice exams and discuss the readings; they also offer helpful moral support during the months before the exam. In 2000, a truly invaluable guide to the exam was created English Program students. "Comprehending the Comprehensives" contains study suggestions, and sample questions and answers.

2) The Second ("Orals") Examination

Students more thoroughly demonstrate their powers of discernment, analysis, and eloquence on the Second Examination, commonly referred to as "Orals." To read the Learning Goals of the Second Exam, click here.

This is a two-hour examination in three fields, administered by a committee of three professors. All examiners must hold appointments to the doctoral faculty in English at The Graduate Center; any exceptions - for a student doing interdisciplinary work, for example - require the Executive Officer's approval. Students take the Second Examination within one year of completing all their course work and meeting other Program requirements.

In planning for the Second Examination, students should:

  1. Decide upon three fields of inquiry. A field list may be organized around a genre, a historical period, a major author or set of authors, or a theoretical approach. Fields should be broad enough to constitute the framework for an undergraduate course, and focused enough to provide a basis for advanced scholarly research. Make lists of primary and secondary sources that seem appropriate to each field. In order to ensure scholarly and professional range, the student should avoid overlap among the lists. Talk to as many members of the Program as possible, students as well as faculty, about topics, fields, reading lists, and appropriate faculty members who might supervise the dissertation and/or sit on the Examination Committee. Take advantage of faculty office hours.

  2. Ask a member of the faculty, probably the person who will serve as Dissertation Supervisor, to chair the Examination Committee and to offer advice in refining the field lists and in writing the rationale (of no more than 300 words) explaining how the 3 Orals lists will contribute to preparation either for a dissertation project or a teaching career. Some students work successfully with professors without having taken their seminars, but most members of the faculty will want to see evidence of a student's ability to write research papers if they have never had that person in class.

  3. Choose other examiners with the assistance of the Committee Chair, and ask for guidance in establishing the final reading lists and rationale. Each examiner must approve his or her field list and the rationale and sign the contract. Ideally, examiners should be familiar with the other two lists before signing off on their own. The Chair of the Examination Committee must review the contents of all lists and the rationale before signing off as chair. The completed lists, rationale and signed Second Examination Contract must be submitted to the Assistant Program Officer at least six weeks before the examination date. The Executive Officer will contact the student if there is any objection to the lists. At the examination itself, each of the three examiners is normally allotted 40 minutes to ask questions based on the list he or she supervised. Students may begin the examination by commenting briefly on their choice of readings and the relationship of the three topical lists to each other. Immediately following the examination, the Committee members consult and award the student a "pass" or "fail" on the examination. A student who fails the examination, or one part of it, must retake the relevant section(s) with the same field lists and examiners(s). Students who wish to make any changes must secure the approval of the Executive Officer.

For more detailed information about the Oral Exam, please refer to the student-authored Organizing the Orals.

Students who have passed the Second Exam, fulfilled their language requirements, and completed at least 60 credits of coursework should e-mail the APO with his/her EMPL number, tentative title of the dissertation, expected date of completion, advisor's name, and tentative committee members. The student will become a Level III student (and thus enjoy a significant drop in tuition) only after this information has been submitted to the APO.

C. The Dissertation: The Prospectus, The Dissertation Itself, and Its Defense

1) Choosing and Working with a Dissertation Supervisor

One of the most important choices a student in a doctoral program makes is that of a dissertation supervisor. The dissertation supervisor must be appointed to the English Program. Students will want to ask many questions in coming to a decision: Who is an expert in areas that the dissertation will address? Who can offer important bibliographical data or teach key methodological skills? What about this dissertation would an individual professor find rewarding enough to justify spending many hours working on it? Who can offer guidance on how to employ and maintain a particular critical approach? Who will read chapters judiciously, carefully, and fairly? Who will encourage the dissertation's completion and its excellence? Who will be able to write eloquent, forceful letters - and perhaps make key telephone calls - about the dissertation's contribution to knowledge when its writer enters the job market? Faculty mentors, trusted professors, student colleagues, and Program Officers can all offer advice. Students are free to make their choices, and faculty members are free to accept, or to decline, the request.

Usually, student and supervisor will have established a good working relationship before the dissertation has taken much shape; the supervisor may well have been the chair of the Second ("Orals") Examination Committee, the chief reader of the prospectus, and a long-standing adviser. The process of writing a dissertation may lead a student to alter an original understanding with a supervisor, however; in such cases it may seem mutually wise for the student to seek a different supervisor.

2) The Dissertation Prospectus and Its Approval

The dissertation prospectus should consist of at most ten (10) pages of descriptive material. (This is the usual length of most project descriptions that accompany applications for dissertation-year awards in national competitions.) The prospectus absolutely cannot be longer than ten pages. The prospectus should provide a compact, concise blueprint for a dissertation by including:

  • An overarching perspective on a specific project that can accommodate substantial inquiry;

  • A brief description of path-making commentary immediately relevant to the project;

  • A series of chapter titles and thumbnail descriptions of them.

