TCR Grad Blog

Graduate director's blog for the Technical Communication and Rhetoric Program at Texas Tech University

Archive for April, 2010

Graduation and Commencement Un-Yoked

Posted by Joyce on April 22, 2010

After 6 months of working, writing, and persuading, we have succeeded in making it possible for a student to participate in commencement in a different semester from their graduation. According to Vice Provost Stewart:

At a recent Academic Council meeting we agreed that graduates can Commence a term later than their graduation, for good cause.  Such good cause ought to be the call of the college(s) involved.

The Arts and Sciences dean wrote  to me, saying that he is completely supportive of this policy, which means that your academic college meets the Provost’s terms.  And the dean of the Graduate School is similarly supportive, writing, “Graduate Enrollment Management will reflect the modification for August graduation.”

What this means is that you may ask to do commencement in August, for example, if you defend and graduate in May, a policy that may make it easier for you to schedule the ceremony around your family vacation or other obligations.

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Summer/Fall CRN Glitch Fixed

Posted by Joyce on April 16, 2010

Our long programmatic nightmare  is over.  If I’ve already said you have a class, then you don’t need to write me.  I’m going to be transferring your registrations off my tracking sheet and into Raiderlink today.  The following table is FYI so you can double check your registration next week. I’m going to try to get the official webpages updates with CRN’s today, but they’ll ultimately reflect the following list, anyway.  These official pages are, in case you’ve forgotten,  as follows:



Summer on-campus

Eaton, 5383, sec 001, CRN 30204

May workshop

5365, Rice, D21, X21                        23149/23189

5388, Carter, D21, X21                    23304/23306

5375, Kimball, D21,X21                   23257/23265

Summerlong online:

5365, Lang, D22 and X22                30230/30231

5377, Cargile Cook, D21, X21        23272/23277

5365, Baehr, D23, x23                     30232/30233

5377, Carter/Baake, D22, X22       23274/23281

5386, Zdenek, D21, X21                 23294/23297

5386, Booher, D22, X22                  30205/30206

5390, Kemp, D21, X21                     23323/23330

Fall on-campus (all section 001 except the second section of 5060)

5060 Kemp, sec 001, 15494

5060, Rice, sec 002, 15502

5377 Still 15293

5361 Kemp 24313

5363 Cargile Cook 15059

5371 Booher 15203

5368 Carter 24314

5376 Baehr 15286

5384 Zdenek 15358

5387 Baehr 24320

Fall online

5363 Rickly D21/x21,        15066/23802

5361 Rice D21/x21,          23800/23801

5368 Carter D21/x21,      24315/24316

5371 Baake D21/x21,      15206/23804

5379 Eaton D21/x21       26581/26582

5377 Still, D21/x21,         15298/23817

5390 Lang, d21/x21,       18850/18851

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Acceptance and Rejection

Posted by Joyce on April 14, 2010

We read around 100 applications to the TCR grad program every year and we accept anywhere from 10-25%. These numbers are cold and impersonal, but there are people involved throughout the process—applicants, their employers, their recommenders, the TCR faculty, the TCR graduate assistant—and everyone has some sort of stake in this process. It’s anything but cold and impersonal, but at the core of the process, if we stop and reflect upon it, is an agreement, a demand, among all parties that an answer be given. All of the emotions, the materials, the painstaking deliberation—all demand either “accept” or “reject” (or “yes” or “no”) from this process. It’s true that there may be many other activities going on, such as excitement about research, scrutiny of grades, judgment about quality of letters, and so on—but these activities are secondary to the systemic demand for an answer.

Some time ago, the faculty was deliberating a particular applicant, and this application (like so many of our applicants) had some good things going for it, along with weak ones, as well.  We had kind of fizzled out, having begun repeating the strong and weak points several times, and it was clear that this application was, at best, marginal.  No one benefits from lingering in this gray area, so I said, “OK, sounds like it’s Reject. Let’s move on.” We all nodded and went to the next application, but only after one faculty member said, “A life is changed in that little statement.”  Yes, we nodded, but we also realize our duty to say Yes or No.

After decisions are made, we write acceptance and rejection letters.  I’ll go into the fallout that comes from acceptance letters in another blog post, but the fallout from rejections is invariably a letter or a phone call asking “Why wasn’t I accepted?”  Sometimes these exchanges are sad, sometimes accusatory, sometimes defiant.  I’ve been lectured to, cried to, pleaded with, and all I can say is that it’s not my intent to hurt applicants. I am an instrument of this request for an answer. I’ve had to send rejection letters for hundreds and hundreds of applicants and I realize that it’s simply an unpleasant situation for everyone—the applicant, me, their recommenders, and everyone they’ve told about their expectations.

