Professionalization Resources

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Professionalization Sessions

The Graduate Program in English, along with the Office of Rhetoric and Composition, the Graduate Students in English organization (GSE), and graduate alumni, regularly lead or participate in professionalization sessions that our current graduate students are invited to attend.

Typically, three to four sessions are offered each semester.  Past topics have included how to put together job application materials and interview for tenure-track jobs; how to explore careers in secondary education and alternative-academic (alt-ac) careers; how to develop M.F.A. thesis projects or M.A. thesis prospectuses; how to prepare for Ph.D. candidacy exams; how to organize Ph.D. dissertation prospectuses; how to compose strong conference paper proposals; and how to submit article abstracts or creative writing pieces to be considered for publication.

Graduate students should plan to attend job market-focused meetings during their first year and, again, during the year before they go on the job market.  Students should attend the other professionalization sessions several times throughout their graduate careers as needed.

Professionalization Sessions for Spring 2023
  • GSE-sponsored meeting re: academic article publication process Wed., Feb. 8, 4:00 p.m.
  • thesis vs. portfolio meeting with 1st-year MA students  - Wed., Feb. 22, 4:00 p.m.
  • candidacy exam preparation for 1st and 2nd-year PhD students - Wed., March 8, 4:00 p.m.
  • preparing to go on the academic job market for 3rd-5th year PhD students - Wed., April 12, 4:00 p.m.
  • preparing to apply to doctoral programs for 1st-year MA students - Wed., April 26, 4:00 p.m.

Professional Organizations, Journals, and Conferences

Arkansas Philological Association – The APA hosts an annual conference in Arkansas. Each year, many of our graduate students in literature and in rhetoric and composition present papers at this event, and it is typically a comfortable and supportive venue for first-time participants. The APA also publishesThe Philological Review, a peer-reviewed journal in which several of our graduate students have published.

College English Association – The CEA balances a focus on literary scholarship with a focus on the teaching English at the college level.  The CEA hosts an annual conference with half of the sessions relating to literature and half to rhetoric and composition. Each year many of our professors and graduate students present at the conference, and criteria for the Graduate Student Paper Award can be found on the organization’s website. The CEA also publishes the CEA Critic, a peer-reviewed journal in which our professors and graduate students have published. The CEA Forum is the group’s peer-reviewed, on-line journal relating to pedagogy in higher education, another possible venue for graduate student publication. The CEA is well-known in our department for its collegiality and life-long professional connections. Among its executive leadership have been scholars like John Ciardi, John Shawcross, James R. Bennett, and Karen Lentz Madison.

Conference on College Composition and Communication – The CCCC is the most comprehensive organization for professionals in rhetoric and composition. All graduate students holding teaching assistantships, and any students who anticipate teaching college composition in the future, should join the organization and subscribe to the peer-reviewed journal College Composition and Communication. The CCCC sponsors the largest conference related to researching and teaching rhetoric and composition, and each year some of our students attend the conference and present at it. (This organization as well as the journal and conference are affiliated with the National Council of Teachers of English, an organization that has supported the profession of teaching at every educational level for over one hundred years.)

Modern Language Association – The MLA is the most comprehensive organization for professionals in literature and language.  All graduate students studying literature should join this organization and subscribe to its peer-reviewed journal, Publications of the Modern Language Association of America. The MLA includes six regional associations, and each year some of our students attend regional MLA conferences and present at them. Many of our students also take advantage of the Job Information List, published by the MLA, and interview with prospective employers at the national MLA convention.

Popular Culture Association - Over the last few years, a growing number of our graduate students have been attending the PCA's annual national conference. Started in 1971 as an alternative to the American Culture Association, the PCA then joined the ACA, in 1979, to offer the organizations' conferencences jointly. The PCA/ACA publishes two journals, The Journal of Popular Culture and The Journal of American Culture. In addition, graduate students may apply for PCA Endowment Travel Grants ($500 per student) to help fund their travel to the annual conference. 

Regional Modern Language Associations – The regional MLAs host annual conferences, and many of our graduate students in literature and in rhetoric and composition attend these conferences and present at them.  While the conferences hosted by the South Central MLA and the Midwest MLA are usually closest to our campus, all of the regional MLA conferences are worth considering. These conferences are smaller than the national conference and typically more supportive of first-time participants. All of the regional MLAs also sponsor their own journals, and graduate students should consider submitting articles to them.

Regional PCA/ACA Organizations - Each of the seven regional PCA/ACA organizations (Far West, Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Northeast, Oceanic, South, and Southwest) hosts its own annual conference. Beginning graduate students might want to apply to a regional conference (perhaps closer to campus and therefore requiring less travel expense) either before or even in the same year of applying to the national PCA conference (see above). 

Calls for Papers Sponsored by the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of English

UPenn’s comprehensive site posts recent calls for conference papers, conference panels, and journal articles related to scholarly topics ranging from rhetoric and composition and traditional literary areas to humanities computing and ecocriticism. Calls for open editor positions are also advertised for those looking to add this type of work to their CVs and/or resumes.