Welcome to the Graduate Program in English at Yale! We’re glad you’re part of the department and eager to support you in your academic and professional development. Graduate education is at the heart of what we do—it’s how our discipline sustains, enriches, and renews itself over time—and effective advising is an essential part of your transition from student to scholar. It also takes time, care, shared effort, and mutual respect. This document outlines some basic responsibilities and expectations on either side of the advising relationship, in order to ensure that such relationships are developed and sustained under the best possible circumstances. Those circumstances may vary: good advising and successful mentoring take many forms, which can and should reflect the needs, preferences, and personalities of the individuals involved. But a culture of good advising also requires a foundation of common values and clearly delineated responsibilities, and our hope is that this guide can serve as part of that foundation for our community.
A successful experience in graduate school depends upon ethical and professional conduct from all of us, and advising, in particular, is a collective enterprise. As the GSAS “Guide to Advising Processes for Faculty and Students” indicates, graduate students and faculty advisers share responsibility for developing productive and rewarding advising relationships and should be in regular conversation about their goals, plans, and expectations of one another. Good mentoring also includes knowing when to refer a student to someone who might be better suited to offer their mentorship: students should feel comfortable reaching out to any member of the faculty or administration for advice or guidance throughout their time in the program, and advisers should help to students to build networks of support for themselves within and beyond the university.
This guide itself is a collective effort, shaped by input from English department faculty and graduate students, as well as the GSAS Dean’s Office and the Office of Graduate Student Development and Diversity. Special thanks go to the members of the 2020-21 Graduate Studies Committee and the Graduate Student Advisory Committee for their suggestions, comments, clarifications, elaborations, and revisions. When in doubt, we have erred on the side of adding things in, on the understanding that one key function of an advising guide—as of advising itself—is to make explicit what might otherwise go unsaid. The guide contains three parts: first, a detailed chronological outline of the advising structures and resources available to graduate students in English as they make their way through the MA and PhD programs, from matriculation to graduation and beyond; second, some basic rules, principles, and goals for successful advising relationships; and third, a list of extra-departmental resources and contacts for students or faculty with advising-related concerns or challenges. Additional guidance on all of these matters can be found in the GSAS “Guide to Advising” and the “English Graduate Student Handbook.”
One final note: even the most dedicated advisers can occasionally be hard to reach. Whenever a student isn’t receiving adequate or sufficiently timely guidance from an adviser, they can and should seek the help of the DGS. For instance, if a student is struggling to make email contact with or get written feedback from one or more of their advisers, they should ask the DGS to send a reminder or inquiry on their behalf. Such notices are an ordinary part of the business of the DGS office and need not signal anything seriously amiss in an advising relationship. Students should feel free to request them, and faculty need not feel terrible about receiving them on occasion—provided the desired contact and/or feedback is promptly forthcoming, no further action needs to occur.
Catherine Nicholson, DGS
Alanna Hickey, DEI Committee