Graduate Handbook




Updated Semester I, 2013






1. Introduction
2. Abbreviations
3. Philosophy
4. Advising / Mentor
5. Time to PhD Degree
6. Course and Examination Requirements
7. Examination Schedule and Sequence
8. Examination Format
9. Examination Evaluation
10. Candidacy: Dissertation Prospectus
11. Candidacy: Dissertation
12. Financial Support
13. Evaluation and Standing
14. Appeals Procedures
15. MA and PhD Reading Lists



This Handbook summarizes the philosophy, requirements, policies, and procedures of the MA and PhD programs in the Department of Classical Studies. It supplements but does not supersede the policies and procedures of the Graduate School as published in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Bulletin. For further information students are encouraged to consult both the online publications of the department and the Graduate School and (especially) Faculty members and fellow graduate students.

This Handbook is reviewed annually and revised as appropriate. Corrections and suggestions, always welcome, should be referred to the Director of Graduate Studies.

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ABD     (All But Degree) A student who has satisfied all PhD requirements except defense of the   dissertation.

APA     The American Philological Association
DF        Dean’s Fellowship
DGS     Director of Graduate Studies
GRS     The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences
RA       Research Assistant(ship)
TF        Teaching Fellow(ship)

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In concert with other departments (particularly Archaeology, Art History, Philosophy, and Religion) the department follows the mission of GRS for “the advancement of knowledge through research and scholarship, and the preparation of future researchers, scholars, college and university teachers, and other professionals.” The department’s low graduate-student-to-faculty ratio allows highly personalized instruction and mentoring, so that students are admitted for good fit with the faculty and encouraged to pursue their particular interests and goals in their own ways. The development of good habits of collegiality and professionalism is a priority alongside the cultivation of expertise in scholarship and teaching.

The department regards graduate students as professionals as well as students. As teachers, mentors, readers, and evaluators the faculty can provide training and guidance, but for their part graduate students are expected to show independence and initiative in developing their own intellectual and professional identities. Students are accordingly expected to familiarize themselves with the profession they plan to enter by observing and talking with faculty members and advanced graduate students in the program and elsewhere; keeping track of current scholarship in their areas of interest (books, journals, talks and colloquia, online resources); regularly consulting the websites and publications of professional organizations (particularly the APA); and participating fully in the academic and collegial life of the department.

While the program is designed to prepare students for college and university careers, the faculty also respects the teaching of classics at the secondary level or the choice to pursue a career outside academia, and so tries to help each student find the path that best suits his/her particular interests and strengths.

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The DGS is responsible for the operation of the department’s graduate program in conformity with the policies of GRS and the department. During the registration period preceding the first semester of study, the DGS will counsel each incoming graduate student and facilitate course selection, and thereafter will be the student’s principal resource for all matters involving program regulations and requirements.

Each incoming graduate student is assigned an initial mentor, whose role is to help the student adapt to the department and, in conjunction with the DGS, to discuss and formulate long-term goals.  The mentor should provide advice about the course of study and the development of research interests, as well as to alert the menthe to conferences, workshops, and other opportunities for professional development. The mentor can be a go-to person for advice about conducting research, studying for qualifying exams, and teaching methods.  During the round-up at the end of the student’s first year, there will be discussion about changing the mentor to align more closely with the student’s interests.  A student may change a mentor at any time as her or his interests mature.  The development of working relationships with additional faculty members is also highly encouraged.

A PhD student who has advanced to candidacy is primarily advised by his/her first reader and dissertation committee both in writing the dissertation and in searching for academic employment.

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GRS allows PhD students accepted into the program seven years to complete the PhD. If the degree is not finished within this period, a petition for extension must be filed.

Since financial support from the department cannot be guaranteed for more than five years, and other forms of support cannot be counted on, students are urged to satisfy their degree requirements as expeditiously as possible.

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The design and direction of a student’s own program, in conformity with the standard requirements of GRS and the department, need to be planned as early as possible and regularly reviewed in consultation with the DGS and mentor.

Each student is required to complete a Program of Study form in consultation with the DGS. In developing a Program of Study, the student will need to outline the courses s/he plans to take and a tentative schedule of comprehensive (MA) or qualifying (PhD) exams. The DGS must sign off on each semester’s course selection.

