Graduate Student Handbook
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This handbook has been prepared for the use of students and faculty in Near Eastern Studies and should be read in conjunction with the Code of Legislation of the Graduate Faculty which sets the policies governing advanced degree programs throughout the University. Graduate study at Cornell requires each student to work out a program of study in consultation with a Special Committee selected by the student from the membership of the Graduate Faculty. This procedure, commonly referred to as “the committee system,” takes the place of uniform course requirements and uniform department examinations. It is intended to create a close working relationship between faculty and students and to encourage freedom and flexibility in the design of each student’s degree program.
Incoming graduate students are strongly encouraged to visit the Graduate School’s “Welcome to Cornell” webpage. This webpage provides information on registering for classes, important dates, how to activate your net id and email, Open House, etc.
At the beginning of each semester, all students must register with the University. Registration establishes student status and confers access to the range of university resources available to students. (Registration is not synonymous with course enrollment.) Registration is required every semester until either withdrawal or completion of degree, unless a leave of absence is granted. A student registered with the Graduate School may not register with any other school or college, at Cornell or elsewhere, except in a university recognized exchange program or approved dual degree program, or, during the summer, with Cornell’s School of Continuing Education.
Course enrollment is the act of signing up for specific courses offered by Cornell’s colleges and schools. It is distinct from registration with the University. Students must enroll in courses within three weeks of registration through Student Center.
NES graduate students are required to enroll in NES 6722: Graduate Colloquium, every semester. Students not enrolling in courses other than NES 6722 must enroll for thesis or dissertation research.
Fall/Spring semesters: GRAD 9001 Graduate Dissertation Research or GRAD 9002 Graduate Thesis Research.
Summer: GRAD 9011 Summer Graduate School research.
Note: course numbers are scheduled to change. Students may enroll in courses either for credit or audit.
Good Standing Requirements
- To maintain satisfactory progress in coursework a student must achieve minimum grades of A- and earn a full registration unit (RU) each semester.
- NES grad students are required to attend and participate in the NES Colloquium Series. In addition, students must enroll in NES 6722: Graduate Colloquium.
- Students normally remain in residence for their first six semesters and in their final year of dissertation research. Any extended absence from campus during a semester must be approved in advance by the Director of Graduate Studies.
- No graduate student shall be permitted more than one grade of incomplete per semester.
- During the following term the student must complete the coursework for which the incomplete was assigned; otherwise, the incomplete will become permanent.
- Any student who receives a permanent incomplete in a required course will be placed on academic probation. Under such circumstances the graduate faculty will meet to determine whether the student’s standing warrants continuing in the program or withdrawal from it.
- The first task of the new NES graduate student is to meet with his/her prospective Special Committee Chair (a member of the NES graduate field). Together they will outline a course of study for the first semester and review the student’s options for assembling a Special Committee.
- The Graduate School requires all graduate students to submit the name of the Special Committee Chair or temporary advisor to the Graduate School by the end of the third week of the first semester. The Director of Graduate Studies may be appointed as temporary advisor.
- Required first year courses include coursework in a second Near Eastern language.
- In selecting courses, the first-year graduate student should keep in mind that he/she must take at least one course each term in which a research paper is required.
- In consultation with the committee chair, students must assemble and formalize a Special Committee during the second semester in residence but no later than the end of the third semester.
- The Chair of the Special Committee must be a faculty member of the NES graduate field.
- At least two members of the Special Committee must be faculty members of the NES graduate field.
- Graduate students pursuing a research degree are required to complete appropriate training in the responsible conduct of research. Each student must complete online training through the Cornell Office of Research Integrity and Assurance (ORIA) in authorship, peer review, and avoidance of research misconduct. Required training must be completed before the end of the student’s second registered semester.
- Students must acquire a reading knowledge of two modern research languages (French, German, Spanish or any other language deemed necessary by the student’s Special Committee). Students must attempt the first of two required reading exams in their first modern research language by the end of their first year. Students must pass both language exams before the completion of the admission to candidacy examination (“A-exam”), normally before the end of the third year. Successful completion of specific language courses may also satisfy the requirement.
- The English language skills of international graduate students who do not speak English as a first language must be assessed prior to the start of the appointment. For NES students, this normally starts the fall semester of the second-year. ITAP (International Teaching Assistant Program) offers assessments four times a year (May, August, December and January) on specific dates before fall/spring classes begin. Chris Capalongo, Graduate Field Assistant, will contact students to schedule an appointment. Neither students who have received previous education in English institutions nor students exempt from the summer ITAP (International Teaching Assistants Program) are exempt from the assessment.
