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Graduate Program

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Our department accepts applications on a rolling basis, and we are still accepting applications for Fall 2019 for both our on-campus and on-line programs! Teaching assistantships are still available for our on-campus program. Are you an elementary/secondary or vocational teacher in South Dakota? You may be eligible for reduced tuition.

The Master of Arts in English

The English department offers both on-campus and online Master's programs. Our programs are small enough for students to receive individual support from faculty within a close-knit graduate student community, but flexible enough to accommodate students’ individual needs and educational goals. Through the study of writing, rhetoric, theory, and literature, students in our M.A. programs develop highly-valued skills and capacities that will prove indispensable whether they pursue careers in education, creative or professional writing, business, publishing, advertising, sales, law, technology, or medicine. Our students are trained in teaching, tutoring, advising, writing, publishing, editing, public speaking, analysis, research, collaboration, problem solving, project management, and leadership. At the same time, they explore the ways in which literature—both that we read and that we write—deepens our understanding of ourselves, cultivates our knowledge of the world, and develops our empathy for others. Students who pursue the M.A. in English position themselves not only to excel professionally, but to pursue meaningful work that fosters human connections, improves communities, and adds value to their lives and the lives of others. We work closely with students as they complete the program, helping them articulate their qualifications in a manner suited to their professional or educational aspirations.

We offer several options for the completion of the degree. In both our on-campus and online programs, students may choose either the Literature track or the Writing and Rhetoric track, and within each of these tracks they may complete their degree by submitting a critical or creative thesis, a critical and/or creative portfolio, or a written exam. Students in our Master's programs work closely with faculty who have expertise in a wide range of specialty areas, including British and American literature, juvenile literature, ethnic literatures, women’s writing, creative writing, rhetoric, composition, professional and technical writing, literary and cultural theory, publishing and editing, legal studies, film studies, and peace and conflict studies.

Students interested in applying to our program should contact both the Graduate School and the English department Graduate Coordinator for information regarding the application process.

The On-Campus English M.A. Program

The English department at has offered the on-campus M.A. degree since 1994. The on-campus program features small seminars and workshops that allow for meaningful face-to-face interactions with faculty and fellow graduate students within a close-knit and supportive intellectual community. Students in our on-campus program have the opportunity to serve as graduate teaching assistants. Our graduate teaching assistants independently teach sections of English composition and tutor in the Writing Center, for which they receive a full tuition waiver, a stipend, and office space within the department. Our on-campus graduate students have the opportunity to gain additional valuable work experience by assisting with the publication of our annual art and literary magazine, Oakwood, and helping with the annual Great Plains Writers Conference.

Fall 2019 On-Campus Graduate Courses

  • ENGL 592 : Academic Editing & Publishing with Dr. Katherine Malone, Monday 3:00-5:50
  • ENGL 705: Seminar in Teaching Composition with Dr. Michael Keller, Thursday 3:00-5:50
  • ENGL 726.S01 Seminar in English Literature since 1660: Satire and Social Change: The Eighteenth Century and Now with Dr. Sharon Smith, Wednesday 3-5:50

Click here for detailed descriptions of these courses.

The Online English M.A. Program

The English department offers a flexible online M.A. program perfectly suited to students whose schedules or geographic locations make it difficult or impossible to participate in an on-campus graduate program. Online students choose from the same tracks and options as our on-campus students and take courses from the same faculty who teach in our on-campus program. As with our on-campus students, we are committed to establishing an engaging and dynamic community among faculty and students, and we strive to maintain a strong connection with our online graduate students as they progress through the program. From the time they express interest in the program until the time they graduate, students will receive support from the program’s graduate coordinator, who serves as their academic advisor and who communicates with them regularly via email, phone, or Skype. As they begin working on their final project—whether a thesis, portfolio, or written exam—students will also communicate regularly with their project advisor. We welcome opportunities to meet with our online graduate students in person.

Fall 2019 Online Graduate Courses

  • ENGL 792: Topics: Writing: Transformative Personal Narratives with Amber Jenson
  • ENGL 792: Topics: Literature: Victorian Magazines and Popular Fiction with Katherine Malone

Click here for detailed descriptions of these courses.

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Books

About the Program

Our Mission

The English department’s M.A. program prepares students for professional careers or further graduate study by developing their capacity to analyze texts, conduct research, apply theory, and write creatively and critically.