Directed study

A directed study course may be arranged with any faculty member who agrees to offer it, with a syllabus and number of credits approved by the DGS. Since interaction with fellow students in courses is desirable, a directed study needs special justification.  They are typically reserved for students near the end of their course requirements as they prepare for their Special Topic exam and prospectus. Whenever possible, they should include more than one student.

Students are encouraged to inform the DGS of course topics that they think would be of general interest to their cadre, so that the faculty can consider scheduling them as regular courses.  Faculty and graduate students will meet in April to review the upcoming year’s course offerings.


A minimum of eight courses (32 credits) are required for an MA in Classical Studies.

Course Requirements

  • CL 563 Greek Prose Composition or CL 530 Latin Prose Composition
  • Seven additional courses at or above the 500 level offered in the Department of Classical Studies or related departments (with advisor approval)


Students typically concentrate in either Latin or Greek. One course in ancient history is required, and one course in Greek or Roman art or archaeology is recommended. Students who wish to take more than two courses from related departments must receive approval from the DGS.

Modern Language Requirement

Reading proficiency in German and French or Italian must be demonstrated by written examination or by successfully completing GRS LG 621 Reading German or GRS LF 621 Reading French or GRS LI 621 Reading Italian.  With the approval of the DGS, it is possible to substitute another modern foreign language for French or Italian.

Comprehensive Examinations

  • Greek or Latin Translation
  • History of Greek or Latin Literature



Students admitted directly to the PhD program without previous graduate study must take a minimum of sixteen courses (64 credits), preferably over a period of five or six semesters, for a PhD in Classical Studies. Students entering with an MA or the equivalent in Classics may be admitted with advanced standing to the Post-Master’s PhD Program. Candidates admitted to this program are required to take between eight and fourteen courses (32 – 56 credits), preferably within five semesters. The exact number of courses depends on how closely the student’s prior work parallels the PhD course requirements; a decision about how many prior credits the program will accept is made at the end of the student’s first full year of study.


Course Requirements

  • CAS CL 530 Latin Prose Composition
  • CAS CL 563 Greek Prose Composition

The prose composition requirement may also be satisfied by a take-home exam set by two evaluators appointed by the DGS.

  • For post-BA PhD students, an additional 14 courses at or above the 500 level offered by the department or (with DGS approval) related departments. Among these, one course in Greek or Roman art or archaeology and one course each (or its equivalence) in Greek or Roman history are required.
  • For post-MA PhD students, an additional six courses at or above the 500 level offered by the department or (with DGS approval) related departments. Among these, one course in Greek or Roman art or archaeology is required.

    History Requirements

    MA students are required to take a graduate course in Greek or Roman history. The requirement  can also be fulfilled by either 2 or 3 below. PhD students are required to take two courses, one each in Greek and Roman history. These requirements can also be fulfilled in the following ways:

    1. serving as a TF in a history course
    2. taking an undergraduate history course as a graduate directed study – 2 credits
    3. passing an examination in history

    Under special circumstances with the approval of the DGS, a student may substitute another course in a related field to fulfill one of the two history requirements.

    Modern Language Requirements

    Proficiency in German, French or Italian must be demonstrated by written examination or by successfully completing GRS LG 621 Reading German, GRS LF 621 Reading French, or GRS LI 621 Reading Italian.  With the approval of the DGS, it is possible to substitute another modern foreign language for French or Italian.

    Qualifying Examinations

    • Greek Translation
    • Latin Translation
    • History of Greek Literature
    • History of Latin Literature
    • Special Topic

    Requirements for the joint Classics-Philosophy PhD program can be found on the department website.

    Requirements for the joint Classics-SED MAT program can be found on the department website.

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    Students must sign up for scheduled exams by notifying the DGS no later than two weeks in advance. Translation and Literature examinations are offered in the fall (usually October), winter (usually February), and spring (usually May). Special Topic exams are scheduled at a time agreed by the student and his/her evaluators. Modern Language exams are offered at any time, upon request to the DGS.

