Graduate Program Work

MA revision at University of Cincinnati

The MA program at the University of Cincinnati is an applied degree program, which means the students are working professionals who want to get an advanced degree to further their career aims. In some ways, the graduate MA degree is a terminal degree for those who are focused on workplace practice.

When Ohio decided to move all institutions from quarters to semesters (effective in 2012), we took it as an opportunity to closely examine the graduate curriculum. This led to three significant changes:

  • changing the name from a degree in English with a concentration in Professional Writing to a degree in Professional Writing
    This move meant that we had to go through local and state processes to change the name of a degree program. I spearheaded this work and presented the case to the Ohio Board of Governors, who unanimously approved the change.
  • updating the curriculum
    This change meant changes to courses, adding new courses (such as content management), and incorporating program outcomes throughout the curriculum.
  • focusing the curriculum
    What we did to focus the curriculum was to make more explicit not only in the ways we talked about the program but in the work of courses the way courses went together. We did this specifically by grouping courses into foundational, technology, theory, and genre courses. These categories helped students make stronger connections between the courses and to be able to more adequately explain what the degree was and how it was a benefit.

Graduate Program at USF

The PhD program at USF is a generalist degree program focused on rhetoric and composition broadly. Students are encouraged to find an area of focus that can range from technical and professional communication to writing analytics to program administration to digital rhetoric (to name but a few).

Since I arrived, I spearheaded a change to the comprehensive exams. First, to be fairer to students, we moved from an overnight exam to one that students could complete in a little over a week that must include a weekend. Secondly, the exam shifted from being one focused on courses students took backward facing) to instead asking questions that encouraged students to look forward to what the content of the curriculum could do for them in the future. This shift has resulted in stronger student work that more adequately points to what students know and more so, what they may do with the knowledge.

Another change that we have integrated has been more relevant and consistent professional development experiences. These sessions are focused on questions from students and/or focused on exposing hidden aspects of graduate school or the early stages of a job. Through forthright discussions, guest speakers, and additional resources, professional development helps students understand graduate school and the expectations of faculty in more concrete ways.

Finally, we have made more visible the emphasis on program administration and innovative pedagogies. What this means is that because we have an FYC program and a PTC writing program and PTC undergraduate degree program, students have the opportunity to learn about the program administration from a variety of angles. We also try to emphasize the connections between the programs and other parts of the department, college, and institution so that students leave USF with both a complete and nuanced picture of how programs work within the larger structures, while also gaining hands-on day-to-day experiences of programmatic work.