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9. FAQs

How do I approach faculty members in other units?

Graduate students in Comparative Literature frequently work with faculty in other units, and most faculty are pleased (and eager) to work with our graduate students.  The SSvC has a list of faculty members who have served on dissertation committees in Comparative Literature over the past decade, and you can ask other graduate students about faculty members they have worked with as well. The best way to develop a working relationship with faculty members is to take their seminars.  The DGS may suggest names of colleagues working in your areas of interest, and you can visit these faculty members in person during office hours or email to set up an individual appointment.  Tell them about your interests, find out what courses they are teaching now and in the future, ask them for reading suggestions, and make an effort to attend public presentations or discussion groups in which they participate. You can also ask Comparative Literature faculty if they might recommend possible mentors, and perhaps introduce you to colleagues in person or by email.  If you would like to approach a faculty member in another unit about the possibility of serving on your committee for the Preliminary Examination, Topics Paper, or Prospectus, it is a good idea to bring information about the Milestones in Comparative Literature, so that they understand the structure of our program and the role of committee members.  

What kind of mentoring should I expect from faculty members?

In addition to academic advising coordinated through our department (see 2.1 Academic Advising), Rackham is a good resource for general information on academic issues.

For advice on communicating effectively with faculty mentors, see How to Get the Mentoring You Want: A Guide for Graduate Students.

What should I do if a faculty member is on leave?

Faculty members are expected to stay in contact with graduate students they are advising, although they may be less available than usual during research leave.  If the chair of your committee is preparing to go on leave, you should ask what is the best way to communicate on a regular basis, and make a plan for touching base.  If you are scheduling a committee meeting, it should be possible in most cases to make arrangements for committee members to participate remotely.  However, faculty leaves sometime necessitate changes in committees, or the appointment of a replacement committee member. When this is necessary, contact the DGS to resolve such difficulties.

Can I take an undergraduate course for graduate credit?

In some departments, 400-level courses may be listed by Rackham for credit; check the Rackham Bulletin.  You should also confirm with the DGS and with the faculty member teaching the course to make sure this course is at the appropriate level for you. However, it is not possible for students in our doctoral program to take 400-level courses in Comparative Literature for graduate credit. 

Can I continue taking seminars after I have finished my required coursework?

Yes, if you have a fellowship or a GSI appointment that covers tuition, you can take additional seminars for credit (usually no more than one per semester).  

Where can I find help with academic writing?

The English Language Institute has programs for students learning English as a second language. Sweetland Writing Center has peer tutoring programs to help graduate students with academic writing and coordinates dissertation writing groups as well. 

How do I demonstrate advanced proficiency in a language?

Students can satisfy the Department’s advanced language proficiency requirement in one of the following ways: 1) by completing at least one graduate or advanced undergraduate course offered by the department that teaches the language at UM, provided that a substantial portion of the reading and discussion is conducted in that language; 2) by teaching the language as a GSI; 3) by passing a translator’s exam administered by the ATA or comparable organization; or, if none of the above options are available, and at the discretion of the DGS and the student’s principal advisor, 4) by taking an advanced language exam (comprised of reading, writing, speaking, and listening components) administered by a faculty member at UM who has native or near-native command of the language in question. The student is exempt from this requirement if she/he is a fully proficient native speaker of the language.

Can I start a new language during my graduate studies?

Yes. It is not unusual for students who have already achieved advanced proficiency in two languages to begin working on a language that is relevant to their research interests, either before or after achieving candidacy.  Student may pursue intensive studies in a new language by registering for undergraduate courses at the University of Michigan, attending summer language programs, or pursuing study abroad. Bear in mind, however, that language training and maintenance, including the acquisition of new languages, is often a part of one’s lifelong professional development. Don’t assume that you must acquire every skill or explore every field in graduate school. Instead, focus on those areas that best serve your immediate research goals.

Can I change the composition of my faculty committee?

Yes.  Students can (and often do) change the configuration of their committees as they progress through the Milestones.  With the completion of each Milestone, students should confirm with members of their faculty committee that they are willing and able to continue serving on the committee.  Please note, however, that final changes in the committee for the doctoral dissertation must be filed at Rackham at least six months before the doctoral defense.  

Are there any programs that allow me to be a guest student at another university?

Students may apply for permission to take courses at a Big Ten University or the University of Chicago.  They should confer with the DGS before applying. More info can be found HERE

When should I start attending conferences?

Usually students begin by participating in graduate student conferences, organized on campus or at other universities. Second-year students have an opportunity to practice presenting conference papers in COMPLIT 601, and they can gain more experience by participating in CLIFF.  As students embark on dissertation research they may benefit from presenting their work at conferences in their areas of interest.  Many students have enjoyed the opportunity to participate in three-day seminars at the annual meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association. For more advanced students who are preparing for the job market, submitting abstracts for MLA panels is also a good professional experience. 

When should I think about articles for publication?

Students should confer with their dissertation committees about the possibility of preparing an excerpt from a chapter for publication; it is good to have an article under review or accepted for publication before going on the job market. 

Can I receive a Master’s Degree in Comparative Literature?

Comparative Literature does not offer a terminal Master's Degree Program. Students may request an embedded Master of Arts degree as they pursue the Ph.D. They must have finished the following requirements - 30 credit hours distributed over the following areas: (1) the major field; (2) the minor field; and (3) CompLit 600-601. All requests must be reviewed and approved by the graduate committee.

What is the time limit for completing a doctoral degree?

Rackham stipulates that students are expected to complete the degree within five years of achieving candidacy, but not more than seven years from the date of the first enrollment in their Rackham doctoral program.  Graduate programs may request an unconditional one-year extension for students deemed to be making satisfactory progress toward the degree, providing a plan and timeline for completion.  A program may request an additional one-year extension, but a student who does not complete the degree after two years of extension may be returned to pre-candidacy status and required to meet candidacy requirements again.  Rackham will notify graduate programs of students who have not completed their degree within the stipulated period.  

Where can I find a place to study on campus?

In addition to the Comparative Literature Graduate Student Lounge (2014 Tisch) there are study rooms available at Rackham Graduate School.  Students may also request individual carrels at the Hatcher Graduate Library. Students who are teaching courses in Comparative Literature are assigned GSI offices to share along the Comp Lit corridor, and if you are teaching in other units you may also have access to office space. 

Where can I learn more about library resources?

The Comparative Literature Library Liaison (Barbara Alvarez) is available to introduce graduate students to databases and other resources for research at the University of Michigan libraries.