• Home
  • Academics
  • Degrees
  • Graduate Programs
  • M.A.
  • Department Policies and Best Practices


Department Chair: Katie Conrad, kconrad@ku.edu, 785-864-2521

Associate Chair: Jonathan Lamb, jonathanplamb@ku.edu, 785-864-2516

Director of Graduate Studies: Phillip Drake, pdrake@ku.edu, 785-864-3287

Graduate Academic Advisor: Mary Strickell, maryj@ku.edu, 785-864-9438

Office Administrator: Lori Whitten, lwhitten@ku.edu, 785-864-2520

Professionalization & Job Placement Advisor: Misty Schieberle, mschiebe@ku.edu



Key Offices at KU

Your unit’s Director of Graduate Studies or Graduate Academic Advisor is your first stop for any questions related to graduate study or requirements. If you would like to research an issue in advance of speaking with your department or if you still have questions, the following offices can provide assistance:

College Office of Graduate Affairs (COGA)

COGA oversees graduate affairs and administers University policy for programs within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The COGA website contains comprehensive information on requirements and processes pertaining to graduate education at KU. Most common questions can be answered with the information provided there, including questions regarding enrollment changes or forms, University policies regarding exams and committee requirements, and University graduation requirements. The College of Liberal Arts & Sciences' Master’s Hooding Ceremony is coordinated by COGA.

COGA reviews all student petitions of University and College policy, issuing decisions on behalf of the College or referring as required to a faculty committee and/or the Office of Graduate Studies. The more common student petitions relate to Enrollment, Leave of Absence, and Time Limit Extensions.

COGA is a resource if you have questions about petitions or graduation requirements that your department is unable to answer. Refer to the COGA website for current staff contact information.

Office of Graduate Studies

Graduate Studies is the office of the Dean of Graduate Studies at KU. The Executive Council of Graduate Studies sets policies and regulations governing graduate study, and offers various programs for graduate students throughout the year. While COGA should be your first stop for any questions your department cannot answer, you may be referred to Graduate Studies for certain matters, especially for questions about GTA/GRA/GA appointments and policies. The University's Doctoral Hooding Ceremony is coordinated by Graduate Studies.

Graduate Admissions (Within the Office of Graduate Studies)

Contact Graduate Admissions for questions regarding, KU Online Application for Graduate Study, ADMIT system / Prospect, English proficiency requirements, and official transcripts.

Office of the Registrar (OUR)

Contact the registrar for questions related to enrollment (if the question cannot be resolved via the enrollment changes link provided above under COGA), tuition, campus fees, the Academic Calendar, and fee petitions.

Financial Aid

Contact Financial Aid for questions related to the disbursement of scholarships, fellowship award, loans, and FAFSA.


International Student Services (ISS)

Contact ISS for questions related to international students, including enrollment requirements, international student insurance, obtaining a social security card, I-20 questions, and any issue related to

student visas. While other offices on campus such as the AEC, Human Resources, or the Registrar may also handle related matters, because the students’ legal status in the country may be affected, it is recommended that students contact ISS first.

Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE)

The Center for Teaching Excellence (CTE) is a University office dedicated to assisting instructors, including GTAs, to develop effective instructional techniques. The expert staff of CTE can introduce instructors to the pedagogical technology available at the University and help instructors develop new approaches to teaching. CTE specialists work with instructors individually, and also offer a diverse array of workshops and discussions. They also can guide instructors to useful scholarly literature on the subject of college teaching and learning.

Academic Calendar

Please see the Graduate School calendar for deadlines regarding deadlines for graduation, including dates to meet all school and college requirements, application for degree, etc.

General Department Information

The Department of English offers the M.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D. degrees. M.A. students may choose one of three courses of study, while students admitted to the Ph.D. program may tailor their programs to their research and teaching interests. A student may expect to finish the M.A. in approximately two to three years, the M.F.A. in three years, and the Ph.D. in five to seven years beyond the M.A. Students who must find employment while they complete their graduate degrees may need additional time.

The Graduate Program is administered by the faculty of the Department of English. The Voting Department, a body comprised of all full-time, tenure-track faculty, plus representatives of the lecturers and SAGE, approves requirements for the M.A., M.F.A., and Ph.D. in English. The College Office of Graduate Affairs (COGA) of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (CLAS) oversees the student’s completion of all requirements.

In the Department of English, the Graduate Committee, headed by Giselle Anatol, the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), reviews departmental requirements, proposes new policies, and acts on student petitions. The Graduate Admissions Committee is responsible for reviewing applications for admission and recommending students for available fellowships and graduate teaching assistantships (GTAships). The Graduate Director provides first-semester advising, aid in forming exam and thesis committees, and final graduation checks. Graduating students seeking employment may consult, in addition to other faculty, Professor Misty Schieberle, the Professionalization & Job Placement Advisor. Additional information can be provided by the Graduate Secretary, Lydia Ash.

Three graduate student members of SAGE sit as voting members of the Graduate Committee during discussions of general policy. Among the important functions of the Graduate Committee is the consideration of student petitions for the waiver or modification of departmental requirements in individual cases. Such petitions are always discussed carefully, normally by the faculty members of the Committee, and sometimes lead ultimately to changes in Department policy.

SAGE (Graduate Student Organization)

In 1967, students in the Department organized the Student Association of Graduates in English (SAGE) for the purpose of stimulating and coordinating student activity in such areas as curriculum, academic standards, ethics, graduate teaching assistantships, and orientation of new graduate students. All graduate students in English become members of SAGE when they begin their graduate studies, and the association encourages active participation. In addition to an annual picnic at the beginning of the school year, SAGE sponsors colloquia and readings.

SAGE is represented by voting members on the following departmental committees: Advisory, Graduate Committee, First and Second Year English, Graduate Assembly, GTA/Lecturers Committee, Lecturers and Readers Committee, Library Committee, and SAGE Events committee. Other SAGE Officers include Secretary, SAGE Advice Editor, and Treasurer.


Requirements for application are on the English website. International applicants, please pay special attention to the additional materials required for non-domestic students. Students who are interested in applying for non-degree-seeking status should first make an appointment to speak to the Director of Graduate Studies as well as the specific instructor(s) of the class(es) they wish to take before applying.

