Getting Started as a Grad Student

Admitted Students

This section offers a short primer on beginning the English graduate program at Mizzou. It details the administrative tasks that a new student needs to take care of in the summer before starting the program and in the first few weeks of the first semester. For more information about moving to Columbia, consult the “Living in Columbia” page at the MU Graduate Studies website. For more information about the requirements of the degree program, consult the "MA Program" and "PhD Program" sections of this website.

Before Arriving on Campus

MU Username (Pawprint)
Your pawprint allows you to register for classes, check grades, access email and do a variety of other things. It will be one of the first things you will need to get after being admitted to MU. 

Health Insurance
Graduate students should enroll in a health insurance plan. Information about MU's insurance requirements and insurance plan. Insurance for children and spouses is also available. Fees are paid by year or semester.  

Graduate students with a ½ time assistantship (20 hours per week) are eligible for a health insurance subsidy. However, subsidies are not automatic. In order to activate a qualified health insurance subsidy, contact coordinator Karen Gruen or visit 210 Jesse Hall.  

Required Immunizations
Make sure you meet all medical requirements to ensure you can enroll at MU.  

Transportation Options

English Department Payroll
Paula Fleming, the department’s Fiscal Officer, processes payments for graduate students who are teaching or research assistants. She will contact incoming students with information about being added to the department’s payroll. If you have any further questions, she can be reached at flemingp@missouri.edu.

Online Bill
The MU Cashier's office allows you to view and pay your bill online.

Course Selection
All incoming students should sign up for 3 courses at 3 credit hours per course, for a total of 9 hours.  

All incoming graduate students must take the 1 credit hour 8005 class (Introduction to Graduate Study) in addition to their 3 credit hour courses. 8005 is taken in both the fall and spring semesters of the first year.  

Descriptions of upcoming courses can be found here. 8000-level courses are graduate courses. 4000-level courses can also be taken for graduate credit if they are cross-listed as 7000-level courses. (See requirements for individual degree programs for the number of 7000-level courses that can be taken.)  

Registration through MyZou for incoming students begins for incoming students in June.  In order to register, you will need a PIN number that will be sent to you from the Graduate School. Please contact  Victoria Thorp for questions regarding registration.  

For English 8510, Advanced Writing of Fiction; English 8530, Advanced Writing of Poetry; or English 8520, Advanced Writing of Nonfiction Prose, you will need to contact Victoria Thorp to obtain a consent number.

Course Selection for Incoming MA and MA/PhD Students
In selecting courses for your first semester, keep in mind the MA requirements for your particular specialty (Creative Writing, Literature, Folklore, etc.) and the need to distribute courses among time periods and among national literatures. MA students take English 8010, Theory and Practice of Composition, in the first semester of their first year.

Incoming MA and MA/PhD students are advised by the Director of Graduate Studies about the choice of courses and the processes for fulfilling course distribution requirements.  

Course Selection for Incoming PhD Students
Courses required for PhD completion that can be taken in the first year:

  • A course either in the structure of the English language (English 4600/7600, English 8600) or in the historical aspects of the English language (English 4610/7610, English 4200/7200). (If an equivalent course has not been taken at another institution.)
  • A course in literary criticism (English 8050, 8070).
  • PhD students who are teaching English 1000 take English 8010, Theory and Practice of College Composition, in the first semester.

PhD students are advised by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) until they form their PhD committees (see "Advisor Selection" and "Committee Selection").  

Books for Classes
Textbooks can be purchased at the University Bookstore, ordered online, or purchased from retail vendors. To locate required texts, go to the online locator and search by course and semester.

Arriving on Campus

Mizzou ID Cards (TigerCard)
The TigerCard is used for checking out library books, using the recreation center, charging, debiting university purchases to your university account, and more. You can get your card at the MU Bookstore in the MU Student Center as soon as you're officially enrolled as a student.  

Graduate Student Orientation
The Graduate Student Orientation for all new students occurs the week before classes each fall.  Check out the MU Graduate Studies website for more information.

Department Orientation
There is a mandatory orientation the week before classes start. Victoria Thorp will send a schedule with the orientation dates to incoming students early in the summer. Orientations specific to the degree program are held for MA, MA/PhD, and PhD students. 

Composition Orientation
The Composition Program sponsors a mandatory, week-long orientation two weeks before classes start for teachers new to our composition program. 

Further Information:  Who To Ask

Director of Graduate Studies for Advising
Professor Emma Lipton is currently the Director of Graduate Studies for Advising (DGS). The DGS is the faculty member, usually appointed for a term of three years, who chairs meetings of the Graduate Studies Committee and serves as a liaison between the English Department and the University of Missouri's Graduate School. For your first year in the program—or until you settle on an MA thesis or PhD adviser—the DGS serves as your academic adviser, and can help you with choosing courses, thinking through your program of study, and any other matter of academic or administrative concern. Dr. Lipton's email address is LiptonE@missouri.edu. Dr. Lipton holds regular office hours during the term, or you can schedule an appointment with her.