- During the spring semester of the second year, and every spring semester thereafter, students must work with the Special Committee on submitting the Student Progress Review (SPR) to the Graduate School. The purpose of the SPR is to facilitate and document a discussion between the students and the Special Committee. Students complete a self-assessment, reflect on progress towards established academic goals, report on professional development activities, and identify future plans and timelines. After review, the faculty provide feedback and the SPR is submitted.
- During the second year, the student will continue with coursework chosen in consultation with the committee chair.
- Second-year students are appointed as teaching assistants for the NES department.
- The faculty expect students to broaden their exposure to the field by taking courses with faculty in other subfields. Students are required to gain mastery in at least two areas of study in addition to their primary subfield.
- After completing three semesters in residence, the student will meet with the Special Committee for a “Q” exercise during which the student reviews progress in the program by informally presenting the results (selectively) of his/her research papers. This meeting also serves as an opportunity for the Special Committee to assess the student’s progress. The Special Committee and student will then sketch out a preliminary program of study for the upcoming semesters. They will also agree upon the academic subfields in which the student will be examined for admission to candidacy at the conclusion of the third year.
- By the end of the fourth semester, students are required to reach a very high level of expertise in their chosen primary Near Eastern language(s)—a level sufficient for primary research in the language(s). The precise requirements for primary Near Eastern languages varies by subfield and will be determined by the Special Committee.
- Students must attempt the second required reading exam in a first modern research language by the end of the fourth semester. Students must pass both language exams before the completion of the A-exam, normally before the end of the third year. Successful completion of specific language courses may also satisfy the requirement.
- During the spring semester of the second year and every spring semester thereafter, students must work with the Special Committee on submitting the Student Progress Review (SPR) to the Graduate School. The purpose of the SPR is to facilitate and document a discussion between the students and the Special Committee. Students complete a self-assessment, reflect on progress towards established academic goals, report on professional development activities, and identify future plans and timelines. After review, the faculty provide feedback and the SPR is submitted.
- Students must schedule a meeting with their Special Committee in the fall semester of the third year to establish a format and timeline for the A-exam.The examination will have both a written and oral component. Each committee member will devise a portion of the written exam based on the academic subfield in which he or she worked with the student.
- At the end of the spring semester, students will take the written portion of the A-exam. The graduate school only tracks the oral part of the A-exam. The written part is tracked internally by the department. Although there is no official form required when scheduling the written portion, please notify Chris Capalongo, Graduate Field Assistant, of the scheduled date.
- Following the written portion of the A-exam, the Committee will meet with the student for the oral exam. The results of the written exam will be reviewed and follow-up questions will be posed in the course of the discussion. Students must complete the A-exam prior to the start of the seventh semester. For this portion of the exam, the ‘Schedule for Admission to Candidacy (A Exam)’ form must be submitted to the Graduate School at least seven days prior to the exam.
- Students must pass both modern language exams before the completion of the A-exam.
- Third-year students are appointed as teaching assistants for the NES department.
Fourth and Fifth Years
- Fourth-year students are appointed as teaching assistants for the NES department.
- Fifth-year students normally use their Sage Fellowship while writing the dissertation.
- A student using Sage fellowship in his/her dissertation-year must have written and submitted an external fellowship or grant proposal within the first four years of enrollment.
After successful completion of the A-exam, the student will prepare and present a dissertation prospectus, normally within three months of the exam.
The student will seek the guidance and advice of the Special Committee Chair and other committee members. The prospectus typically goes through several drafts over several weeks. When the prospectus is ready, the student presents it at a meeting of the full committee, where it is formally accepted. The Special Committee Chair then makes it available to the entire NES graduate field faculty.
The prospectus must conform to the standards of scholarly writing within the field in terms of style, transliteration of foreign characters, transcription and translation of primary and modern languages, and in scholarly apparatus, i.e. footnotes, references, and bibliography. It should be approximately 3000 words in length (excluding bibliography), and should include:
- The nature of the question or problem to be examined in the dissertation
- The importance of the question or problem to the discipline
- A literature review, including but not limited to:
- The views of earlier major scholars
- What has been missed
- A discussion of methodologies to be used
- An outline of chapters
- A timetable for submission of drafts of each chapter
- A bibliography
Beyond the Prospectus
A non-Cornell advisor may be asked to serve on the Special Committee, at the discretion of the Special Committee Chair, but there must already be three (3) Cornell serving members, two of whom must be from the NES graduate field.
