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Our Program’s Design

Our Program’s Design

Our graduate program is designed to support students through six years of study. We do not offer a stand-alone MA degree, and only under special circumstances do we accept MA- or MFA-holding applicants directly into the PhD program. (Some applicants with MAs or MFAs from other institutions opt to enter our program at the MA level.) Our students are fully funded for six years with stipends for teaching and research assistantship duties, tuition remission, and 80% health insurance contributions. We support students during all years of graduate training through a robust mentoring program, a faculty-run career consulting office, and a departmental initiative, English Graduate Futures, which helps students to prepare for careers both within and outside of academia.  

Our six-year graduate program fosters intellectual and professional growth in three distinct stages: 

The Two-year MA Stage 
This first stage serves as an on-ramp to our PhD program. Students enter at the MA level so that they may benefit from its two-year preparatory structure. MA students take a wide range of graduate seminars, become acquainted with numerous faculty members (who may eventually serve as dissertation committee members), join a cohort of fellow MA students, and undergo careful training for their roles as instructors in Penn State’s undergraduate composition program. These two years are crucial for building scholarly, professional, and pedagogical foundations. 

PhD-1 to PhD-2 Stage 
Students completing our MA program enter the PhD program after submitting a formal application. This process serves as an opportunity for students to review their academic experiences and future plans with feedback and guidance from faculty and the Graduate Studies Committee. During the first two PhD years, students complete their seminar requirements, assemble a dissertation committee, prepare for and take comprehensive doctoral examinations, and submit a dissertation proposal. 

PhD-3 to PhD-4 Stage 
These two years are dedicated to dissertation writing under the advisement of a faculty director and dissertation committee. During this time, every student is guaranteed one duty-free semester and will have several opportunities to apply for additional release time from teaching and research assistantship duties.  

Fifth Year Support 
Eligible 4th-year PhD students who have defended their dissertations will be offered a one-year Postdoctoral Teaching Fellowship with a 2/2 teaching load and a stipend of $26,028. Healthcare subsidies and other benefits are included.