University-wide policies regarding admissions can be found at the KU Policy Library. Here are policies regarding general admission requirements (such as minimum GPA for regular admission) as well as English proficiency requirements for international students, and transfer coursework.

The deadline for all applications and supplemental materials is December 31. The English department only admits new incoming students for fall semester. Applications that are incomplete or missing materials after the December 31 deadline will not be considered for admission for the following fall semester. Incomplete applications can be held for consideration the following academic year.

Master’s graduates of the KU English program who wish to apply to the KU English Ph.D. program must submit the materials required of any new applicant, including a new application form and fee. The student need not resubmit transcripts that were included in the M.A. application, but the applicant must submit a current KU transcript that shows all M.A. coursework.

If you have application questions that aren’t answered on the website, please contact the Graduate Academic Advisor: Mary Strickell, maryj@ku.edu.

Changing Programs or Tracks Within the Department

A student wishing to switch between programs within the department must write a short letter of application to the DGS, detailing the reasons for the change. (If the change is approved, the letter will be placed in the student’s file.) The application should also include relevant writing samples for evaluation by at least three faculty members in the proposed program (Creative Writing; Rhetoric, Composition, Language Studies; Literature/Literary Theory). These faculty members will be selected by the DGS based on field of study and availability. Students will not be able to switch programs until the completion of their first year of coursework.

For MA students in Rhetoric and Composition: Any student who wants to move from the standard MA program to the Rhetoric and Composition 5-year PhD program must consult with the Graduate

Director and one of the faculty in Rhetoric and Composition for advice about the appropriateness of the accelerated program for that individual student. If the student wishes to proceed with changing programs, the student should submit to a Rhetoric and Composition faculty member an (unofficial) transcript from KU and a sample paper written in a graduate-level Rhetoric and Composition course at KU. The faculty in the field will consult to determine whether the switch of programs is appropriate.

Allowed Courses for Credit

Courses numbered below 600 may not be taken for graduate credit. A maximum of two 600-level classes can count toward one’s graduate degree. Here are the graduate courses in English currently listed in the KU Graduate Catalog. They are broken into fields based on the required fields for the MA exam.

600-level courses

Rather broad coverage of subject-matter areas; little previous knowledge of the field under study expected. These courses include both undergraduate and graduate students.

700-level courses

Coverage is likely to be more intensive, and field somewhat more limited (although not narrowly confined to the instructor’s individual research), than 600-level courses; amount of writing and student participation in class work, much of it reflecting independent study, likely to be greater than in 600-level courses; classes likely to be smaller than in 600-level courses.

800-level courses

ENGL 800 (Methods, Theory, and Professionalism) is designed to introduce graduate students to the history, methods, resources, conventions, and issues peculiar to English studies and to prepare them to go forward in their graduate careers. Its basic divisions are the history and present status of English studies; the nature and analysis of texts; reference sources and bibliographical tools in all areas of English studies; current critical and theoretical approaches to language, literature, and rhetoric. The course is required for entering Ph.D. students who did not have a similar course in their master’s program, and it is one of the courses that can fulfill the theories and methods requirement for the M.A. It is strongly recommended for MFA students who plan to continue in academia. The DGS will decide whether a course taken elsewhere may fulfill this requirement.

Instructors should teach ENGL 800 as a service course. Its focus is the field as a whole (with the exception of creative writing), and the course should benefit students who want a fuller understanding of literary history and criticism, literary theory, composition and rhetoric, and language study. It should not be confined to the instructor’s individual interests.

ENGL 801 (Study and Teaching of Writing) is a survey of major concepts and issues in the study of writing, especially as applied to teaching composition. Practices in writing pedagogy are also discussed, and students’ teaching of composition is observed and explored. Required of, and enrollment limited to, new teachers of English 101. Three credit hours.

ENGL 802 (Practicum in the Teaching of College English) is a practicum concerned with teaching English 102. Includes weekly group meetings, individual conferences, and class visitations. Required of, and enrollment limited to, new teachers of English 102. One credit hour.

ENGL 896 (Internship) on a transcript highlights professionalization experience that can be valuable in academic and non-academic careers. Unlike a graduate certificate, which might require 2 – 3 courses outside of the department, the student gets a credential from the internship but only has to dedicate one course of one to three credit hours. Students can enroll in ENGL 896 with DGS permission after completing one year of graduate coursework. Only one internship for credit can be completed in any single position; in other words, students cannot get credit for a second semester of English 896 if the internship is taking place at the same place and fulfilling the same duties as in a prior semester. Students can apply up to 6 hours of ENGL 896 towards their degree requirements. Because students cannot get paid for internships and are receiving course credit for ENGL 896, they should be able to testify to the educational portion of this experiential learning project. A journal, portfolio, or reflection paper tying the skills gained during the internship back to English graduate study must be submitted to the internship supervisor to receive the final grade. After the student submits the final project to the internship mentor, the mentor submits a short report and grade to the DGS, who will submit the grade.

ENGL 897 (Preparation for the MA Exam) is an independent reading course for students preparing to take the M.A. examination and not otherwise enrolled in the semester of the examination. The grade in the course will be S or U, as determined by performance on the examination. It is not required if the student is already enrolled in coursework the semester they take their exam and/or graduate.

ENGL 899 (MA/MFA Thesis) is required for students who choose the thesis option for their degree.

900-level courses (seminars)

Coverage likely to be quite limited; amount of writing and student participation in class work, a great deal if not all of it reflecting independent investigation, likely to be larger than in 700-level and 800-level courses; classes likely to be smaller than in 700-level and 800-level courses (normal maximum for seminars: twelve students); previous knowledge of the field, normally acquired in formal coursework, essential. ENGL 800 is a prerequisite for all seminars, except with instructor approval.

A seminar should develop:

  • A student’s skill in doing research and formulating and articulating the results of such research.
  • A student’s ability to form an extended critical or scholarly synthesis of materials.

As a challenging intellectual enterprise for advanced graduate students, a seminar will strike some balances:

  • Between the interests, qualifications, and responsibilities of the professor and those of the students.
  • Between independent investigation and group interaction.