Graduate Studies Secretary
Victoria Thorp is the Graduate Studies Secretary. Victoria handles a number of things of crucial importance to you, including registration for graduate courses when permission of the instructor is required, book orders for the classes you teach, and general advice on how to do things. She is knowledgeable and experienced, and she will be of help to you throughout your career. Her office is Tate 114, in the complex of offices on the first floor of Tate Hall. Her phone number is 573-882-4676, and her email address is ThorpV@missouri.edu.

Financial Officer
The Financial Officer, Paula Fleming, handles the budget for the department and processes the payment of graduate students who are teaching or research assistants. She recommends that incoming students contact her as soon as possible upon deciding to attend Mizzou. The standard first payment for the year occurs at the end of September which will be, for many of you, a long time to wait to get paid. If you are able to get your documentation in order by the beginning of the summer, you may be able to be paid a half paycheck at the end of August. This will require a face-to-face meeting at which you produce proof of your legal right to work in the United States, including such documentation as a driver's license, passport, or social security card. In addition, she will have to take a photocopy of your original social security card for department records. Please do contact her as soon as possible to arrange for paying you and to answer other financial questions you might have about studying in the department. Her phone number is 573-882-6918, and her email address is flemingp@missouri.edu

Administrative Structure
Once you are on campus, you will have to negotiate a sometimes perplexing array of staff members, faculty members, and administration. What follows is a very short description of the place of the English Department in the university, along with a description of department members you might encounter. The English Department at Missouri—as at many universities—is one of the largest departments in the humanities sector of the College of Arts and Science. (Note that Mizzou's college is "Arts and Science" rather than the more usual "Arts and Sciences.") The Dean of Arts and Science is the main administrative officer for A&S. The Office of Graduate Studies, however, is a separate administrative unit and has oversight over all graduate programs at the university. You will have used the Graduate Studies web site to put through your online admission form to the university, and their academic advisers and financial aid offers will be important contacts for you in your years on campus.

The Chair of the English Department—usually elected by the faculty and appointed by the Dean of Arts and Science—is Professor Alexandra Socarides. Students will often work closely with the other main faculty administrators in the department: the Associate Chair, Stephen Karian; the Director of Composition, Becca Hayes; the Director of Undergraduate Studies, Samuel Cohen; and the Director of Creative Writing, Anand Prahlad.

The best advice any of us can give is: when in doubt, don't hesitate to ask! And the best places to start would be Victoria Thorp and the DGS.

Advisor Selection

A good working relationship with an advisor is one of the most important building blocks to successful completion of an academic degree and to finding satisfying employment as a teacher and scholar. The advisor guides students through the qualifying examination, provides crucial advice for a student’s plan of study, helps with topics for the comprehensive examination, and, finally, works closely with students as they research and write dissertations or theses. Advisors will help students select internal and external members of examination and thesis/dissertation committees.

Upon entering the English Department, students will be advised by the Director of Graduate Studies. Through individual meetings and in English 8005, the DGS will help students prepare to approach potential advisors. Students planning to write an MA thesis and all PhD students should research potential advisors in their first semester by taking classes in their fields of interest, talking with experienced graduate students, and consulting with the DGS. Early in the second semester of their study students should meet with potential advisors to determine academic compatibility. Students will need to find an advisor working in their primary area of concentration. This primary area will consist of some combination of historical period, genre, and approach and should be reflected in professional associations and in the annual job listings published by the Modern Language Association. It is crucial to be prepared to meet the recognized categories of inquiry in the profession. Within these areas of primary interest, most students will choose among a number—albeit a small number—of potential faculty mentors. In some cases, students will change fields on account of excellent experiences in their first year of graduate study. We encourage this kind of exploration, especially when it coincides with finding an appropriate mentor. Here are some further issues to consider in regards to potential advisors:

  • Does the faculty member share methodological interests with the student? If not, is the faculty member willing to learn enough about the preferred methodology to provide useful dissertation writing advice?
  • Does the faculty member have the time to work with the student?
  • Does the faculty member have tenure? There is nothing wrong with choosing an untenured assistant professor as an advisor, but one should be aware of a couple of things:

o Untenured faculty spend much of their time astering teaching and working on their research in order to obtain tenure.

o Even if an assistant professor is enthusiastic and willing, he or she might not have institutional knowledge at hand.

o The faculty member might not obtain tenure or might leave for another position.

  • Will the faculty member be retiring before completion of degree?

When scheduling a meeting with a potential advisor, a student should go to her or his office prepared to discuss both the topic and the methodology that the student desires to pursue. One might put together a one or two page research proposal detailing the broad questions one hopes to answer with her or his research and the means by which research questions will be addressed. The better prepared the student is, the better chance a faculty member will be eager to work with the student.

If a faculty member departs for another position, the DGS and the departing faculty member will work with the student to locate another advisor. The departing faculty member may agree to continue serving on the dissertation committee, but the student will have to find another primary advisor.

Faculty members are under no obligation to work with particular students. The DGS will help students having difficulties with finding an appropriate advisor, but the English Department cannot guarantee that students will have the advisor of their choice. Similarly, if a good working relationship cannot be continued between a student and an advisor, the DGS will facilitate finding a new advisor for that student and, if necessary, mediating between student and faculty member.