Student Learning Outcomes

Upon the completion of the English M.A. program, students will be able to:

  • Demonstrate an advanced ability to analyze and interpret literary and cultural texts.
  • Examine significant texts, authors, periods, movements, genres, theories, and modes from literary history, interpreting the relationship between texts and their historical, aesthetic, cultural, and ideological contexts.
  • Compose sophisticated argumentative, creative, and reflective texts that demonstrate focus, content, structure, evidence, style, and grammar appropriate to their rhetorical contexts.
  • Demonstrate an advanced ability to apply theoretical concepts to the writing and analysis of texts. 
  • Produce original research that advances knowledge within the discipline; generates questions for scholarly inquiry; identifies its methodological and theoretical foundations; employs library resources and discipline-specific databases; evaluates and integrates secondary criticism; and documents sources using MLA style.
  • Explain how literature both reflects and enriches the diversity of human experience through its exploration of the ways in which race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, ability, and class shape identity and influence perception.
  • Deliver instruction that demonstrates a growing mastery of course content (cultural analysis, rhetoric, grammar, and research) and increasing skill in helping students of varying abilities improve their cultural awareness, critical acumen, reading comprehension, and writing competence. (Graduate teaching assistants only.)

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Application Process

How to Apply

Individuals who wish to be considered for acceptance into the M.A. program in English must complete the Graduate School’s online application. The English department reviews applications on a rolling basis.

Minimum Application Requirements

For admission into the M.A. Program in English, applicants must have a minimum of twenty-four semester hours of undergraduate credit in English or receive the consent of the Department Head. To be considered for unconditional acceptance and to be eligible for a graduate teaching assistantship, applicants must have at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and a 3.25 GPA in their undergraduate English courses.

Additional Requirements for International Applicants

In addition to the admission requirements noted above, international applicants must score at least a 7.0 on the IELTS to be considered for admission into the M.A. program in English.

Both the Office of International Affairs and the Graduate School have information on their web sites specifically for international students. This includes the cost of tuition and housing information.

Required Application Materials

In addition to the materials required by the Graduate School, the English department requires the following application materials:

  • A one-page statement of purpose explaining the applicant’s interest in and goals for graduate study. The statement of purpose should indicate whether or not the applicant would like to be considered for a graduate teaching assistantship. The applicant may upload this statement while completing the Graduate School’s online application.
  • An eight- to ten-page critical writing sample. This sample must engage in critical research and include a works cited page. The applicant may upload this writing sample while completing the Graduate School’s online application.
  • Two letters of recommendation from faculty at the applicant’s undergraduate institution. Letters should come from faculty who are directly familiar with the applicant’s academic work. They must address the applicant’s scholarly potential and may also speak to the applicant’s potential as a graduate teaching assistant. Letters should come directly from the recommenders, who may submit their letters electronically along with the personal recommendation form provided by the Graduate School. The Graduate School will email recommenders detailed instructions for submitting their recommendations using the contact information provided by the applicant.

The English department does not require GRE scores.

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Graduate Teaching Assistantships

Graduate teaching assistantships allow for a full tuition waiver and a stipend of approximately $10,000 per academic year.

Teaching assistants take two graduate classes each semester and either teach two sections of Composition or teach one section of Composition while tutoring in the Writing Center. The assistantship is renewable, providing the student is making good academic progress and receives satisfactory teaching evaluations.

The department requires all new teaching assistants to attend a one-week teaching workshop just prior to the start of their first fall semester. This workshop is held in late August and is led by the English department’s Coordinator of Composition.

Applicants must indicate in the statement of purpose required by the department whether they wish to be considered for a graduate teaching assistantship. Students who apply for but do not receive a teaching assistantship may reapply for one the following academic year.

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Tracks and Course Requirements: Studies in Literature and Studies in Writing and Rhetoric

Tracks

M.A. students in English choose one of the following tracks:

  • Studies in Literature
  • Studies in Writing and Rhetoric

Course Requirements

Students who choose the thesis option must complete twenty-four credits of coursework (eight courses) and six credits of thesis for a total of thirty credits; students who choose the portfolio option must complete thirty credits of coursework (ten courses) and two credits of research for a total of thirty-two credits; students who choose the written exam option must complete thirty-six credits of coursework (twelve courses).