ENGL 997 (Preparation for the Doctoral Examination) is a placeholder enrollment for PhD students who are finished with coursework but are not planning to take their exam that semester. There is no formal work required; rather, students use this time to read widely and review intensively, and to consult freely the members of their examining committees and other members of the graduate faculty about appropriate subjects for study.

ENGL 998 (Investigation & Conference) is a graduate-level directed readings course for students working one-on-one or in a small group with a faculty member. Students wishing to enroll must secure the prior approval of the member of the graduate faculty with whom they intend to work and the approval of the Graduate Director. Students may count only two sections of 998 toward their coursework for a degree. ENGL 998 does not count as a seminar.

ENGL 999 (Dissertation) Students should enroll in ENGL 999 for the semester they take their doctoral exam, and every semester excluding summers until they successfully defend their dissertation. Please see the KU Policy Library entry for the 18-hour enrollment requirement regarding hours of 999.

List of Graduate Courses in English

Field A. English Language and Literature in Old and Middle English

610, The Literature of England to 1500 710, Introduction to Old English

712, Beowulf

714, Middle English Literature 720, Chaucer:                             

785, History of the English Language 787, Modern English Grammar

905, Seminar in the English Language:                    

915, Seminar in Medieval English Literature:                          916, Seminar in Chaucer


Field B. British Literature 1500-1800

620, Renaissance English Literature:                          630, 17th Century Poetry and Prose

633, Milton

640, British Literature, 1660-1800:                                             725, Shakespeare:                                    

730, Topics in Early Modern Literature:                 

920, Seminar in Renaissance English Literature:                    926, Seminar in Shakespeare

932, Seminar in Milton

940, Seminar in Restoration and 18th Century British Literature:                


Field C. British and Irish Literature post 1800

650, Romantic Literature:                                              655, Victorian Literature:                                                       

750, British Literature of the 19th Century:                                            760, British Literature of the 20th Century:                                                      764, Modern Irish Literature

767, Studies in Modern Drama:                  (depending on subject) 950, Seminar in 19th Century British Literature:                           

960, Seminar in 20th Century British Literature:                 


Field D. American Literature

767, Studies in Modern Drama:                  (depending on subject) 774, Topics in the Literatures of Africa and African Diaspora 776, American Literature to 1900:                                                                                               

777, American Literature since 1900:                      

779, U.S. Poetries since 1900

970, Seminar in American Literature:                      

971, Seminar in African-American Literature and Culture:                              


Field E. Composition/Rhetoric and Literary Theory

707, Literary Criticism to 1800

708, Literary Criticism after 1800

709, Critical Theory:  Problems and Principles:                      770, Studies in Life Writing:                                  

780, Composition Studies

781, Criticism and the Teaching of Literature

880, Topics in Composition Studies & Rhetoric:                    885, Writing Center Theory and Administration

904, Seminar in Composition Theory

908, Seminar in Literary Criticism:                                            


Other courses which may appear in different fields, depending on subjects 674, African Literature

690, Studies in                                    751, Fiction Writing III

752, Poetry Writing III 753, Writing Workshop

756, Forms:                        

770, Studies in Life Writing:                         

774, Topics in the Literatures of Africa and African Diaspora 790, Studies in                                            

896, Internship

897, Preparation for MA Exam 899, MA Thesis

974, Seminar in the Literatures of Africa & African Diaspora 997, Preparation for the Doctoral Exam

980, Seminar in                                  998, Directed Readings

999, Dissertation


Only grades of A—B are normally taken as indications that a graduate student has done satisfactory work in the courses in which they were received. Please see the KU Policy Library for KU’s letter grade designations for graduate work. Instructors may assign + and - grades, as well as full letter grades. At least a 3.0 average in graduate work is required for the M.A.; a 3.5 average or higher is expected of Ph.D. aspirants.

The grade “I” (Incomplete) is used to indicate work of passing quality in a course, some part of which is, for good reason, unfinished. It is given only by advance arrangement between instructor and student. Some instructors may reserve the right not to give I’s. University policy on Incompletes may be found here. The English department discourages Incompletes except in truly unusual emergency situations; students are advised to make the removal of any I’s on their record a matter of first priority. The accumulation of three Incompletes or the failure to have an Incomplete removed within one year will result in a graduate student falling out of good academic standing and non-reappointment to a graduate teaching assistantship. A grade of I is not appropriate for enrollment in thesis, exam hours, or dissertation and will not be accepted.

The letters SP/LP/NP (Satisfactory Progress/Limited Progress/No Progress) are used to indicate participation in M.A. exam, M.A. or M.F.A. thesis defense, doctoral exam, doctoral dissertation defense, and in the first semester enrollment of a two-semester sequence course. Any combination of two LP/NP grades will result in a student falling out of good standing. The student will not receive reappointment to a GTAship until they return to Good Standing.

Transfer Credit

Students planning to transfer graduate credit from other institutions are urged to secure advance approval from the DGS; in order to have the DGS consider counting this credit, they must submit, to the Department, an official transcript showing the work done elsewhere and graded A or B, and indicating clearly that it was taken for graduate credit while enrolled in a graduate program but was not counted toward a degree. Students may request up to nine hours of transfer credit. Graduate Studies will not accept for transfer:

  1. Courses taken at a university outside of the United States.
  2. Courses from any non-accredited domestic school.
  3. Courses listed as workshops or institutes.
  4. Distance-learning classes.
  5. Courses graded lower than a B.

Academic Integrity, Good Standing, and Academic Misconduct

To be considered in "good standing" in any graduate program, the University requires graduate students to maintain a minimum GPA of 3.0 (or “B” average) and be making timely progress toward meeting their degree requirements. Here is the policy page for additional information on good standing.

According to the University Senate Rules and Regulations (Article II, Section 2.6.1.), “Academic misconduct by a student shall include, but not be limited to, disruption of classes, giving or receiving of unauthorized aid on examinations or in the preparation of notebooks, themes, reports or other assignments, or knowingly misrepresenting the source of academic work.” The Policy Library contains further discussion of university procedures and penalties regarding academic misconduct.