    Students are urged to take the modern language exam(s) early in their course of study, since reading in modern languages is a prerequisite for scholarly research in classical studies. MA students are expected to pass the modern foreign language examination within the first two semesters of study. PhD students are expected to have passed both modern foreign language exams by the end of the fourth semester of study.

    MA students are expected to pass their Qualifying Translation and History of Literature examinations by the end of their fourth semester.

    PhD students are expected to pass their Translation examinations no later than the end of their fourth

    semester (at least one must be attempted no later than the beginning of the third semester).  PhD students are expected to pass their History of Literature examinations no later than the end of their sixth semester (at least one must be attempted no later than the beginning of the fifth semester).  The PhD Special Topic cannot be approved until all other qualifying exams are passed.

    The best preparation for the exams is broad and careful reading of (and beyond) the Reading List and of current scholarship in the modern languages. The Department’s courses in the History of Greek and Latin Literature are good preparation for the History of Literature exams, together with such modern surveys as The Cambridge History of Greek Literature and Conte’s History of Latin Literature.

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    Normally all examinations are written. With the approval of the DGS and the mentor the History of Literature and Special Topic examinations may be oral. Sample recent exams are available in the Department office.

    Modern Foreign Language. Two Hours. A passage of typical scholarly writing in the field of classics. Dictionaries permitted.

    Translation. Designed to test basic competence in the main styles of Greek and Latin literature. Passages are drawn from the texts on the pertinent Reading List. No dictionaries are allowed, but unusual words and syntax may be glossed. MA: Three Hours. Two passages of prose (about 20 lines each) and two of verse (about 25 lines), from which the student may choose any three passages. PhD: Four Hours. Three passages of prose (about 25 lines each) and three of verse (about 30 lines), from which the student may choose two from each category.

    History of Literature. Three Hours. Designed to test, in a well-balanced way, students’ general grasp of the whole course of Greek / Roman literary history and their ability to identify the styles, and discuss the significance, of the major writers and genres. Short-answer questions (including ID-by-style and scansion) and a choice of essay topics designed more to elicit specific knowledge (e.g. development of genres, comparison of authors/genres, characteristics of given eras/movements) than to invite interpretation. The MA and PhD exams differ in scope and in the depth of the IDs and essays. The oral version of the exam is Two Hours but covers the same ground; the DGS joins the two examiners as moderator and record-keeper.

    Special Topic. Having passed all other qualifying exams, the student recruits a faculty member as supervisor, and a second faculty member as reader, to assist in the study of an author or field (e.g. a period, genre, or methodology) of a scope sufficient to be represented as a scholarly and teaching specialty on the student’s CV. In order to broaden the student’s expertise, under most circumstances the topic should not be drawn from the same language as that of the student’s dissertation.  A student may make a request to the DGS to do a Special Topic in the same language if he or she has reason to do so.  With faculty assistance, the student should generate and master the bibliography, become conversant in the current scholarly trends, and be able to suggest future scholarly agenda pertaining to the topic. As soon as the student, supervisor, and reader have agreed on the topic, a preliminary set of questions should be set and an exam date determined (usually within three months of commencing the project).  At this time, the DGS and the department Chair must approve the topic, exam format, and exam date.  In some instances, one of the readers will also be the student’s mentor.

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    Each exam is set and evaluated by two faculty members chosen by the DGS. Exams are evaluated High Pass, Pass, Low Pass, or Fail. In case of disagreement, the DGS will designate a third faculty member to evaluate the exam. Exams are evaluated within two weeks of the exam date, and the DGS will notify the student of the results in writing, together with comments made by the evaluators. Students with a Low Pass or Fail will be expected to review the exam with the DGS and the examiners.  A copy of this written notification and a copy of the exam will be placed in each student’s examination file. Students are encouraged to review the exam with their mentors.

    A student who fails any qualifying examination twice will be evaluated for good standing in the program.

    When a student’s course and examination requirements are satisfied, the department will notify GRS of the student’s advancement to candidacy.