Additionally, each prospectus should include as supplementary pages an ample working bibliography for the project. The bibliography has no page length requirements. Students must submit a copy of the prospectus within six months of passing the Second ("Orals") Examination (nothing prohibits them from submitting it beforehand). Students who intend to apply for a dissertation-year fellowship from The Graduate Center should submit the prospectus, approved by their supervisor, to the English Program Office by early November so that there will be adequate time for its review (and possible revision) before the dissertation-year fellowship deadline.

Writing a prospectus is one focus of English 91000 ("Dissertation Workshop"), a practical workshop that students who have completed their course work are urged to attend.

When the dissertation supervisor judges that a prospectus warrants approval, the following procedure is followed.

  • The student sumbits a hard copy of prospectus attached to the completed Prospectus Review Form. The student also e-mails a copy of the prospectus to the Assistant Program Officer.

  • The prospectus is read by a committee of four readers, all members of the English Program's doctoral faculty. The Executive Officer is one of the four readers and serves as the committee chair; two readers, who are appointed to the doctoral faculty of the Gradaute Center, are named by the student in consultation with the dissertation supervisor; the fourth reader, chosen by the Executive Officer, is usually someone in a different field of English literature whose expertise may prove a valuable complement to the reports by area experts. The dissertation supervisor is not one of the readers, and other committee members are not necessarily those who will read the student's dissertation and examine the student in a formal defense.

  • Readers have three weeks within which to make their reports. Each reader must indicate that the prospectus is:

    1. acceptable as submitted;

    2. in need of minor revision;

    3. in need of major revision; or

    4. unacceptable.

  • The Executive Officer reviews the reports, adjudicates divided or mixed opinions, and sends the student the results of the review by letter within two weeks. If major revisions are called for:

    • Changes must be completed and a revised prospectus submitted within one semester.

    • The new prospectus is re-read only by the objecting committee member(s). The student submits the new prospectus to the Assistant Program Officer, who asks for and collects the new report.

3) Progress on the Dissertation, the Dissertation Review form, and Appropriate Registration

"ABD" ("all but dissertation") remains one of the most familiar and haunting acronyms of any graduate school. Students should submit written work for review at least once each term. Supervisors should make every effort to provide concrete, specific, and practical advice, as well as to act promptly on work submitted. Unless they have an approved leave of absence, students who have completed all degree requirements except for the dissertation must maintain their status at The Graduate Center by registering each semester for English 90000 ("Dissertation Supervision"). To get a satisfactory grade ("SP") in this course, students must submit written work-ideally a draft of at least one chapter-each term. Students may need to spend a great deal of time reading in this process, but writing is obviously the sine qua non of finishing a dissertation. Students who submit no work at all during a semester risk receiving a grade of "NRP", signifying "no record of progress". After a student has received two NRP grades in succession, an unfavorable "Satisfactory Academic Progress" report will be generated for that student during the following semester.  In order for that student to be permitted to register in the subsequent semester, he or she must meet with the Student Progress Officer to develop a plan for getting his or her dissertation research back on track.

Students and doctoral faculty members follow a specific dissertation review process.

  • In the month following the prospectus's approval, the student and the dissertation supervisor should decide on a committee of two additional readers.

  • A draft of one dissertation chapter (it need not necessarily be the first chapter of the final product) is due by the end of the semester after the prospectus has been accepted.

  • The supervisor reviews the chapter and suggests needed revisions within one month.

  • The revised (and approved) chapter is circulated by the student to the two other readers, who have one month to review the work.
  • Students schedule a meeting of their full committee annually, usually around the date of the approval of the prospectus.

4) The Dissertation Proposal Clearance: Human Participants Form

All students who have advanced to Level III status must submit a "Dissertation Proposal Clearance: Human Participants" form to Kay Powell, IRB Administrator, in the Office for Research and Sponsored Programs, Room 8309. On this form students indicate that human participants are - or are not - an aspect of their research. This is a requirement for students in every Ph.D. program, whether or not their research includes human participants. The form becomes part of the student's file in the Office of the Registrar. Students will not be permitted to deposit their dissertation (and thus graduate) unless this form is on file even if their research included no human participants. Students receive this form in the mail from the Office of the Registrar when they advance to Level III status; and are emailed the form by the APO when their prospectus is approved. It is the student's responsibility to report any revisions in research methodology to the ORSP.

This requirement underscores the fact that students in the English Program are part of a large community of scholars in diverse disciplines at The Graduate Center. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services requires The Graduate Center's Committee on the Protection of Human Subjects to review all students' research designs for compliance with federal laws regulating research on human subjects; any research that involves human participants must be approved by this committee before it may begin. Ethical standards established by professional societies and endorsed by The Graduate Center further uphold the importance of this requirement.

5) The Dissertation: Defense and Depositing

After the supervisor has approved the complete dissertation and the committee of readers has determined that it is of a quality that will permit its formal defense, the student is permitted to schedule the Third Examination, an oral dissertation defense at which he or she answers questions about the work posed by all three readers. The Assistant Program Officer should be informed of the defense date and time, committee members and dissertation title at least one month in advance.