In addition, the departmental Graduate Committee approved the following statement: “Written work done for one class will not be accepted in another class. Questions of interpretation of this rule must be cleared with the instructor in advance. Work submitted for any course is expected to be substantially original (i.e., original with the student) and designed to meet the requirements of the course.”

The accumulation of three Incompletes, or the failure to have any Incomplete removed within one year, will result in a graduate student falling out of good academic standing and in non-reappointment to a graduate teaching assistantship (GTA-ship) for at least one semester until the student returns to Good Standing. The student will not receive reappointment to a GTAship until they return to Good Standing.


Students who receive one LP/NP (Limited/No Progress) grade for ENGL 899, 997, or 999 will receive written notice of the potential of falling out of good standing from the DGS. Any combination of two LP/NP grades will result in a student falling out of good standing. If these two LP/NP grades occur in non-consecutive semesters, the graduate will fall out of good academic standing and in non-reappointment to a graduate teaching assistantship (GTA-ship) for at least one semester until the student returns to good standing by receiving an SP the next semester. If these two LP/NP grades occur in consecutive semesters, the graduate will fall out of good academic standing and in non-reappointment to a graduate teaching assistantship (GTA-ship) for at least two semesters, until the student returns to good standing by receiving an SP in the two subsequent semesters.


If a student falls out of good standing and has not returned to good standing after one semester out of good standing, their name will be forwarded to the College and the student will be put on academic probation for one additional semester. Following the probationary period, the DGS and Graduate Committee senior staff will review the student’s progress. If satisfactory progress has not been made, the student may be dismissed from the program. They can also withdraw voluntarily. If dismissed, the student cannot re-enroll at the university at any point in the future. Voluntary withdrawal maintains a student’s eligibility to re-enroll at a future time. To re-enroll after voluntarily withdrawing, a student must first re-apply to the program and be admitted by the Admissions Committee.


For example:

Spring 2021 Event Outcome
Due to poor perfomance in the Spring 2021 semester, Student B drops out of good standing Student B is placed on academic probation by college, and GTAship is suspended in Fall 2021 semester.
Fall 2021 Student B returns to good standig at the end of the Fall 2021 semester Student B is removed from academic probation and their GTAship resumes in Spring 2022 semester.
Student B fails to return to good standing at the end of the Fall 2021 semester Student B remains on academic probation and GTAship is suspended in Spring 2022 semester. DGS and Gradute Committee senior staff will review Student B's progress.



Advising and Mentoring

Master’s students, during their first year at KU, are advised by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), with whom they are expected to confer about enrollment. Incoming doctoral students will be assigned a faculty advisor by the DGS, who will take into account each student’s preferences as to advisor. At the minimum, the advisor will confer with the new doctoral student about course selection; will assist the doctoral student in developing (or articulating) a specialty; and will suggest avenues for pursuing the student’s professional goals (e.g., suggesting journals or conferences to submit to, fellowships to apply for, etc.). Assignments of doctoral advisors must be evenly distributed among tenured faculty members; junior faculty are permitted, at their choosing, to opt out of advising incoming doctoral students until they are tenured, and should not be asked to advise more than one new doctoral student at a time.

Doctoral students will be assigned advisors during their first two years of study or until they designate a chair for the doctoral exam committee, whichever comes first.

M.A. students are required to find advisors no later than the end of their third semester. MFA students are required to find advisors no later than the end of their second year/4th semester. Advisees are encouraged to meet with their advisors regularly to discuss progress and plans. Each Ph.D. student should confer regularly with the DGS regarding their progress toward the doctoral exam examination and the doctorate.

All committees must get approval from the Director of Graduate Studies before scheduling an exam or defense. Furthermore, any changes in the make-up of the dissertation committee after the Review of the Dissertation Proposal must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies. Similarly, any changes in the make-up of the thesis committee during the semester in which the student plans to defend the thesis must be approved by the DGS.

Mentoring is an extended and ongoing conversation between the student and the graduate advisor— whether about classes, the thesis or dissertation process, professional expectations, or post-graduation plans.

  1. The student and the advisor should clearly outline the expectations for the student’s performance.

Here are some questions you might consider:

  • What is considered good academic progress when preparing for oral exams? What are the key milestones and timelines for completion?
  • What is considered good academic progress toward the thesis or dissertation? What are the key milestones and timelines for completion?
  • What is expected of students in order to prepare for meetings with the advisor/committee members? What is the appropriate way to submit draft materials? Should something written be prepared?
  • What happens if the student doesn’t meet these expectations as discussed and agreed upon with the advisor? (i.e. What might be the short- or long-term consequences?)
  • The student and the advisor should clearly outline the expectations for the advisor.
  • What is the turnaround time on feedback? How frequently should meetings occur? What is the extent of written comments/suggestions for revision? etc.
  • The student and the advisor should establish a realistic timeline for completion of the independent study paper / thesis / dissertation / degree that takes into account past performance, the work that remains, amount of time the student can reasonably dedicate to the work, and any extenuating circumstances or challenges that might affect progress.
  • The timeline and expectations should be revisited regularly (each semester or annually) and adjusted as needed.

Students need have no doubt as to their academic standing and should not hesitate to approach the DGS and appropriate graduate faculty members for counsel about scholarly, academic, or professional matters. In each course, the instructor will be glad to discuss the student’s work with him or her. The same is true of faculty advisors throughout the exam, thesis, and/or dissertation process. Regarding more general questions, the DGS is available for consultation during scheduled office hours and by appointment.

Example of Graduate Mentoring Agreement

Student Name:

Advisor Name:


Milestones and Timeline: Please provide detailed information on the expected steps toward completion of the project, including the various stages of research, drafts, revisions, and final submissions.














Results of Inadequate Progress: If the student does not complete the tasks set out for the semester, will s/he receive a “U” grade? What are the implications of this “U” grade?


Feedback and Revisions: Please explain who will provide feedback to the student and with what frequency. If a committee will provide feedback and review of student progress, please explain what the student should expect of this process.


By signing below, all parties acknowledge that they understand and agree to adhere to the expectations outlined in this Agreement.