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    As soon as possible after advancement to candidacy, each PhD candidate should determine a dissertation topic in consultation with a member of the faculty who will serve as the first reader of the dissertation.  The second reader (normally a faculty member of the Department of Classical Studies) may, but need not, be determined at this time, as well.  The candidate will submit the topic and the name of the reader(s) to the DGS for approval by the department faculty.

    The dissertation must demonstrate the student’s ability to conduct original research and creative scholarship on a substantial synthetic topic, and must contribute significant new knowledge and/or methodology to the field. Seminar papers are a student’s most important preparation. Given the program’s 5-year limit for assured support and the profession’s tendency to regard timely completion as an indicator of scholarly promise and future productivity, students should develop dissertation topics that are likely to be finished in two years or less. Length (typically 150-300 pages) is not statutory but governed by the requirements of the topic. Quality trumps quantity.

    In identifying a dissertation topic students should align their scholarly interests with their career objectives. In the profession, the dissertation establishes the student’s initial scholarly identity: Latinist, Hellenist, prose/poetry, historian, etc. For students aiming for a career at the college or university level, the dissertation forms the basis for the published monograph and/or substantial refereed articles required for advancement in or to the tenure track; in this scenario, the dissertation should be written so as to be convertible to monograph form within three years after degree. Recently published monographs of similar character are useful guides.

    Upon approval of the topic and reader(s), the candidate, in consultation with the reader(s), will develop and draft a dissertation prospectus that demonstrates the viability of the proposed topic and the candidate’s ability to complete the dissertation within a specified schedule. The prospectus must be defended before the main phases of dissertation research are begun. The prospectus should include a statement of the thesis and its scholarly importance, the principal problems to be addressed, the methodologies to be employed, tentative subdivisions or chapters, and a bibliography of significant previous work on and relevant to the topic. The prospectus must not exceed twenty double-spaced (or ten single-spaced) pages, not including bibliography (i.e., about 8,500 words).

    When the candidate and reader(s) are satisfied with the draft prospectus, they submit it to the DGS, who will circulate copies to all faculty, make copies available to interested graduate students upon request, and schedule an oral defense that is open to all members of the Department. For the candidate and reader(s), the defense is an opportunity for collegial discussion of the prospectus, for eliciting advice and suggestions, and for identifying and clearing up potential problems. For the faculty, the oral presentation is an opportunity to participate in the planning of the candidate’s research and to determine its soundness and likely success as a dissertation. The DGS will discuss with the candidate and reader(s) the outcome of the defense and supervise whatever changes are recommended; these may range from minor revisions to abandonment of the topic. The final version of the prospectus is then submitted to the Department and, through the Department, to GRS on or before the date specified in the Graduate School Graduation Calendar. Soon after the defense, a second reader (if not already identified) and a third reader will be identified and supported to the DGS for approval.  These readers will normally be faculty members of the Department of Classical Studies.

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    In writing the dissertation, the candidate should follow the plan contained in his/her approved prospectus, work closely with the readers, and submit sections of the work in progress to them regularly for review and revision. It is understood that the dissertation will evolve over the course of writing and not follow in all respects the plan contained in the prospectus but significant changes must be approved by the DGS in consultation with the faculty, and may require a revised prospectus and defense.

    The candidate must conduct an oral defense of the dissertation in final draft before an examining committee and demonstrate a mastery of the subject with which the research is concerned. The examining committee is composed of at least five GRS faculty members, at least two of whom are from the Department of Classical Studies. One examiner may be from outside the University. The membership of the committee is nominated by the first reader in consultation with the student and must be approved by the Chair or DGS. The Chair appoints a faculty member who is not an examiner to chair the defense. The defense is open to anyone who wishes to attend, but attendees other than the examiners may speak only if invited by the chair.



    At least six weeks before the tentative date of the defense the candidate must:

    • give the readers and the committee the final draft of the dissertation.

    At least three weeks before the defense the candidate must:

    • obtain approval of the final draft from the readers and from all members of the examining committee;
    • obtain initial approval of the dissertation abstract from the readers, the DGS, and the department Chair (the abstract is a summary of the dissertation, not exceeding 350 words, that describes its thesis, methods, general content, and conclusions);
    • submit the approved abstract to GRS;
    • submit the approved abstract, along with the official GRS form for the defense (prepared by the first reader), to the department office.