At least three chapters must be submitted every two years following the approval of the prospectus.
At the end of each year, the NES graduate faculty will meet to discuss the progress of the candidate. Determinations about satisfactory progress are at the discretion of the candidate’s Special Committee and the NES graduate field faculty.
Candidates must give copies of the dissertation to each member of the committee and must make two copies available to the Director of Graduate Studies two months before the expected defense date. One copy is for faculty in the field to consult; one is for the Director of Graduate Studies.
The candidate will defend the dissertation orally to the Special Committee. The defense will be open only to members of the field and individuals invited by the committee.
The Schedule for Final Defense of PhD Degree (B Exam) form must be received by Grad Student Services at least seven calendar days prior to the defense.
Students are allowed 60 days after the final examination to submit approved copies of the dissertation or thesis to the Graduate School. A late-filing fee ($100) will be charged if this requirement is not met.
Candidates must submit the dissertation within seven years (fourteen semesters) of entering the program. Continuing beyond seven years requires a petition be submitted to the Graduate School for approval. Use of a Sage Fellowship beyond the seventh year is prohibited. After seven years of support, no funding will be provided by the Graduate School nor should it be expected from the department.
Support for your first year and, usually, the fifth year (when you will be writing your dissertation), will take the form of a Sage Fellowship. This fellowship includes a stipend, tuition, and individual health insurance. It may not be combined with another fellowship in the same academic year. Support in subsequent years comes in the form of either external funding or teaching assistantships.
- Students seeking the dissertation-year fellowship must have written and submitted an external fellowship or grant proposal within the first four years of enrollment. No portion of the dissertation-year fellowship may be used by the student later than the twelfth semester of enrollment, unless the student secured external funding in an earlier term, in which case one or two semesters of the dissertation-year fellowship may be used after the twelfth semester, corresponding with the length of the external funding, contingent upon approval from the Graduate School. An external fellowship will not replace any fellowship offered by Cornell, but may be used to replace assistantship funding or to extend the number of years of support towards the degree program.
- The Graduate School offers up to four years of summer support, with the stipulation that the student actively pursues scholarship over the summer and maintains satisfactory academic progress. For students to be eligible for funding for the first two years, an Academic Plan form must be submitted to the Graduate School by May 1. To be eligible for the second year of summer funding, a Special Committee must be assembled by the end of the third semester of registration. Students will be eligible for the third year of summer funding only after passing the A-exam, or committing to attempt the A-exam prior to the start of the seventh semester, in addition to their application. Students will be eligible for the fourth year of summer funding only after passing the A-exam and describing the scholarly work completed during the third year of summer support and stating the academic plans for the fourth summer (by application).
- The Graduate School provides conference grants to all graduate students who are invited to present papers or posters at professional conferences. Award amounts are based on geographic location, not actual expenses. The Graduate School tries to fund most requests from students who meet the criteria for eligibility. Only one award will be considered during a single academic year, which is from July 1 through June 30. For information and deadlines, please refer to the Conference Grant Application found on the Graduate School website.
- The Graduate School awards a small number of research travel grants for academic year, research-related travel in the United States and abroad. These grants are for travel that is directly related to dissertation research, not conference travel. Recipients must be enrolled (full-time or In Absentia) in a graduate research (MA/MS, MFA, DMS, JSD or PhD) degree program through the Graduate School and must be registered at the time of the award. For detailed information and deadlines, please refer to the Research Travel Grant Application found on the Graduate School website.
- The department offers limited funding for graduate student travel to conferences, for research, etc. Students must first speak with the Chair of the Special Committee about how the funds will be used (deliver a paper, travel for research or fieldwork, etc). Once a Conference/Travel Grant Application has been submitted to the Graduate School, a Travel Award Request form (get from Chris Capalongo in 409 White Hall) must be submitted to the department. This request must include the following:
- Name of conference (indicate if student will be presenting a paper). If funds will be used for research, provide details.
- Budget (including travel costs, lodging, food).
- Indicate other sources of funding (pending or confirmed) and the dollar amount.
Funds from the department must be requested prior to travel. After all outside funding is confirmed and the student has notified the department, the request will be reviewed. Once the student has returned to campus and receipts have been submitted, funds will be applied to the student’s bursar account. Please provide a copy of all grant proposals to Chris Capalongo, Graduate Field Assistant.