For further information, please see the Graduate School's Guidelines for Good Practice in Graduate Education.

Selecting a Program Committee

A student's program committee - whether an MA thesis committee or a PhD examination and dissertation committee - provides the broad academic advising that will ensure success in the field. Committee members should be chosen in conjunction with the faculty advisor. Students should begin approaching potential faculty committee members by the end of their first year in the program. The committee is registered with the Graduate School with the M-2 form or the D-1 form. The M-2 form, for an MA thesis committee, should be filled out by the end of the first year in the program. The D-1 form is signed at the meeting between student and committee that meets the Graduate School's requirement for a qualifying examination. This meeting takes place by the end of the first year of the PhD program.

MA Committees

The MA Committee consists of at least three members, including two faculty members from the English department and one MU faculty member from outside of the English department.

PhD Committees

The PhD Committee consists of at least four members, including one MU faculty member from outside of English. If an English professor has a dual appointment and is on the graduate faculty in another department, then the professor may serve as an outside committee member.

In the case of PhD committees, members should cover both prospective primary and secondary fields for the comprehensive examination. The faculty advisor will be helpful in choosing members of the committee both from the English Department and the one outside member that each committee must have. It is customary to defer to the expertise of the faculty advisor in choosing a committee, but in cases in which the student and advisor are at odds over the composition of the committee, final choice lies with the student (although an advisor can choose not to work with the student). Be warned that a committee that doesn't cohere will have a difficult time advising a student. Students can fill out a form to change the composition of the committee, to be signed by the new committee member and the Director of Graduate Studies. Forms are available in the Graduate Studies office.

The student will in most cases depend on the program committee for letters of recommendation when applying for a job. Therefore, it is usually wise to include as many faculty as possible with expertise (and contacts) in one’s field of interest. Building a committee involves a delicate balancing act: the student will want to include supportive faculty members who can give useful criticism on writing and help build readings lists and bibliographies.

University Resources

The following is a list of departmental and university-wide resources that will help students negotiate arrival to campus and survival as teachers and scholars. Many of the resources below include information on money for research and travel to conferences to present research, as well as information regarding many of the organizations on campus and sponsored by the Graduate School.

Teaching Support

MU offers a number of programs that support new teachers, including

  • Preparing Future Faculty: PFF organizes programs each year for graduate students to hone their teaching. Participation is a privilege and is well worth pursuing. This involves GRS 9010 and 9020 for 1 credit hour each semester. PFF Fellows visit a mentor at a partner institution 1-2 times per semester, and participate in monthly class meetings and professional development/career workshops.
  • Minor in College Teaching: This program provides professional accreditation for teaching and involves 12 credit hours beyond major program; 6 hours of core courses, 3-6 hours of Teaching Practicum, 3 hours of Teaching Electives, Teaching Portfolio.
    • Educational Technologies at Missouri (ET@MO): Online early feedback, Course management tools (Blackboard & Web CT), Web page design assistance for courses, Instructional design, Access to resources on instructional technology.
    • Campus Writing Program: Workshops for TA’s in Writing Intensive courses, Resources on Writing, Writing Intensive course evaluations

Professional Development and Financial Support

  • The English Graduate Student Organization (EGSA) is the officially recognized body representing graduate students in the department. Members sit on major departmental committees, and the department consults with officers of EGSA on matters of concern to graduate students. Every English graduate student at MU is automatically a member of EGSA and is encouraged to utilize the organization as a resource and to get involved in monthly meetings and other events. EGSA has four main purposes:
  1. To promote the professional development of graduate students by aiding them in developing the knowledge and skills necessary to function as professionals in teaching, scholarship, and related professions;
  2. To provide services (such as colloquia) to students and the public relating to the discipline of English;
  3. To advocate for opportunities and issues that affect graduate students, such as the professional and political status of graduate students at the University of Missouri;
  4. To foster an environment of collaboration, support, and communication, and to provide a social arena for that purpose. Each year, EGSA sponsors a series of social and professional events. For more information, visit the EGSA website.

Graduate Student Organizations

Resources through the Graduate School

Personal and Logistical Support

  • MU Counseling Center: The Counseling Center assists students who are having difficulties with their experiences at MU. Services include individual, couples, and group counseling, crisis intervention, biofeedback and stress management, testing, outreach presentations, and consultation to university departments, faculty, and staff. The Counseling Center has also begun offering a Dissertation Support Group.
  • Statistics Help: The Social Science Statistics Center provides MU graduate students with assistance with projects, theses, and dissertations. Check their web site for a description of their services.
  • Computer InformationDivision of Information Technology or Help Desk 573-882-5000
    Software training courses offered at no charge to students.
  • Ellis Library: Take a virtual tour of the library here and see the helpful page of Graduate Resources Writing Center: The Writing Center, located in the Student Success Center, provides same-day appointments for all MU graduate students. Please call the Writing Center at 573-882-2496 or come to the Student Success Center between 8am and 5pm, Monday through Friday. Walk-in writing appointments are also available at Ellis Library in the reference area. Visit their website for more information.
  • International Center: Funding opportunities, International fellowships and scholarships, Curators Grants-In-Aid Program for International Students, News and Resources.