    At least two weeks before the final oral exam the candidate must:

    • submit the schedule of the defense to GRS;
    • submit fourteen (14) copies of the approved abstract to GRS.

    GRS determines the deadlines for registering the candidate’s thesis topic, for presentation of the official draft of the dissertation to the members of the examining committee, for delivery of the fair copy of the dissertation, and for the awarding of the degree. GRS also controls the format of the dissertation which is to be submitted digitally. For current deadlines and requirements the candidate should consult the GRS Records Coordinator at 705 Commonwealth Avenue, Room 112. In addition, GRS provides a Guide to the Writing of Dissertations and Theses, and Mugar Library provides a pamphlet on dissertation-writing.

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    Except for students applying to the dual-degree program MA in Classical Studies and PhD in Philosophy, MA students are ineligible for department financial support.

    Dean’s Fellowships and Teaching Fellowships

    All students accepted into the MA/PhD program are awarded five years of financial support, assuming that the student is in good standing and proceeding through the program in a timely manner.  In the first and fifth years this support takes the form of a Dean’s Fellowship (DF), free from teaching duties. In years two through four, it is converted to a Teaching Fellowship (TF). TFs are expected to teach one course per semester, and their teaching activity cannot exceed 20 hours per week. In his/her initial semesters a TF usually assists in, and/or teaches one or two sections of, a lecture course; later s/he may be assigned a stand-alone course in the undergraduate Greek or Latin language sequence. All TFs must enroll in GRS CL 699, a 2-credit course (graded and counted for tuition remission but not as credits toward degree) staffed by the instructor of record of the course to which the TF is assigned and designed to mentor and evaluate teaching.

    Both DFs and TFs include an academic-year stipend, health insurance, and tuition remission for courses required for degree credit.

    Advanced students may be appointed Senior TFs in semesters when the faculty cannot fully staff the curriculum.

    Ineligible for appointment or renewal as DFs or TFs are students not in good standing with either GRS or the department; students whose teaching competence is inadequate in the view of the department; or students whom the department for any other reason considers to be not in good standing.


    Extradepartmental Teaching

    Advanced graduate students (typically after they have passed their qualifying translation exams) apply to the DGS to teach first and second-year Greek and Latin language courses, or Classical Civilization courses in Boston University’s two-session Summer Program.  Appointments are made in October, eight months prior to the teaching.

    In their sixth year, students may apply for a Teaching Fellowship in the CAS Writing Program.  Writing Program TFs are for a minimum of one year and require that a student enroll in a teacher-training course the semester before instruction begins.  The seminars are valuable preparation for teaching, and established WP instructors are preferred for renewal in subsequent years.

    In semesters when faculty members teach in the University Honors College they receive funding for one TF in addition to the department’s allotment.

    The BU Academy, a private high school on campus, occasionally has openings for graduate students to teach Latin and Greek.

    In the Boston area numerous private high schools and colleges regularly have part-time or full-time openings for ABD classicists.


    Research Assistantships

    The department has limited funds to support students during the summer months, either to attend the American School of Classical Studies in Athens or the American Academy Summer Program in Rome, or to purpose their work toward the degree.

    Faculty members both within and outside the department often have funding to appoint personal RAs on a term or hourly basis (the hourly rate is usually $20).

    Students may apply to the Graduate School for short- and long-term Graduate Research Abroad Fellowships (awarded competitively each year), and to the DGS for department funding (a letter should state the nature and purpose of the activity together with an itemized budget).

    Students are also eligible to apply to a BU Hellenic Study Fund for Greek-related projects.

    Professional Development

    Graduate students are encouraged to take opportunities (e.g. special programs in their field of expertise), acquire resources (e.g. materials, permissions, travel to collections), attend or submit papers to conferences and national or regional professional meetings, publish papers, and otherwise enhance their scholarly and professional development. Through pro-seminars, Brown Bag talks, and faculty support, students are guided in the process of preparing articles for publication.  External funding for such professional-development activities is scarce, but, as indicated above, internally students can apply to GRS for short- and long-term Graduate Research Abroad Fellowships (awarded competitively each year), and to the DGS for department funding (a letter should state the nature and purpose of the activity together with an itemized budget). Students can also apply to the Boston University Center for the Humanities for funding for what has become our annual Graduate Student Conference in Classical Studies. Funding for travel is also available through GRS’ Graduate Student Organization.  Students are also encouraged to apply to the summer programs at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens or at the American Academy in Rome. The department usually funds one student a summer to attend one of those programs. Scholarships are also available to those who are members of the Classical Association of New England (CANE) or the Classical Association of the Mid-western States (CAMWS).