Student Signature:                                                                                                          Date:                                                 


Faculty Signature(s):                                                                                                       Date:                                                 

Switching Advisors

Shifts in intellectual interests or interpersonal challenges with an advisor may necessitate changes to a graduate student’s dissertation or thesis committee. This decision should not be made frivolously, however. While academic compatibility is of great importance, not agreeing with an advisor’s feedback would not be considered an acceptable reason for making a switch.

The student’s preferences as to the membership of the dissertation committee will be carefully considered; the final decision, however, rests with the Department and with the Office of Graduate Studies. Please feel free to discuss your decision to change advisors before finalizing it with the DGS or the Director of Graduate Creative Writing. If you feel that you need support from outside of the English Department, consider consulting with the University Ombuds.

In order to formally change advisors, both the former and new advisors must be sent written notice of the change and confirm receipt of this notice with the DGS.

Students need have no doubt as to their academic standing and should not hesitate to approach the DGS and appropriate graduate faculty members for counsel about scholarly, academic, or professional matters. In each course, the instructor will be glad to discuss the student’s work with him or her. The same is true of faculty advisors throughout the exam, thesis, and/or dissertation process. Regarding more general questions, the DGS is available for consultation during scheduled office hours and by appointment.

Professional Development

The Department sponsors events that provide an opportunity for students to gain valuable professional experience through the presentation of a paper, or perhaps a dissertation chapter, before fellow students and faculty. Among these opportunities are periodic conferences and events sponsored by SAGE. Also, the Graduate Director and the Job Placement Advisor, in conjunction with SAGE, organize regular sessions on the job market, alternatives to academic employment, interviewing, getting into print, grant writing, and finances. Students are encouraged to participate, receive important criticism of their work, and prepare for future careers, the presentation of research and creative efforts at scholarly and professional conferences, and/or publication.

Funds for Professional Development

The Travel Funds Committee invites applications from graduate students and part-time lecturers to support professional development activities. Funds are intended to support a trip of significant distance to support your own professional development, such as (in order of preference):

  • Presenting a scholarly paper or reading from your own creative work at a regional or national conference,
  • Conducting research at a library or archive,
  • Engaging in a project at a major workshop or institute, or
  • Serving as principal organizer for a session at a regional or national conference.

Graduate student applicants should first seek support from the Office of Graduate Studies, which maintains funds to help defray expenses for one trip per student for a conference presentation or dissertation research   (http://www.graduate.ku.edu/funding). Applicants for department travel funds are encouraged to submit their materials well in advance, preferably six weeks before the travel dates. Electronic applications (preferably by Word or PDF attachment) are encouraged. Applications should include:

  1. Cover letter detailing the professional activity to be completed, including title(s) of any presentation(s), dates of travel, destination, and an explanation of how the activity will help the applicant meet professional goals for their own work;
  2. Copy of presentation abstract, conference session proposal, or research project description;
  3. Copy of acceptance letter (for conference presentation or session), letter of invitation (for readings or workshops), or information regarding the archival materials to be viewed (for research projects);
  4. Copy of completed coursework.

The Committee urges applicants to write their presentation abstracts or research project descriptions in language accessible to non-specialist readers. We look forward to receiving inquiries and applications at dfowler@ku.edu.

The Angela L. Jones Opportunity Fund, which used to be limited to graduate students focused on technical writing, has now been broadened to include graduate students in rhetoric and composition. The fund is designed to support travel, fees, research, and projects. The student does not have to be presenting a paper at a conference to be eligible. Applicants are encouraged to submit their materials well in advance, preferably six weeks before the travel dates. Electronic applications (preferably by Word or PDF attachment) are encouraged. Applications should include:

  1. Cover letter detailing the professional activity to be completed, including title(s) of any presentation(s), dates of travel, destination, and an explanation of how the activity will help the applicant meet professional goals for their own work;
  2. Copy of presentation abstract, conference session proposal, or research project description;
  3. Copy of acceptance letter (for conference presentation or session), letter of invitation (for readings or workshops), or information regarding the archival materials to be viewed (for research projects);
  4. Copy of completed coursework.

Applicants should write abstracts or project descriptions in language accessible to non-specialist readers. Send inquiries and applications to the DGS.

Grievance Procedures

Should a grievance arise, the student affected should make the circumstances known to the DGS, either directly or through the SAGE Ombuds. If the matter cannot be satisfactorily resolved at the departmental level, the next recourse is the University Ombuds. The last resort is the College Office of Graduate Affairs (COGA). Here are instructions and department policy on filing an official grievance.


If a graduate student has compelling reason to seek exemption from program requirement or University policy, they may submit a petition to the graduate faculty. Petitioners should write a letter, addressed to the graduate faculty, explaining the reasons why the student is seeking exemption from specific rules, as well as how the educational goals the rules reflect will still be fulfilled. Where applicable, this petition should be accompanied by a letter of support from the student's advisor and/or the appropriate supporting materials. The letter should be sent to the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), who then refers the petition to the graduate faculty, which will convene to consider the petition.

In cases where the policy or requirement is a departmental requirement (for example, a course requirement for degree) the graduate faculty will issue a final decision (for example, the student may be exempt from a Ph.D. course requirement based on coursework taken at the M.A. level at a previous institution).

In cases where the policy or requirement being petitioned is a University policy, the graduate faculty will decide whether to support the student’s petition. If the faculty is in support, the department will submit a petition form to the College Office of Graduate Affairs accompanied by supporting materials as required. The petition form specifies the supporting material needed for each kind of petition. These materials must accompany the petition sent to COGA. Additional information regarding the more common University petitions, such as Leave of Absence, Enrollment requirements, and Time Limit Extensions may also be found in the University Policies & Degree requirements section of this document.

In cases where the graduate faculty declines to support a University petition, no paperwork may be submitted to COGA. COGA only accepts student petitions in cases where there is documented departmental support and when the petition itself is submitted by a representative of the department. Students should always consult with the DGS prior to submitting a petition to the graduate faculty to ensure that a petition is necessary and that all the appropriate supporting documentation is accounted for.