The committee members must then determine if the dissertation is:

  • Acceptable as presented (the work is then submitted to the executive officer for final approval);

  • Acceptable with minor corrections (after making these changes, the student presents the document to the supervisor and the executive officer for final approval); or

  • In need of more substantial revision (after making these changes, the student must secure the three readers' full approval of the re-worked dissertation text before it can be given to the executive officer).

When the dissertation has won the committee's (and executive officer's) approval, the APO submits a Report of Final Examination to the Provost. Students who pass this hurdle have completed all academic requirements for the Ph.D. degree. Now they need to Deposit the dissertation with the library. Information about Depositing, including formatting, can be found on the Library's website. In advance of Depositing, students make an appointment with Judy Waldman, the Dissertation Assistant (Mina Rees Library Room 1100.05; telephone: 212/817-7069; 

Students who hope to have their degree conferred by a specific date (at the Commencement ceremony in late May/early June, for example) should take into account the fact that nearly every dissertation will require some emendation after the defense. 

For the degree to be awarded in:

Candidates must be enrolled during:

And deposit by:


Preceding Fall semester

Last day in January GC is open


Spring semester

May 1


Preceding Spring semester

September 15

6) Dissertation Prizes

The English Program awards a number of different dissertation prizes. Some of these are:

  • The Alumni and Doctoral Faculty Prize (for the most distinguished dissertation of the year).

  • The Robert Adams Day Prize (for an interdisciplinary dissertation).

  • The Melvin Dixon Prize (in the field of African-American literature and poetics).

  • The Timothy Healy Prize (in twentieth-century poetry and/or drama).

  • The Irving Howe Prize (for a dissertation that engages literature and politics).

  • The Paul Monette Prize (in gay and/or lesbian literature).

  • The Adrienne Auslander Munich Prize (for women's writing or feminist criticism).

Students are nominated by their supervisors and seconded by a reader. When the student is fully nominated, the APO will request a copy of the dissertation for review by the Prize Committee. Prizes are usually announced at the end of May; winners will be notified in writing.

D. The English Program's Job-Placement Efforts

Together with the Program's Placement Committee, which includes several faculty members and students, one of the English Program's Deputy Executive Officers oversees a program to assist students who have nearly (or have recently) completed the Ph.D. degree in finding permanent jobs in universities and colleges. Students are also encourage to make use of the Graduate Center's Office of Career Planning and Professional Development

IV. Financial Aid and Teaching Internships

A. Financial Assistance at the GC

Financial assistance to students in the Ph.D. Program in English comes in primarily two forms (fellowships and loans). All fellowships and other forms of financial assistance require a student to register full time each semester and to make satisfactory academic progress.

To apply for Federal Aid (Work-Study or Loans), follow the instructions provided by the Office of Financial Aid.

Beginning in 2014, all students admitted to the English Program are awarded a five-year funding package, mostly typically a Graduate Center Fellowship. Students from underrepresented groups might be award a Presidential Magnet Fellowship.

To apply for an English Program Dissertation Fellowship, see section “C” below.

The Office of Financial Aid website contains information about additional sources of funding.

B. Adjunct Teaching and Graduate Assistant A Positions

Most students in the English Program get training as adjunct instructors in CUNY college classrooms. Graduate students in English usually teach composition, though they are often invited to teach literature as well. At many CUNY colleges composition courses bear more credits than do literature classes, so adjuncts, who are paid by the credit hour, can earn more by teaching them. Please note that these adjunct teaching positions are not Financial Aid awards; they are positions created and paid for by the colleges where the student will teach.

1) Obtaining an Adjunct Teaching Job Through the Internship Program

Departments of English on individual CUNY campuses make all decisions in matters of faculty hiring. Students are chosen by - not "placed" in - a department; they may apply directly and independently for teaching positions anywhere in the system. For well over a decade, however, the Ph.D. Program in English has tried to assist its students by locating such jobs largely through the Internship Program, directed by Professor Ammiel Alcalay (DEO). Students who have not taught at CUNY before are not required to join the Internship Program in their first year of study; they may do so anytime before they advance to candidacy. The Internship Program seeks to provide four specific services:

  1. To give inexperienced students an opportunity to teach one or two courses per semester as an Adjunct Lecturer at a CUNY college, with the understanding that this position will remain available for at least three years, so long as the student/department relationship is mutually agreeable and the CUNY budget allows;

  2. To train new CUNY teachers through a practicum (ENGL 79000 ["Teaching College English"]);

  3. To advise students with teaching-related questions;

  4. To assist experienced adjunct teachers in finding information about positions as Graduate Assistants (A and C) and Writing and Technology Fellows.

a. CUNY Colleges Participating in the Internship Program

All the CUNY colleges have participated in the Internship Program in one way or another during the past decade. In Spring 2002, some 165 English Ph.D. students (and over ten students in other programs) were teaching via this internship network at a CUNY college.

b. The Practicum (ENGL 79000 ["Teaching College English"])

Most CUNY colleges have a practicum that is tailored to that campus's student body and composition philosophy. It is taught by a composition specialist at that college. Participants discuss theories of teaching composition and their actual experiences. Readings and course requirements vary, but all students are trained in writing pedagogy. The practicum carries four credits which count toward the Ph.D. degree (letter grades are assigned). It is a requirement for all students in the English Program who are first-time instructors at a CUNY college. Students who accept a teaching position at a second CUNY college are not expected to enroll in a second practicum.