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    Not everyone succeeds as a graduate student in classics, and those who do face intense competition to secure and retain professional positions. Graduate students are therefore advised that they are competing as scholars, teachers, and colleagues and must do their very best not merely in fulfilling program requirements but also in developing independently as professionals. The department faculty regularly reviews the progress of each graduate student on these criteria and works with the DGS and mentors to articulate program expectations, to guide the student’s pursuit of his/her interests and career objectives, and to formulate strategies for success.

    At the end of each semester, the DGS sends each student (who is not working on his or dissertation) a progress report. At the end of each academic year, in mid-May, the DGS and members of the graduate faculty meet formally with each PhD student and his/her mentor at the Graduate Roundup to review the student’s general progress and performance, and to make recommendations for goals and emphases going forward. Students are asked to submit in advance a paper completed for a course during the previous semester, and are invited to provide feedback and suggestions to the faculty. The DGS then chairs a department faculty meeting to discuss the review and sends each student a written summary of his/her review.

    For a PhD student who has advanced to candidacy, the dissertation committee (readers) are primarily responsible for defining and reviewing progress toward defense of the dissertation. First readers regularly report on their candidates’ progress to the DGS and the faculty.



    Standing in the program is determined by the department faculty. According to GRS policy, the department faculty may deem students not in good standing “for reasons of scholarship, aptitude, or conduct.” Such students will be notified in writing by the DGS or Chair, with an explanation of the reasons. Except in unusual circumstances the following are automatic reasons for loss of good standing:

    • a grade of I or C+ or lower in more than two semester courses or more than a total of 8 credit hours;
    • two failures on any qualifying examination;
    • failure to complete qualifying examinations within the specified schedule;
    • failure to defend a dissertation prospectus within the advised period of time;
    • academic or serious collegial misconduct.

    Students not in good standing are ineligible for (continued) financial support and may also be referred to GRS for termination.


    Students whom the faculty considers to be making inadequate progress in scholarship or in development as professionals will be given adequate written warning that they may lose their good standing or not be supported should they request an extension of time to degree; in the case of teaching inadequacy, students will be warned that they may lose their (continued) eligibility for TF support. The warning will include the nature of the perceived problems or deficiencies; recommendations for correcting them; and a reasonable period of time for the student to correct them or show improvement acceptable to the faculty.

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    Scope of Appeals

    The department appeals procedures afford graduate students the opportunity to resolve complaints about administrative or academic actions that affect their standing or progress toward academic or professional degree goals. The procedure does not cover disputes about grades, exam evaluations, or any other department action based solely on faculty evaluation of a student’s academic achievement or progress.

    Appeals are limited to department actions involving:

    • procedural error or violation of department, GRS, or university policies;
    • inappropriate application of non-academic criteria;
    • failure to abide by the terms of a written agreement;
    • mitigating circumstances beyond the student’s control and not properly considered.


    A student may explore paths to informal resolution with the DGS, the department Chair, or the mentor. This process should be initiated within 30 calendar days of the contested action.

    If informal resolution is not pursued or cannot be achieved, the student may initiate a formal appeal by writing a letter to the DGS or (if the appeal involves actions by the DGS) to the department Chair within 30 calendar days of the contested action or the abandonment of informal resolution. The letter must include the action being contested, the student’s grounds for appeal, and the relief requested. The DGS or Chair will undertake an investigation if and as appropriate and will notify the student of the decision in writing within 60 days.

    If the student is not satisfied with the department’s decision, s/he may consult the Associate Dean of the Graduate School on further steps.

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    15. MA and PhD READING LISTS

    Please visit our reading lists page for more information

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