I grapple with how much time to devote to explaining, to remediating, to comforting rejected applicants, and I guess it depends on how we view this process—whether I’m responsible for this rather large pool of people or not. If I’m responsible for them—as fellow human beings, as someone else’s grad student, as a future colleague, or as a grad school dropout—then I suppose I should treat this process in the same way we all want the peer review process to work and give them detailed feedback about improving their application (or article, in the case of peer review). I used to write much longer letters about why applications were rejected, but those efforts just went off into the ether for the most part and took a lot of time that I ultimately couldn’t justify. I came to see this process not as something akin to peer review, but rather a demand for an answer in the same way juries are asked to weigh the evidence and come up with a verdict. For the past few years, I’ve taken the view that my main responsibility lies not with rejected applicants, but with my students, and thus (because it’s no good waffling when delivering bad news) I explain to rejected applicants the raw facts, that they weren’t selected and that competition is fierce. In the latest round of applications, for example, we accepted only 18% of applicants.

Given these numbers, I simply can’t offer a detailed critique about why someone has been rejected.  However, I thought I could share general reasons we reject applications:

Fit—this is the biggest one, and it involves being able to visualize who the student will work with, how their scholarly goals fit within the fields of rhetoric and technical communication, and what type of experiences the students will bring with them to enhance their classmates’ experiences.  We don’t have any bias against students who have degrees in other fields (we have quite a few who were not English majors), but we do need to see how the applicant’s goals are realistic  and do-able within this faculty and this field.

Unprepared—if a student doesn’t know why they want to be in grad school, or if their letters of recommendation are weak/vague, then we always reject.

Poor Performance—from time to time, but not too often, applicants simply have a record of  coursework and scores that are below what we expect.   We never reject solely on these numerical data, but taken with the other parts of an application, they can help or hinder the overall impression of the student.

Vague Materials—it’s fairly common for to receive materials that do not provide enough solid evidence, either in personal statements or in letters of recommendation.  In effect, these would be boilerplate, “going through the motions,” kinds of applications. We always reject these applications, as we have explicitly asked for specifics.

We have a general philosophy about reading applications and this process of giving an answer.  We always start from an answer of “no,” and expect an application to persuade us to say “yes.”  It doesn’t work the other way around, i.e. that an applicant has a seat in the program unless they “blow it.”  Rejections all have this in common—they have failed to persuade us to change our decision from “no” to “yes.”

Several years ago, before I changed my policy, when someone called demanding to know why they were rejected, I would read over their materials very quickly, employing think-aloud protocol so that they could hear my thoughts as I read.  Without fail, this  kind of unfiltered evaluation came as a shock to them, either because they had been given bad advice or because they were unprepared or because they didn’t envision the rhetorical situation around these application materials.  I often summarized my thoughts along these lines:  “Your letter of intent is vague  and reads like a prose resume, not an argument for what you’re interested  in studying and what kind of scholarship you propose to undertake,” or “The letters of recommendation are weak and general,  providing little persuasive weight to your application,” or “The writing sample doesn’t reveal your scholarly abilities and it doesn’t  share with us how you think, and that’s what we’re looking for in applicants’ writing.”

For whatever reason, or combination of reasons, the application did not persuade us to say “yes,” and thus, demanded by the system to give an answer, we were compelled to say “no.”

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Posted by Joyce on April 9, 2010

Although we don’t like to give incompletes as a general rule, the faculty is definitely mindful of the things that happen to students in the course of pursuing their degrees, things like sickness, major family changes, loss of job, and so on.  If you feel an incomplete is warranted, you need to meet with your professor to talk about work completed, the nature of your request, and your plan for finishing the work.

If your professor feels your request is warranted, the next step is for both of you to establish a plan of completion:  identify the deliverables remaining, set dates for completion, discuss expectations of interaction with you, agree on consequences for NOT meeting these agreements, and so on.  Your instructor will need to submit a grade of “i” and turn in an “incomplete grade” form that they can find at the Grad School’s “Forms” page.

Your faculty prefers (if at all possible) for you to have your incompletes finished before you commence another class.   Thus, an incomplete granted in late April might come with the expectations that you’re going to either take the summer to finish, or you’re going to be done by June 5th (more or less) so that you can start a summer course free of the burden of an unfinished class.

Our policy is that you cannot take new classes with outstanding incompletes, and I will audit our enrollments as we near the start of a semester to make sure no one is starting a new class with incompletes hanging around their necks, and I’ll drop those students who haven’t erased  their pending work.

When you have turned in your work, please allow your instructor a few weeks to evaluate it and to issue you a letter grade.  They can’t change the grade in Raiderlink, but will need to get a Change of Grade form (again from Raiderlink, Faculty Services tab) and submit it to the Grad Director and the Grad School.  If your work has been turned in, but your transcript still shows an “i”, just let me know (or have your instructor email me) and you’ll be free to register.

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