For budgetary reasons, practicum courses are offered only during the Fall Semester. Students should take this into consideration because, without formal pedagogical training, they will find it difficult to get a job. Thus, teaching for the first time within CUNY during a spring semester or a summer session is generally not an option.

c.Adjunct Pay Rates, Limitations on Teaching, and Benefits

CUNY adjuncts are paid according to a scale based on an hourly rate that starts at $53.60. Please note that all compensation rates listed in this Guide are currently being renegotiated. This figure is multiplied by the number of credit hours a course carries (which varies from three to six), then multiplied again by the number of weeks in the college's semester (14 or 15 weeks at all but Kingsborough and LaGuardia Community colleges).

In any given semester, adjuncts may teach as many as three courses totaling no more than nine credit hours at one CUNY college; they may also teach one course, for no more than six credit hours, at a second CUNY college. Most students in the English program find that teaching two courses per semester, in addition to their responsibilities taking classes, preparing for exams, or writing a dissertation, keeps them very busy.

Adjuncts who teach at least six credit hours within CUNY for each of two consecutive semesters are eligible, after the second semester, for health insurance benefits. This provision does not apply to students employed as a Graduate Assistant A.

2) The Procedure for Obtaining a non-Internship Adjunct Teaching Job in CUNY

Once a student has gained teaching experience (even before your matriculation into the Ph.D program), students may apply for jobs directly at the Colleges.

3) Graduate Assistant A Positions (Grad A)

Grad A positions are available in limited number only at Hunter and Queens colleges, ordinarily for a nonrenewable period of three years. Students apply for them by sending a letter, with a curriculum vitae, to the appropriate chair of the Department of English, stating specifically that they wish to be considered for this position. Applications should be submitted in the Fall Semester, usually for review during the spring and possible appointment the next academic year. Graduate Assistant A positions are almost always filled by continuing students.

C. Dissertation Fellowships

The Ph.D. Program in English strongly encourages its students to seek funding for the dissertation year from sources outside The Graduate Center. These sources include the American Association for University Women (AAUW), the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (which oversees the Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation Fellowships), and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Information about such fellowships is available from the Modern Language Association (MLA), especially through listings in the annual PMLA Directory (the September issue), as well as from postings on the Program's bulletin board in the lounge (room 4406).

Some dissertation-year fellowships are also available from The Graduate Center and from the Program; each has its own application process and timing. To qualify for funding, a student must have been advanced to candidacy, and his/her dissertation prospectus must have been approved at least two weeks before the application deadline. The "Advancement to Candidacy for the Doctoral Degree" form requires review by the Office of the Provost and the Office of the Registrar; a time lag can occur in this process, and students should plan accordingly. Some funding sources outside CUNY set earlier deadlines for the receipt of applications and hence for a student's advancement to candidacy (15 November for the AAUW and Newcombe Fellowships, for example).

  1. Dissertation Fellowships from The Graduate Center. Level III students who have made substantial progress in their thesis research and who are entering their final year of doctoral study are the most successful competitors for dissertation-year fellowships from The Graduate Center. (The strong likelihood that the student will complete the dissertation during the award year is a criterion for selection.) These fellowships are administered through the Office of the Provost (Room 8113; telephone: 212/817-7200; fax: 212/817-1612; ). Each award is given for one year and cannot be renewed. When they apply for a fellowship, students must be registered (or on an approved leave of absence) and must be officially advanced to candidacy. They should also read carefully application instructions that describe what must be submitted by the deadline. The following elements are required for the application package:

    • the application form;

    • a dissertation plan or prospectus (maximum of 8 pages, plus a 1-page abstract and a 1-page selected bibliography);

    • a curriculum vitae;

    • two letters of recommendation, one of them from the dissertation supervisor.

  2. Dissertation Fellowships from the Ph.D. Program in English. The English Program earmarks funding each year for Level III students who have an approved dissertation prospectus on file. The "Application for the Ph.D. Program in English Dissertation Year Fellowship" includes:

    • an application form for dissertation-year funding, which is available from the English Program Office ;

    • one copy of a dissertation plan or prospectus (this may be identical to the one submitted to the Office of the Provost with an application for a Dissertation Fellowship from The Graduate Center);

    • one copy of each of two letters of recommendation, in sealed envelopes, signed across the seal;

    • one copy of a curriculum vitae (this item is suggested but not required).

Appendix: Two Sample Schedules for Meeting the Requirements for the Ph.D. in English

Sample schedules are available for Students with B.A. only and Students with M.A. on the Path to Degree page.

Below are guides for current students in PDF format. Most are written collaboratively with English Program faculty and students.

These guides and others are available in web format on the English Program Student Site

Student Organizations and

The ESA is a student-run organization that seeks to improve living and working conditions of students in the Program by representing the interests of the students in the Graduate Center English Department. Representation includes expressing the concerns of the students to the faculty and administration as well as relaying information back to the students. The primary tasks of the ESA are to provide a forum for student concerns, sponsor a network of student mentors, oversee course evaluations, and run the student election process. In addition, the ESA runs an annual conference (with faculty participation) open to ESA members as well as students form other institutions.