Core Requirements

6 credits

  • ENGL 704: Intro to Graduate Studies (3 credits)
  • ENGL 705: Seminar in Teaching Composition (3 credits; GTAs only; Non-GTAs must substitute a 700-level elective)

Additional Requirements for Studies in Literature Track

24 credits for thesis option; 26 credits for portfolio option; 30 credits for written exam option

  • 2 courses (6 credits) in American literature
  • 2 courses (6 credits) in British literature
  • 2 elective courses (6 credits; students who write a creative thesis must choose 2 creative writing courses)
  • Students pursuing the thesis option must take 6 credits of thesis; students pursuing the portfolio option must take 2 additional elective courses and 2 credits of research; students pursuing the written exam option must take 4 additional elective courses (12 credits)

Additional Requirements for Studies in Writing and Rhetoric Track

24 credits for thesis option; 26 credits for portfolio option; 30 credits for written exam option

  • ENGL 710: Seminar in Rhetoric (3 credits)      
  • 1 course (3 credits) in American literature
  • 1 course (3 credits) in British literature
  • 3 additional courses (9 credits) in linguistics, rhetoric, or writing (students who write a creative thesis must choose at least 2 creative writing courses)
  • Students pursuing the thesis option must take 6 credits of thesis; students pursuing the portfolio option must take 2 additional elective courses and 2 credits of research; students pursuing the written exam option must take 4 additional elective courses (12 credits)

Note: 50% of the student’s coursework must be at the 700 level.

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Options: Thesis, Portfolio, and Written Exam

Within each track, students may choose one of three options for the completion of the degree. These options include Graduate School Option A: Thesis (the English department’s “thesis option”), Graduate School Option B: Research/Design Project (the English department’s “portfolio option”) and Graduate School Option C: Coursework (the English department’s “written exam” option).

Thesis Option

The thesis option requires students to successfully complete:

  • Twenty-four credits of graduate coursework in English (eight courses)
  • Six hours of thesis credit
  • A thesis
  • An oral exam

Students who choose the thesis option may choose to complete a critical or a creative thesis.

Learn more about our thesis option guidelines.

Portfolio Option

The portfolio option requires students to successfully complete:

  • Thirty credits of graduate coursework in English (ten courses)
  • Two hours of research credit
  • A portfolio
  • An oral exam

Students who choose the portfolio option may complete a portfolio that contains critical work, creative work, or a combination of both.

Learn more about our portfolio option guidelines.

Written Exam Option

The written exam option requires students to successfully complete:

  • Thirty-six credits of graduate coursework in English (twelve courses)
  • A written exam
  • An oral exam

Learn more about our written exam option guidelines.

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Oral Exam

All graduate students must pass an oral exam during their final semester in order to receive the M.A. degree. Option A (thesis) students must sit for the oral exam by the graduate school’s oral exam deadline for Option A students. Option B (portfolio) and Option C (written exam) students must sit for the oral exam by the graduate school’s capstone deadline.

The oral exam lasts for two hours. During the first hour, students who have chosen the thesis or portfolio options defend their projects, while students who have chosen the written exam option defend their written exam. According to the Graduate School Regulations and Procedures, “[T]he committee and candidate should recognize that an advanced degree is more than evidence of satisfactory completion of courses and that integration of the content of the program is expected of successful candidates.” For this reason, questions asked during the second hour of the oral exam should focus on the student’s coursework and should require the student to demonstrate the ability to synthesize subject matter drawn from a variety of courses.

For Option A (thesis) students, the Graduate School will send the thesis advisor an evaluation form prior to the oral exam. This form must be signed by all committee members and submitted to the graduate school by the advisor immediately after the exam.

The thesis/portfolio/exam advisor must also bring a copy of the English department’s M.A. Oral Exam Assessment Form for each committee member to the exam. After each committee member has completed this form, the thesis/portfolio/exam advisor will submit all copies to the Graduate Coordinator for filing.

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Reading List

All students must submit a reading list to their committee as they near the completion of their degree program. Students who choose the thesis or portfolio option must submit their reading list prior to the oral exam so that committee members may use the list to develop oral exam questions relating to coursework. Students who choose the written exam option must submit the reading list prior to the written exam so that committee members may use the list to prepare written exam questions. The reading list will list all the graduate courses the student has taken and should be arranged into appropriate subject categories (for example, “American Literature,” “British Literature,” “Writing, Rhetoric, and Theory”). For each course taken, the student should provide the following information:

  • The course prefix and number.
  • The title of the course.
  • The semester the course was taken.
  • The instructor of the course.
  • A brief but sufficiently detailed course description (may be quoted from the syllabus).
  • A list of all texts and films required for the class. All texts included on the class schedule must be listed individually; for example, if an anthology was used in the course, the student must list not just the title of the anthology, but also the titles of the individual readings from the anthology.