Appointment and Reappointment of GTAs

Appointment to a Graduate Teaching Assistantship is based on the candidate’s record as a student and potential as a teacher as suggested by personal qualifications, and, where applicable, successful teaching experience. Usually a student who is a non-native speaker of English may not be considered for appointment unless he or she has been enrolled in graduate course work in the Department of English for at least one academic year and has successfully completed a minimum of 12 hours of such work. Please see the KU Policy Library entry on GRA GTA, and GA appointments.  In the event that graduate teaching assistantships must be terminated for budgetary reasons, a special subcommittee constituted from the Graduate Committee and the Graduate Teaching Assistants and Lecturers Committee will make decisions for individual terminations on the basis of criteria concerning normal progress. Additional information on the appointment and reappointment of Graduate Teaching Assistants is included in the Memorandum of Agreement between the University of Kansas, Lawrence, the Kansas Board of Regents and the Kansas Association of Public Employees (KAPE).

Graduate Teaching Assistants are usually appointed on an annual basis, and their appointment is based on recommendations to the Director of First- and Second-year English and the Department Chair by the Graduate Admissions Committee.  Reappointment is made by the FSE Director, usually on an annual basis. In unusual circumstances, the Director seeks the advice of the Department Chairperson and Graduate Teaching Assistants and Lecturers Committee.

For more information about English department GTA policies, consult the Manual for Teachers.

Evaluation of GTAs

The University’s Performance Evaluations for Graduate Teaching Assistants policy requires that the assessment of the performance of GTAs be based on the job duties assigned to the GTA in his or her contract.

GTAs must be evaluated each semester, and a performance evaluation, including classroom observations and a written performance evaluation, must be completed each year. During the first year of a GTA’s appointment, a documented classroom observation must be conducted during each semester of the academic year. For continuing GTAs, a documented classroom observation must be conducted at least once during the academic year.

In order to give GTAs an evaluation of their work as teachers in a way both helpful to the teachers and manageable for the Department, the Department has instituted a system of Teaching Advisors to supplement the existing academic advisors.

At the beginning of each year after the GTA’s first, the FSE Associate Director, in consultation with the Chair of the Department, will assign each GTA a Teaching Advisor, a member of the full-time faculty whose task will be to become familiar with the work of the GTA, to advise the GTA about teaching issues, and to give feedback each semester about the quality of teaching.

Annual Performance Review System for GTAs

Each year in late spring, the Director and Associate Director of FSE evaluate the performance of all GTAs, based on the reviews  written by Teaching Advisors  or the FSE Teaching Mentor and 802 instructor, student evaluations, and teaching statements or portfolios (optional) provided by the GTAs. If a GTA has taught a summer session, that course will be included in the following academic year’s review. The Directors will rank the GTA’s performance based on the evaluative criteria found on the Graduate Teaching Assistant Evaluation Form.

The performance reviews are due to the Human Resources office by May 31st of each year. GTAs will be sent a copy of the review to sign and return and will receive a finalized, signed copy for their records. If GTAs would like to discuss the performance review, they can make an appointment with the Director or Associate Director of FSE, and the review will be finalized after that appointment.

If performance deficiencies exist (overall rankings of needs improvement), the GTA must meet with the Director or Associate Director of FSE to establish specific performance improvement goals and be counseled in how to achieve them.

A GTA can grieve the results of an evaluation if he or she asserts that the evaluation was based on factors other than job performance and adherence to the University and Kansas Board of Regents policies or if he or she receives an overall evaluation ranking of unsatisfactory. The grievance will be handled in accordance with procedures described in the Memorandum of Agreement and in consultation with Human Resources.

Progress toward Degree

Graduate Teaching Assistants are expected to remain in good standing as graduate students and to proceed toward their degrees. The accumulation of more than three Incompletes or the failure to have an Incomplete removed within one year will result in a graduate student falling out of good academic standing and in non-reappointment to a graduate teaching assistantship. During their term of appointment, GTAs must enroll in no fewer than six graduate credit hours per semester, unless they are doctoral students who have successfully completed eighteen hours of post-exam enrollment.

Time Limits on Appointments

Though reappointment is ultimately subject to thorough annual evaluation, a GTA who has been successful as both teacher and student, and who is making satisfactory progress toward her or his graduate degree in English, may reasonably expect to hold that position within these time limits:

  • A student who is admitted to obtain only a master’s degree has a six-semester limitation on his or her GTA appointments.
  • A student who is admitted to obtain only a doctorate has a fourteen-semester limitation on his or her GTA appointments.
  • A student who is admitted to obtain a master’s degree and is subsequently admitted to obtain a doctorate has a sixteen-semester limitation on his or her appointments.
  • No GTA may be appointed in excess of sixteen semesters.

This policy does not apply to summer session GTA appointments. Semesters in which a student’s sole appointment is as a GRA do not count against the GTA-semester limit.

Voluntary Resignation during a semester, unless it results from an emergency, is a breach of contract. Leaves of absence for medical reasons must be approved by the College Office of Graduate Affairs.

Teaching Load

A half-time Graduate Teaching Assistant in English teaches twelve credit hours (four sections) per academic year; assignments beyond this half-time load are at the discretion of the Provost, and, when available, will usually be offered only to those who are judged to be making good progress toward their degrees and who have demonstrated their excellence as teachers.  Non-teaching assignments through the Departmental budget will be considered equivalent to teaching assignments in proportion to the fraction of equivalent-full-time involvement. Normally, the teaching load is divided equally between the two semesters.  Out-of-state GTAs must teach six hours a semester in order to qualify for the in-state tuition rate. For certification as a full-time student, one of three conditions must be met:

  • enrollment in twelve credit hours
  • enrollment in nine credit hours plus a quarter-time employment as a GTA or GRA
  • enrollment in six credit hours plus a half-time appointment as a GTA or GRA.

Course Assignments

GTAs usually teach English 101 and 102.  After their first two years of employment, they may request assignment to English 203, 209, 210, and 211 as the schedule permits. Sections of 200-level courses will be assigned first to those who have at least two years of experience teaching 101 and 102, who have made adequate academic progress, and who have demonstrated their excellence as teachers. Priority will also be given to PhD, then M. A., then MFA candidates who have not taught a 203 before. Creative writing GTAs are eligible to teach a creative writing workshop in their third year. PhD GTAs in literature, literary theory, and rhetoric and composition are eligible to teach one advanced course in their field during their GTA appointment.