For more information about the ESA, visit the English Program Student Site.

Students in all programs at the GC have formed the DGSC, which brings their concerns to the administration; lobbies for their interests before the University Student Senate, the CUNY Board of Trustees, the Mayor's Office, and the State Legislature; supports intra- and interprogram student organizations; and provides legal services and funding for cultural activities. The DGSC subsidizes the Advocate, a newspaper published six times annually. The English Program has three representatives on the council.

For more information about the DGSC, visit the DGSC website.

Faculty Resources

The following Practical Guide has been put together primarily in order to provide faculty new to the Ph.D. Program in English at the CUNY Graduate Center an introduction to our policies and procedures. We hope that it will also serve as a useful reference tool for faculty more generally. The Guide’s primary author is Nancy Silverman, our APO, and the Program owes Nancy our gratitude for undertaking this important work so eagerly and bringing it to a successful conclusion.

Those using the Guide are encouraged to let us know if any material could be clarified of if there are topics yet unaddressed that might usefully be added to the Guide.

I. Program Administration

II. Getting Started

A. Allocation

B. Office, Mailbox, GC ID, Computer and E-mail Access, Library Account

C. Program Communication

III. Teaching

A. Course Assignment

B. Teaching Materials

C. Registration and Course Rosters

D. Credit Hours and Grading

IV. Mentoring/Advising/Supervising

A. Mentoring

B. Oral Exam Committee

C. Dissertation Prospectus Review Committee

D. Dissertation Committee

V. Program Involvement

A. Area Groups

B. Program Committees

C. Events

VI. Graduate Center Involvement

A. GC Wide Committees

B. Other Programs and Research Centers

I. Program Administration

Executive Officer (EO)
Professor Eric Lott
212-817-8353;; Room 4409.01

Deputy Executive Officer (DEO) for Placement
Professor Mark McBeth
212-817-8349;; Room 4407

Deputy Executive Officer (DEO) for Admissions and Financial Aid
Professor Tanya Pollard
212-817-8322;; Room 4409.02

Assistant Program Officer (APO) – Academic Program Coordinator
Nancy Silverman
212-817-8334;; Room 4409.03

College Assistant-- Assistant to the APO
Joanna Dressel
212-817-8315;; Room 4409

II. Getting Started

A. Allocation

The Graduate Center reimburses the home college of each faculty member teaching a course at the GC the equivalent of 1/6 of a full-time faculty member’s (average) salary. Most of our courses are 4-credit hours (even though they meet for just 2 hours per week). Some colleges let faculty members count a Graduate Center course as 4 hours of teaching toward their workload; others credit it as 3 hours. Technically, it’s the equivalent of 3.5 hours, since the college is being given 1/6 of a salary (1/6 times 21 hours = 3.5). Campuses will likely have established a practice in this regard.

Courses taught at the Graduate Center count as part of your regular workload, and your teaching at your home campus should be reduced an appropriate amount that semester. The reimbursement of your campus by the GC happens in an automatic way, and you (or your department) don’t have to do anything to make that happen.

In addition, the Graduate Center gives credit in the Allocation System to the colleges for each semester a faculty member has a student registered for Dissertation Supervision (90000) or other one-to-one instructional activity, for example Advanced Individual Research/Independent Study (81000), to a maximum of one course per semester per faculty member.  Since released time is granted by the faculty member’s home college, faculty must receive prior authorization from the Chair at their college before undertaking teaching either dissertation supervision or independent study.  Accumulating records of dissertation supervisions and independent studies is your responsibility.  The Faculty Web is available to verify registrations. 

Each semester of registration for dissertation supervision or independent study is counted as 0.2 course units for each student.  Dissertation supervision for the same student can only be counted for a maximum of six semesters, or the equivalent of three years.

When five registrations accumulate to one course unit, the faculty member should request the appropriate released time from the department at the college.  The release is to be used within two semesters of the accumulation. 

Faculty members whose home campus is the Graduate Center itself do not participate in the Allocation System; their workload is calculated on a six-unit basis, with two units each year typically being devoted to Dissertation Supervision and Advanced Individual Research. When Graduate Center-appointed faculty teach a course at another CUNY campus that course counts as one workload unit.

B. Office, Mailbox, GC ID, Computer and E-mail Access, Library Account

The APO will assign you a shared office and will arrange for a key to that office. A key to the main office for after office hours access to the photocopier is available upon request. At that time you will also be given a mailbox (in room 4406).

The APO will provide you a memo to take to the Office of Public Safety (room 9117) to obtain a GC ID. With your GC ID you can get a library account at the Circulation Desk of the library. With your GC ID and a memo provided by the APO, you can activate your computer and e-mail account at the IT Services (on the lower level of the library).

