As described in the “About the Graduate Program” page, USC English is committed not just to instructing students, but to providing them with the skills, knowledge, and experience required to succeed in the profession.
Students have the opportunity to progress through a series of 2- and 4-credit seminars that focus on aspects of professionalization from the beginning to end of the Ph.D. program. Upon enrolling in the fall semester, all students are required take English 501: Introduction to Graduate Study: Critical Methods and Practice I, a team-taught course designed to expose students in both the literature and the creative writing tracks to critical methodologies, recent theories, and debates in the field, as well as introduce them to issues of professional development that reach from publication to conferences. An advanced elective version of this course, English 601, explores specific issues in methodology and practice. Designed to prompt students to consider the academic choices and future for which their project is slotting them, English 700: Theories and Practices of Professional Development I, focuses on the development of the dissertation prospectus and the construction of one’s field areas in preparation for the qualifying examination process.
The Scholarly and Professional Development Institute for doctoral students, sponsored by the USC Graduate School, is a semester-long program offered for a selected interdisciplinary cohort. The Institute is open to all USC doctoral students. For more information about the application, requirements, expectations and opportunities, please see the Graduate School website.
The Graduate School also offers seminars and presentations throughout the semester. Previous seminars include: “Developing an (Inter)National Academic Presence,” “Building an Academic Online Presence & Strategies for Using Scholarly Social Media,” and “Writing the Job Market Package: Cover Letters & Personal Statements.” More information about dates and seminar topics are available here. Space is limited; early registration is recommended.
Dissertation Working Groups are small discipline-focused groups of 6 to 8 advanced doctoral candidates at the post-data collection stage. DWGs are split into thematic groups, including Humanities and Enhancing Diversity in Graduate Education – Interdisciplinary, as well as other groups.
Ten-week workshop programs are also available to doctoral students. Attendees are taught various strategies through mini-lecturers, group work, and independent self-paced assignments.
Most important, however, in the student’s career training is the placement seminar, English 701: Theories and Practices of Professional Development II, offered every fall semester by the placement director (a faculty member who is invested in graduate education and works closely with the graduate director). English 701 rigorously trains the student in the sets of skills and materials needed to succeed in the competitive job market.
This training is completed in December by practice interviews and succeeded in the spring semester by practice job talks and teaching practicums. Without exception, our students rave about this part of their training, which includes many hours of one-on-one instruction with the placement director as well as in-class training that involves most members of the faculty. The results are clear in the greatly increased number of MLA interviews, campus fly-back visits, and tenure-track placements our Ph.D. students have garnered in the last four years. Travel to the annual MLA meeting for job interviews is funded by the department up to a set amount.
Another aspect of USC English that enhances our students’ career possibilities are the workshops we hold on publication. Over the past five years we have invited a number of prominent scholars and editors to hold day-long workshops with our students geared to transforming their essays into publishable articles, as well as their dissertations into books. In recent years our visiting experts have included Nancy Armstrong (Brown University, editor of Novel, editorial board of PMLA), Catherine Gallagher (UC Berkeley and editor of Representations), LeAnn Fields (editor of University of Michigan Press), Donald Pease (Dartmouth College), and Helen Tartar (editor at Stanford UP). These seminars have resulted in publications as well as conference paper acceptances.
Student-run National Conference
The department also encourages graduate students to participate in professional conferences in two ways. First, it funds travel to conferences for all students presenting papers or for job interviews up to a set amount. Second, it funds an annual conference hosted by the Association of English Graduate Students (AEGS), where students learn invaluable skills in choosing a conference topic, planning and organizing panels and events, inviting keynote speakers, and facilitating intellectual exchange. This popular event caps the spring semester of every year. Previous years’ topics have included:
“Trans–: Negotiations and Resistance”
“The Judgment of Beauty: Beauty’s Role in Contemporary Criticism”
“Contamination: Sites of Contagion, Transgression and Transformation”
“Monster and Critic: Transactions Among Arts, Critique, Culture(s)”
“Room for Play: Theater, Drama, Performance”