Occasional departures from these guidelines, required by shifts in enrollment patterns, sometimes occur.

Assignments of GTAs to teach upper-level courses

The following criteria should be used to decide which GTAs and lecturers are assigned to teach upper-level courses (which occurs only on those occasions when there are not sufficient faculty to teach a given course). Priority goes to PhD students who:

  1. Have passed their doctoral exams;
  2. Are studying the specific field (312, 332, 466, etc.) or a closely related one;
  3. Have received high merit evaluations of their teaching;
  4. Have not had a previous opportunity to teach an upper-level course.

The Director of Graduate Studies will identify students who meet criteria 1 and 2. Departmental Administrators will then choose students based on criteria 3 and 4.

Departures from guidelines 3 and 4, required by shifts in enrollment patterns, sometimes occur.

Priorities for Appointing GTAs and Lecturers and Assigning Courses

The following priorities are used in determining which GTAs and lecturers are assigned FSE and other relevant courses, presuming competent performance or promise in the classroom.  The number of lines available for GTAships is determined according to budget, enrollments, capacity to train new teachers, and the need to sustain a competitive graduate program.

  1. Incoming graduate students and continuing graduate students who are below the university’s semester- limit of eligibility (including students who have not been but wish to be GTAs), presuming teaching promise, competent performance in the classroom, and timely progress to degree.  This priority reflects the department’s commitment to provide multiple years of support to our incoming graduate students.
  2. Those holding a PhD in English from KU who have completed the doctorate in good time and within the previous year
  3. Doctoral students who have taught beyond the university’s semester-limit of eligibility up to 14 semesters beyond the MA who are making timely progress to the degree. Sections will be awarded according to merit, as judged by the GTAL Committee
  4. Part-time lecturers not covered in the above categories. Sections will be awarded according to merit, as judged by the GTAL Committee.

Training for New Teachers

All new GTAs are required to attend a week-long, pre-semester orientation and to take ENGL 801: The Study and Teaching of Writing and ENGL 802: Practicum in the Teaching of College English during their first year of teaching in the Department. The English 801 requirement may only be waived by approval from the Director of FSE, with evidence of a comparable pedagogical course at another university.

Research Assistantships

Incoming graduate students who are awarded Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA) will be assigned a research mentor by the DGS. In addition to research responsibilities, first-year GRAs take 3 classes (9 credit hours) per semester.

Depending on availability and funding, doctoral students at the dissertation stage may be selected as research assistants, in order to facilitate their research and progress toward the degree. Students must be assigned to a faculty mentor, whom they are expected to assist with research. Research not directly related to the student’s dissertation may be minimal in many cases and is at the discretion of the faculty mentor and GRA. Students are expected to benefit and learn from assisting with the faculty mentor’s research as well as having more time to work on their own research without the pressures of teaching.

Students who are working towards a PhD may also apply to the Graduate Committee for a year-long, dissertation-stage research assistantship, using a form to be supplied by the DGS near the end of the Fall semester and again in the middle of the Spring semester. Applicants must have completed their doctoral exams and the Review of Dissertation Proposal before the GRAship begins the following Fall. The applications are evaluated by faculty members of the Graduate Committee on the basis of how much progress the student has already made toward the degree and whether or not the research assistantship is likely to facilitate degree completion. All things being equal, students who have never received the assistantship will be given preference. GTAs and Lecturers who are not granted the assistantship but applied for it receive official notification indicating why they did not receive it so that they can make the changes necessary to be eligible in the future.

Policy resources for GTAs and GRAs

Benefits policy and list of benefits for Graduate Assistants

Health Insurance

HR Pay system login page

Paychecks are available to view in HR/Pay the Monday before a pay day. If using the system for the first time, the system will need to register the login and then go through an update before any information is accessible. Log in and then log out. Wait a few hours and then log in again. The system has registered you as a user when the main home page menu shows the Self Service option. Navigate to Self Service, then select View Paychecks. Current deductions and direct deposit information may also be viewed and updated via the HR/Pay system.


Summer Research Fellowship

The Department can nominate two applicants (an official nominee and an alternate) to Graduate Studies each year for this fellowship. The Graduate Committee will accept and judge applications for the Summer Research Fellowships in the Spring semester. For this award, Graduate Studies gives preference to students from underrepresented groups who are actively writing dissertations. Students apply internally on their own behalf by submitting a C.V. and a letter describing the project and its significance, outlining the proposed research plan for the fellowship period. Once the nominees are chosen, a faculty member (usually the dissertation director) will be asked to write a letter on the nominee’s behalf.

Leaves of Absence

In extenuating circumstances, students may petition for a leave of absence—typically for one semester or one academic year. However, after an absence of five years a doctoral aspirant or candidate loses status as such and must apply for readmission to the program. In addition, please note that the Office of Student Financial Aid marks the timeline for Satisfactory Academic Progress as starting from the first day of enrollment.


All English GTAs and first-year graduate students have a mailbox. Non-teaching graduate students who wish to keep their mailbox after their first year must request one from the Graduate Secretary. These mailboxes should be checked frequently, and they should not normally be used for the transmission of valuables or confidential communications, since they cannot be locked. Graduate students should keep the departmental office and Registrar informed of any changes in their names, mailing addresses, and e- mail addresses.

Graduate students may use departmental stationery for professional correspondence such as letters regarding participation in conferences and submission of articles for publication. The Department will also pay for mailing articles to journals. Leave items to be mailed in the appropriate outgoing basket, and office staff will apply the postage. Please be prudent in order to conserve supplies and to avoid impropriety. Using State property for private benefit is illegal.

Department Loan Fund / Emergency Fund

The Kansas University Endowment Association manages a small English Department Student Loan Fund. Graduate students in English, as well as undergraduate English majors, may borrow up to $500, interest free, for periods up to a year from this fund, as long as the money lasts. Potential borrowers should speak to the department chair about their needs. The chair will ascertain if these can be met from available resources at any given time, and will write the necessary note of introduction to KUEA.