C. Program Communication

It is essential that the Program have current contact information for all appointed faculty. Preferred e-mail addresses and phone numbers will be published on the GC directory and on the faculty pages of the Program’s website. For internal use, we also need a current home address and phone number. Please provide this information and all updates to the Program’s College Assistant. The English Program does not require the use of a GC e-mail address but does encourage faculty to check that e-mail from time to time.

The primary way that Program information will be communicated is through e-mail. The Program maintains a distribution list of faculty that is used to provide key information relevant to all faculty. Appointed faculty are automatically added to this distribution list. In addition, we maintain a Program wide listserv for announcements of interest to the wider English Program community. Appointed faculty are encouraged to join this listserv and can do so by sending an e-mail to the APO requesting to be added.

The English Program website is an excellent resource for all members of the English Program community.

III. Teaching

A. Course Assignment

Most appointed faculty members teach 1 course a year at the Graduate Center. Course titles are often decided in communication with appropriate area groups and are submitted to the Program during the scheduling period (early Fall and early Spring for the following semester). Courses meet for 2 hours a week during the following timeslots: M-R 11:45-1:45; 2:00-4:00; 4:15-6:15; 6:30-8:30 and F 11:45-1:45; 2:00-4:00.

Our Program has only one required course: ENGL 79500 Theory and Practice of Literary Scholarship, which focuses on four main areas: (1) research and bibliography, (2) text/textuality, (3) the place of theory in the discipline, and (4) the history and current state of the discipline. This four credit course, offered each semester, is rotated among appointed faculty. In addition, we offer a zero credit Dissertation Workshop each semester for advanced students. Faculty are asked to consider teaching these courses in substitution for a seminar and should discuss their interest in doing so with the DEO for Scheduling.

B. Teaching Materials

The Graduate Center does not have a bookstore. Faculty arrange for books to be purchased through online booksellers or local bookstores. Books may also be placed on reserve in the library. The Program has a shared copier/scanner for faculty use. Course readings can be scanned by you in our office and made available to students through Blackboard, Library e-reserves, course website (where available). In limited circumstances hard copies can be made available by providing originals to the College Assistant who will send them to Graphic Arts. Expect a one week turnaround for hard copies.

Most seminar rooms are “smart rooms,” equipped with a computer with projector and DVD player. If your seminar room does not have this equipment or if you need assistance in using it, be in contact with the IT Audio Visual Department at 212-817-7330.

C. Registration and Course Rosters

English Program students register for courses online and do not need permission to register for English courses. Students in other Programs at the GC may register for most of our courses, as well, without our approval (though they might require permission of their own Programs). Most English Program courses have an enrollment maximum of 12 and minimum of 5. Courses that are closed might get requests from students to “overtally.” Such requests are granted at the discretion of the faculty member and should be communicated to the APO via e-mail. The APO will provide a registration override which will allow the student to register.

Faculty monitor their own course registration and obtain course rosters through Faculty Web.

Students from other CUNY campuses are able to register for our courses at the discretion of the English Program, as are people interested in taking a course as a non-matriculated students. Such requests are at the discretion of the Program and should be directed to the APO.

The policy of the Graduate Center is not to allow unofficial auditors.

D. Credit Hours and Grading

Most English Program courses are offered for 4 credits with a 2 credit pass/fail option. Advanced students may also register as auditors for most classes. You are requested to remind students in the first few class sessions to check their own registration to ensure that they are registered as they intended. Students may change the number of credits until the drop/add deadline.

Grading is done online through Faculty Web and should be complete by the deadline. The following grades (and quality point values) may be given to students at the GC:



4.0 (not 4.3)






















The following grades may be given in particular circumstances:



A P or an F must be assigned in any course taken for 2, rather than 4, credits.


Satisfactory progress

A grade that can be assigned only for students who enroll in English 90000 ("Dissertation Supervision"), and only when the supervisor has seen evidence of a student's continuing progress on a dissertation during the semester (without such evidence, supervisors may give a grade of " NRP" [No Record of Progress]).


No Record of Progress

A grade that can be assigned only for students enrolled in English 90000 (“Dissertation Supervision”) who have shown no evidence of making progress on their dissertations.


No grade recorded

This appears if no course grade has been received by the Registrar.



See below.



A grade that is assigned by the Registrar on the final grade roster for a student who has registered as an auditor for a seminar, with the professor's approval.


Withdrawal without academic penalty

A grade that is assigned by the Registrar on the final grade roster for a student who has appropriately requested a withdrawal between the fourth and the tenth week of the semester.


Never Attended

This grade is to be assigned by faculty if a student never attended a class. The grade is calculated into the GPA in the same way an “F” grade is calculated.

Students who are unable to complete their work for a course within the allotted time period may request a grade of incomplete ("INC"). Faculty are asked to consider each request for an INC individually and should the request be determined worthwhile come to an agreement with the student as to the expectation for completing the coursework.

Grade changes are done by completing a Grade Change Form. These forms are available in the English Program Office for pick-up by faculty (students are not allowed to handle grade change forms).

