The M.A. program in English is designed to cultivate advanced mastery of content within the discipline, refined skills in professional and scholarly writing, comprehensive knowledge of critical practices, and a keen awareness of contemporary issues in the study of literature. The graduate faculty in English seek to prepare graduate students whose knowledge of language and literature will inform their intellectual and ethical understanding, and whose communication and critical thinking skills will allow them to contribute to the region and beyond in a variety of careers and positions.

In carrying out this mission, the graduate faculty is committed to teaching excellence in all graduate-level courses by fostering writing and thinking skills in an array of writing-intensive, discussion-oriented classes and seminars and by incorporating current technology into teaching and learning. The graduate faculty also share a strong commitment to our department's position as a regional focal point for a strong master's degree program in English, flexible enough to provide more advanced study for those who wish to further their intellectual development and rigorous enough to prepare students for doctoral work or other professional fields such as teaching, business, and law, thereby serving the region by providing graduates well-schooled in the liberal arts who contribute productively to their communities.

I. Learning Outcomes: Expected Results

  1. Graduate students will be able to demonstrate advanced mastery of content within the discipline by answering comprehensive questions about specific writers, genres, texts, and literary periods that they have studied.
  2. Graduate students will be able to demonstrate that they have achieved refined skills in professional and scholarly writing. This expectation presumes a command of pertinent critical assumptions, methodologies, and practices.
  3. Graduate students will be able to demonstrate a facility in relating the facts and ideas of the discipline to cognate fields and to explore their correspondence, particularly within the context of Western intellectual history.
  4. Graduate students will be able to demonstrate a keen awareness of contemporary issues in the study of literature, including those which emanate from an understanding of the differences among cultural value systems.

II. Methods of Assessment

  1. All graduate courses in English require short critical papers and an extended research-based project of 12-15 pages. These protocols provide ongoing cultivation and assessment of learning outcomes I.B, C, and D specified above.
  2. The M.A. thesis and thesis exam, for students electing that option, is the primary instrument for gauging the level of expertise developed through the program. It thus addresses especially well the expectation of I.B above.
  3. All graduate students, both thesis and non-thesis track, participate in a comprehensive oral examination upon completion of their studies. The exam is based on a departmentally approved reading list. From these sessions, typically lasting ninety minutes, committees of five faculty per student assess fulfillment of I.A above.
  4. In conjunction with the comprehensive oral examination, all graduate students will be asked to file with the department chair a formal evaluation of the program's overall effectiveness. This form is targeted at evaluation of I.C and D above.

III. Assessment Information

  1. The faculty committee for each graduate student, prior to award of the M.A. degree, will compose a one-page report evaluating the extent to which the student has achieved the given learning outcomes. These reports will be reviewed each year in the spring by the department's Graduate Program Committee (in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies) to make recommendations to the graduate faculty in English for changes or improvements to the program.
  2. Based upon its analysis of the aforementioned reports, supplemented by the Department Chair's and Director of Graduate Studies' review of course syllabi and student evaluations, the Graduate Program Committee recommends proposals for enhancing pedagogy, resources, and procedures. The English graduate faculty as a whole must approve such recommendations.
  3. Information gathered from all these sources is conveyed in the department chair's annual or cumulative report to the Dean of Arts and Sciences. Where improvements require additional staffing or financial support, it is essential that adequate funding be provided based upon assessment data.
  4. With the exception of II.D and III.A above, all assessment methods and uses have already been implemented. Results gathered from our new instrument for student evaluation of courses, coupled with the evidence of M.A. theses and oral examinations, have shaped both the design and staffing of our curricular offerings. Such ongoing improvement of the program will be reinforced further by the supplementary sources of information indicated in II.D and III.A.