Grants enable students to take time away from teaching to focus fully on the dissertation project and speed time toward degree. Grant-writing may also strengthen the dissertation proposal, parts of the dissertation itself, or the cover letters and abstracts for the academic job market. Grant-writing experience looks enticing to employers outside of the academy as well. Consider crafting a list of possible grant and fellowship opportunities early in the academic year, since deadlines are set as early as October, and the proposal writing process often involves intensive revision and polishing. See the Office of Graduate Studies webpage on internal and external resources and the Hall Center for the Humanities page to get started.

Committee Make-up

MA Exam committees:

  • Chair (from within the department) + 2 faculty members
  • No Graduate Studies Representative (“GSR”) required.

MA Thesis Defense committees:

  • Chair (from within the department) + 2 faculty members
  • No Graduate Studies Representative (“GSR”) required.

MA Portfolio committees:

  • Chair (from within the department) + 2 faculty members
  • No Graduate Studies Representative (“GSR”) required.

MFA Thesis Defense committees:

  • Chair (from within the department) + 2 faculty members
  • No Graduate Studies Representative (“GSR) required.​

Doctoral Exam committees: (formerly called “Comps” or “Comprehensive Exam”)

  • Chair (from English Dept) + 3 faculty members + 1 Grad. Studies Representative (“GSR”)

Review of Dissertation Proposal (RDP) committees:

  • Chair (from within the department) + 2 or 3 faculty members (usually from Exam Cmte)
  • No Graduate Studies Representative (“GSR”) required.

Dissertation committees:

  • Chair (from within the department) + 3 faculty members
  • Typically the same committee members from the RDP + 1. The 4th  reader, who may or may not be as deeply involved as the central 3 members from the RDP, may or may not attend and participate in the RDP.

Dissertation Defense committees:

  • Dissertation Committee + Grad Studies Rep
  • (i.e. Diss. Chair + 3 faculty members + non-English faculty member)

The Graduate Studies Representative does not need to be a specialist on some aspect of the student’s project; the GSR does not even need to READ the project. This faculty member’s role is NOT to provide feedback and expertise; it is to ensure FAIR EXAM PRACTICES (e.g. that the student is not bullied; that junior faculty are not unfairly pressured to vote against or in favor of a student’s passing; etc.)

Thesis and Dissertation Defenses

If a student wants to have as a committee member a person outside the university, or a person who is not in a full-time tenure-track professorship at KU, the student must contact the graduate secretary as early as possible. Applications for special graduate faculty status must be reviewed by the College and Graduate Studies. Requests for exam/defense approval will not be approved unless all committee members currently hold either regular or special graduate faculty status.

After a successful defense, Master’s students and Doctoral students must submit their theses and dissertations in an electronic version to fulfill graduation requirements. Instructions and guidelines for submitting the thesis in may be found at the Graduate Studies ETD (Electronic Thesis and Dissertation) website. Please see the Embargo policy for information on how to delay digital publication of your thesis or dissertation.

It is the responsibility of the student to bring to their thesis defense a printed copy of the Title Page and Acceptance Page. These two pages must be signed by the appropriate committee members and submitted to the College Office of Graduate Affairs (COGA) by the deadline for graduation. The correct format and layout for these are on the Graduate Studies website.

Students cannot bring snacks, drinks, treats, or gifts for committee members to an exam or defense. Professors should avoid the appearance of favoritism that may occur if they bring treats to some student exams/defenses but not others.

Post-Degree Employment

During the summer before the academic year in which a graduate student plans to apply for full-time teaching or non-teaching positions, they should make their availability and particular needs known to the Professionalization & Job Placement Advisor (PJPA)–the faculty member in the Department primarily responsible for helping graduate students find employment. After one or more such conversations, each candidate should register with the University Placement Office in the Burge Union, and file copies of their curriculum vitae or resume with the PJPA. The Department is notified of many job openings and will make such notices available to interested and qualified graduate students who are known to be looking for positions; in order to get on the list of job seekers, the candidate should contact the PJPA. They regularly posts e-mail notices of job openings to those on the list. The Department also offers access to the on-line Job Information List published by the MLA.

It seems fairly clear that, for the foreseeable future, those who confine themselves exclusively to traditional literary specialties will have a relatively hard time finding teaching positions. Those applying for academic jobs should carefully consider the advantages of doing some work in fields like education, journalism, speech and drama, film, linguistics, rhetoric and composition, English as a second language, or foreign languages, since many positions call for candidates proficient in more than one subject.

Many English graduate students who do not want to pursue an academic career find rewarding positions in business, industry, non-profits, and government, all of which remain extremely interested in job seekers with the skills afforded by an English degree. However, students seeking such employment should be aware of the requirements and expectations of the non-academic world. For information, contact the PJPA and/or visit the University Placement Center.

It is impossible to generalize about some of these questions. The best advice is to work as closely as possible with the PJPA and to use the information about employment that the Department makes available.

Best Practices for Chairs and Committee Members

It is important that committee members give students timely feedback on their dissertation work, as well as exam lists, drafts of Reviews of Literature, dissertation proposals, and grant proposals. Generally speaking, items should be returned with comments within two to three weeks—this includes items submitted near the end of the spring semester. Students should be able to progress with confidence through the summer. It is also helpful to schedule a meeting with the student to discuss revisions of each chapter. Such a meeting provides more extensive feedback, and also sets a de-facto deadline by which the chapter will have been read.

Committee members should be honest and straightforward with graduate students about the degree of revision required before a chapter would be ready to defend. If students ask for an assessment of whether a chapter (or the dissertation as a whole) has been revised satisfactorily, committee members should be willing to offer a candid assessment of this.

As the final oral defense approaches, dissertation directors need to be offering their advisees feedback not just on necessary (or desirable) revisions but on whether the director feels the dissertation is close to ready to defend. Directors do their students no favors by being reassuring as the defense date approaches at the expense of a clear-sighted assessment of readiness. If a student is producing substantial new writing at the last minute, or is producing revisions which have not had time to be properly vetted by the committee, the defense date should, in all likelihood, be postponed. Also see the Advising and Mentoring section of the handbook.

this week's Departmental News Bulletin
information about First and Second Year English
information about Undergraduate Degrees
information about Graduate Degrees
Faculty Profiles
Course Listings
Follow us:

Twitter Facebook 

Facebook Feed
Twitter Feed