IV. Mentoring/Advising/Supervising

A. Mentoring

Faculty are expected to serve as mentors to entering students. Faculty responsibility as a mentor is to act as a liaison, to be available to answer questions, to offer general counsel and comfort, as it were, until the student chooses a dissertation supervisor. The Program tries to match the student’s interest to the faculty mentor’s area(s) of specialization, but in some instances this is not possible. You will be assigned a student mentee just prior to the start of the Fall semester and are requested to meet with that student within the first three weeks of the semester.

B. Oral Exam Committee

Students preparing for their Oral Exam choose three faculty members to be the examining committee, one of whom chairs the committee. Generally students approach faculty with whom they have taken a class or to whom they had been assigned as a mentor. Students also approach faculty who they might not know, but whose work is compelling to them. The Oral Exam is intended to move students forward, toward their dissertations, without being wholly focused on a narrow dissertation topic. It is also intended to provide students with the opportunity to become more expert in their major field(s) of interest, the field(s) within which the more narrowly defined research of the dissertation will take its place. The current basis for the Oral Exam – three reading lists that are distinct but that nonetheless complement each other – is meant to provide students with a flexible structure within which to explore their intellectual interests. Often, two of the lists will focus on a particular period of English/American/ Anglophone literature (e.g., Victorian poetry and the Victorian novel), while the third examines a particular theory or methodology of interest to the student (e.g., narratology), but this is not the only possible structure for the three lists.

Once the student has constituted a committee, he or she will generate, in consultation with the committee, the three lists of texts (one list per committee member) that form the basis for the examination and a rationale (of no more than 300 words) explaining how the 3 lists will contribute to preparation either for a dissertation project or a teaching career; the examination itself lasts two hours, and each list receives equal time (about 40 minutes each). These lists should be extensive enough so that, in reading the material listed, students are becoming experts in the field; they should not be so extensive as to provide an insuperable hurdle. Depending on the area of study, something in the range of 25-30 book-length works is a good estimate for the length of each individual list.

Each committee member should sign off on his or her field list and the rationale and agree upon a date and time for the examination at least six weeks prior to the exam. The exam lasts two hours; the student has the option of giving a 5 minute opening statement to begin the discussion. The three examiners then proceed to divide up the remaining time equally in an order of questioning chosen by the student in consultation with the chair of the examining committee. At the conclusion of the third section of the exam, the student will be asked to leave the room while the committee consults on the results of the exam (pass, pass with distinction, fail). The mark of distinction requires an outstanding performance on all the constituent parts; a notation of this honor appears on the student's official transcript. A student who fails the examination, or one part of it, must retake the relevant section(s) with the same field lists and examiners(s). When a decision is reached the student is invited back in to discuss the results. The chair indicates the results on the Orals Contract, signs, and submits the paperwork to the APO.

C. Dissertation Prospectus Review Committee

The dissertation prospectus is a ten-page proposal for the dissertation that students, having completed all other requirements for the Ph.D., must write and submit for official review to the English Program. The ten-page length limit is strictly enforced. (In addition, the prospectus should include a full working bibliography, the length of which is unlimited.)

Students preparing to write their prospectus will approach a faculty member to serve as Dissertation Supervisor. This faculty member is usually one with whom the student will have established a good working relationship at an earlier stage of their doctoral work. Often but not always the Dissertation Supervisor has already served as the chair of the oral exam. In consultation with the Supervisor, the student names two faculty members to serve as readers of the prospectus. The student contacts these faculty members to discuss the emerging prospectus and timeline (these committee members may be but are not necessarily those who will read the student's dissertation and examine the student in a formal defense). When the supervisor judges that the prospectus warrants approval, he or she signs off on the prospectus review form and the student submits it along with the prospectus to the APO for EO approval. At this time the EO assigns an outside reader, usually a faculty member in a different field or area group but whose expertise would be valuable to the student, and the APO distributes the prospectus via e-mail to all readers – the two chosen by the student in consultation with the Supervisor and the outside reader. As a reader, you should consider the feasibility of the project, its originality, any signs of problems or potential roadblocks to effective progress on the dissertation that you might identify, and the adequacy of the research and bibliography.

Faculty readers have three weeks to review the prospectus and to submit an evaluation of at least one paragraph with a recommendation to approve, revise, or not approve. Evaluations should include a clear indication of approval (or a clear recommendation to revise or not approve); a brief assessment of the project’s strengths and promise; and as detailed an account as possible of recommendations for improving the project’s argument, design, and scope; any gaps in the research underlying the project should also be noted. See appendix for sample evaluations. Readers e-mail their evaluations to the APO for EO review and determination of result. Results are then communicated, along with copies of the three evaluations, to the student and dissertation supervisor.

D. Dissertation Committee

The dissertation committee consists of a supervisor and two committee members, all of whom must be GC doctoral faculty. (A fourth, non-GC-appointed faculty member can be added to the committee, given the approval of the EO.) Students approach faculty to serve on their committees with whom they have established good working relationship and/or those whose work is compelling to them. When approached, faculty are expected to discuss the emerging dissertation, timeline, and expectations for feedback with the student and make a thoughtful decision as to whether they will serve on the committee. While the level of engagement of committee members should be negotiated with students, it is expected that committee members will take an active role in the shaping of the dissertation and participate fully in the defense.

