Guide and Roadmap for Graduate School

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General guidelines for navigating graduate school in the History of Art at Cornell:

Etiquette and Professional Comportment

  • It is safest to err on the side of formality with professors at Cornell and elsewhere, until you are invited to address them more informally.
  • Respect others by responding to emails promptly and communicating clearly if you will be late for a meeting or are unable to attend an event where you are expected.
  • You will soon be requesting letters of recommendation from faculty. Try to give 3-4 weeks advance notice and be prepared to send the recommender a list of places to which you are applying, together with instructions for submitting recommendations, and as soon as possible, a draft of your statement, CV, and other supporting documents. Please do not neglect to inform your recommenders of the outcome of your applications!


Department Participation

  • You are expected to attend all department events and to participate in discussions.


Coursework and Academic Performance

  • Consult with your graduate advisor about the courses that you plan to take each semester, and assume that you should take all the courses your committee chair offers.
  • You are expected to attend every class of the courses in which you are enrolled. If you are sick, notify the professor and as soon as possible submit any required work.
  • Incompletes are highly discouraged. Pace yourself to complete all written work on time. An occasional extension is understandable, but repeated or multiple Incompletes will put your academic standing in question. We urge you to use the break immediately following the semester (winter or summer break) to finish outstanding work promptly. The Graduate School stipulates that an Incomplete can be removed from the transcript only within one year from the date of the end of the course. Incompletes may jeopardize funding for the following year and students may not advance to the A-exam with Incompletes on their record.
  • Switching your status in a course halfway through the semester from graded to S/U or Audit is discouraged. In rare circumstances it may be required, but should be avoided.
  • Taking a course as an Audit means that you continue to attend throughout the semester. If this is not possible, then the Audit should be dropped.
  • Think about your seminar papers as gateways toward potential dissertation topics. Explore across disciplines, fields, and methodologies in your selection of courses as well as in your research papers. This will enlarge your intellectual framework, even if the topics are not directly related to your precise interests.
  • Use your courses from early on to seek out potential committee members and mentors. Explore beyond the interests you had when entering the program.
  • Coursework and development of a research agenda are your highest priorities in the first few years of your graduate career. Do not be derailed from these priorities by an abundance of outside activities, conferences, and commitments.


Writing and Professional Development Resources


Organization and Workflow

  • Start using a citation manager as soon as possible. There are several workshops in the library that offer tutorials on Zotero, Endnote, Mendeley, and other citation tools.
  • Consider using note-taking software such as Scrivener or Evernote.


Conferences and Networking

  • Conferences are an excellent venue for presenting your research and meeting with scholars in the field. However, you should present only in graduate student organized conferences or small ones in a well-defined area until you have made significant progress on your dissertation research.
  • You should present at only one conference per year during your first few years of graduate school. The department accordingly only offers funding for one conference a year. More than that can derail you from your main priorities: coursework and development of a research agenda.
  • All conference proposals and especially drafts of conference talks should be discussed and reviewed by your committee chair or other appropriate faculty.


Fellowship and Job Applications

  • Fellowship and job applications are extremely time consuming, but do not let them overtake your coursework and dissertation research. Both also improve with experience. Expect to apply for both fellowships and jobs in more than one year, as your research progresses and you learn from earlier attempts.
  • Fellowship and job applications both require the ability to synthesize your dissertation topic into a few sentences, for an audience of non-specialists in your specific area. When you are well along, consider joining the “Three Minute Thesis” competition.
  • Post-doc and job applications often require a list of proposed courses and a statement of teaching philosophy. From early on you can be thinking of courses that you would like to teach, which you can progressively expand with description and bibliography. As you take courses and start teaching, jot down ideas about what works and what doesn’t, which you can later refine into a statement of your teaching philosophy.