To assist with the completion of the reading list, students should save copies of syllabi from all of their courses.

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Timeline for Completion of the Degree

The M.A. program in English is a two- to three-year program. During the second semester of their first year, students must inform the Graduate Coordinator whether they will be choosing the thesis, portfolio, or written exam option in order to complete their degree.

The timelines outlined below apply to students with graduate teaching assistantships. They are approximate and may vary by individual student. Teaching assistants may take slightly longer to complete the program, while students who are not teaching assistants may complete the degree in a shorter period of time. Not completing the program within three years is considered unsatisfactory progress.

To track their progress in the program, students may download the English M.A. Student Timetables and Checklists.

Thesis Option

24 credits of coursework; 6 credits of thesis; 30 credits total.

1st Year (12 credits total)

  • 1st Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Includes English 705: Seminar in Teaching.
  • 2nd Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Includes English 704: Introduction to Graduate Studies. Determine thesis topic, choose thesis advisor, and form thesis committee. File Plan of Study Form and Advisory Committee Request Form.

2nd Year (18 credits total)

  • 1st Semester (9 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses, take 3 credits of thesis. Present thesis proposal early in semester.
  • 2nd Semester (9 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 course, take 3 credits of thesis. Apply for graduation, file Change of Plan of Study if required, schedule and take oral exam, and submit thesis by appropriate deadlines.

Portfolio Option

30 credits of coursework; 2 credits of research; 32 credits total.

1st Year (12 credits total)

  • 1st Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Includes English 705: Seminar in Teaching.
  • 2nd Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Includes English 704: Introduction to Graduate Studies.

2nd Year (12 credits total)

  • 1st Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Choose portfolio advisor and form portfolio committee. File Plan of Study.
  • 2nd Semester (7 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses, take 1 credit of research.

3rd Year (6 credits total)

  • 1st Semester (7 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses, take 1 credit of research. Early in semester, assemble reading list and distribute to committee (provide syllabi to individual committee members upon request). Apply for graduation, file Change of Plan of Study if required, schedule and take oral exam, and submit portfolio by appropriate deadlines.

Written Exam Option

36 credits of coursework.

1st Year (12 credits total)

  • 1st Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Includes English 705: Seminar in Teaching.
  • 2nd Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Includes English 704: Introduction to Graduate Studies.

2nd Year (12 credits total)

  • 1st Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Choose exam advisor and form exam committee. File Advisory Committee Request Form.
  • 2nd Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. File Plan of Study.

3rd Year (12 credits total)

  • 1st Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses.
  • 2nd Semester (6 credits). Teach 2 courses, take 2 courses. Early in semester, assemble reading list and distribute to committee (provide syllabi to individual committee members upon request). Apply for graduation, file Change of Plan of Study if required, schedule and take written and oral exams by appropriate deadlines.

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Awards

The Maud Adams Award for Outstanding Graduate Student in English

The Maud Adams Award Fund was established by her sister, Mary Adams. It is awarded annually to one outstanding advanced graduate student in English. Maud Adams was born in 1915 and grew up near Jefferson, South Dakota. She earned a B.A. degree in Latin and Greek from University of South Dakota. She received a degree in Nursing from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, and a Master’s degree in Public Health Nursing from Columbia University in New York. Maud worked for the Visiting Nurse Service of New York and was assigned to neighborhoods characterized by extreme poverty. Later, she was a World Health Organization Fellow. She then taught at Morningside College and for several years was director of the college’s nursing program. The Maud Adams Award commemorates Maud Adams as a sister, scholar, and humanitarian. It is hoped that through the years the recipients of these awards will exemplify the values and ideals of Maud Adams, especially the enthusiasm for reading, the admiration of quality writing, and the belief in sharing one’s talents.

Outstanding Graduate Teaching Assistant Award

Each year, the English department presents this award to one graduate teaching assistant who has demonstrated excellence in teaching.

Award for Excellence in Graduate Student Scholarship

Each year, the English department presents this award to a student who has written an outstanding paper for a graduate-level seminar.

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