V. Program Involvement

A. Area Groups

Faculty and courses are organized by Area Groups guided by an appointed Convener and meet regularly to plan courses and events. Current Area Groups are: Medieval, Early Modern, Restoration/18th Century, Romantics, Victorians, American to 1900, 20th Century, Literary Theory, African American, Bibliographical/Textual, Composition/Rhetoric, Gender and Sexuality, and Postcolonial.

B. Program Committees

There are 15 Program committees: Executive, Elections, Curriculum, Faculty Membership, Admissions and Financial Aid, Recruitment, Placement, Fundraising, Library, Examinations, Language Examinations, Website, Friday Forum, Course Assessment, and Alumni. Executive Committee members are elected by the faculty to serve a three year term. All other committee members are appointed by the EO. A list of committee assignments is distributed toward of the end of the Spring term for the next academic year. Students also serve on most of these committees with equal voting rights.

C. Events

Each week the English Program sponsors a Friday Forum, which bring to the GC internationally recognized scholars, writers, and publishers to discuss a wide variety of literary and cultural topics. Some Forums are devoted to special issues of student/faculty concern, such as financial aid, adjunct teaching, curricular changes, and the education job market. The first Forum of the Fall Semester is generally an orientation session for new students in the Program, and the last one in each semester, the Winter/Spring Revels. Faculty should make effort to attend these events and encourage their students to do so as well. Friday Forums are followed by receptions with food and wine and provide an opportunity for the English Program community to engage with one another. Forums generally take place at 4PM on Fridays, but many occur in conjunction with all-day conferences and interdisciplinary events. 

In addition to workshops as part of the Friday Forum series, the Program holds mock interviews for students/recent graduates on the job market. Late in the Fall semester the DEO for Placement puts out a call to faculty to participate on interview panels. Students sign-up for a 45 minute session (which includes interview and feedback) and provide their CV in advance.

VI. Graduate Center Involvement

A. GC Wide Committees

The governing body of the Graduate Center is the Graduate Council. The Graduate Council meets four times each year and is concerned with such matters as curriculum, degree requirements, standards of admission, academic performance, and program governance. Much of the work of Graduate Council is done through its standing committees. Elections of faculty and student program representatives to Graduate Council are required to be conducted every two years, before April 1, by an election committee in each Program. Other committees of the Graduate Center are the Academic Review Committee (composed of EOs), the Central Faculty Steering Committee (composed of Central Faculty), The Doctoral Faculty Policy Committee, The Interdisciplinary Studies Advisory Committee, The Committee on Committees, The Executive Committee of the Graduate Council, The Curriculum and Degree Requirements Committee, The Committee on Research, The Committee on Structure, The Committee on Student Services, Information Technology Committee, Library Committee, and Student Academic Appeals Committee. Graduate Center faculty also may serve as representatives to The University Faculty Senate.

B. Other Programs

Faculty are encouraged to become familiar with and to make themselves known to other Doctoral ProgramsMasters Programs, and Certificate Programs and to Research Centers and Institutes at the Graduate Center.

Committee on English Program Diversity

Similar to the urban environment in which it resides, the City University of New York has a long history of diversity and, in fact, a continued legacy of including underrepresented communities in its educational forum.  In that tradition, the Graduate Center has a strong commitment to representing the vitality of New York City’s historically diverse and constantly changing intellectual population. While the undergraduate student body at CUNY represents a remarkable and rich mix of backgrounds, the Graduate Center Ph.D. Program in English acknowledges that this same rich array of representation does not yet exist in equivalent numbers at the graduate level. Still, the importance of diversifying our student body  remains a concerted effort of the English Ph.D. program.

With a distinguished faculty of scholars and writers, a dynamic cohort of graduate students, and an abundance of cultural resources in New York City, our graduate program has all of the appeal to attract outstanding applicants with a broad range of viewpoints from around the world. We strive to recruit minority applicants and then nurture their academic concerns, providing them with an environment in which their intellectual interests can thrive and grow.  We work hard to create an intellectual environment where all culturally diverse values are respected and where divergent perspectives can find a voice. Moreover, while the program respects the wealth of personal characteristics informed by race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, gender identification, and linguistic difference, it further wants individuals to explore the nuanced and complex intersectionalities that occur when these aspects of identity are experienced in real life.

As a means of achieving these goals, the Ph.D. Program in English has established a Committee on English Program Diversity, with the aim of addressing the particular absence of racial diversity among the program's student body.  Amplifying some already existing practices, the program plans focused outreach to historically Black and Hispanic-serving academic institutions to familiarize prospective applicants with the program and the Graduate Center, thus expanding the diversity of the applicant pool. Beyond these outreach initiatives, the program will establish even stronger mentoring relationships with all students but with particular mindfulness to the issues that may arise for minority populations in education.

We remain devoted to enhancing our profile as a program committed precisely to the just and equal access to education for all people. The Graduate Center Ph.D. Program in English bases its success on the inclusion of all people from different backgrounds and with divergent insights as a contribution to our intellectual vitality and development.

General Student Resources

Information and Downloads

These resources may be useful in planning and conducting your studies at the Graduate Center.

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