EALC Mentoring Plan

This page provides an overview of the mentoring provided to EALC graduate students by the department and of the resources currently available for mentoring of both research and teaching. In addition to outlining what students can expect of advisors throughout the course of their studies, it also describes the key milestones that students are expected to reach and when. Finally, this page describes the responsibilities of both students and faculty in ensuring that satisfactory progress is made toward degree completion and the review procedures in place for tracking this progress.

Department faculty are committed to helping each and every student through the PhD program in a way that best suits their intellectual and scholarly ambitions. Please do not hesitate to approach your adviser or relevant faculty members to discuss any aspect of your progress, especially as you prepare for key program milestones.

The program outlined below was created and approved by EALC in Spring 2020. As outlined in Section VII, it is subject to annual review by the department’s mentoring committee, to be composed of 3 faculty members and 2 student representatives. Students are encouraged to bring any questions or concerns about the mentoring plan to this committee so that it can be revised and updated on an ongoing basis.

I. Academic Advising

  1. Choosing an Adviser: Incoming students will identify an adviser upon entering the program based on academic interest and will meet with them during Orientation Week in September. Students can speak to the Director of Graduate Studies or Departmental Administrator if they need help in this process. This initial adviser will work with the student during their first and second years to choose courses appropriate to their interests and projected direction of study, as well as discuss their goals for teaching as they move through the program. The student and advisee should meet at the start of each academic year and throughout the year as necessary, usually on a quarterly basis. If students are unable to meet with their adviser, they can consult the DGS on matters related to coursework or degree progress.
  2. Primary Adviser: A student’s initial adviser will, in almost all cases, become their primary adviser for the duration of their studies. However, it is at the end of Year 2 that the primary adviser is officially selected. In Year 3, the student will work with their primary adviser to choose their Exam Committee, which consists of at least 3 faculty members. The primary adviser serves as Chair of this Committee. The makeup of this committee must be approved by the Chair of the Department. Please consult the Graduate Student Handbook for more details about the process of forming a committee and on eligibility requirements for committee members.
  3. Committee Members: Outside of your primary adviser, exam and dissertation committee members play an important part in the mentoring process. At a minimum, students should expect exam committee members to discuss the final composition of their exam lists with them and to occasionally meet to discuss the content of their lists. Dissertation committee members can be expected to provide timely review (one month or less) of any draft chapters submitted to them so that a student’s progress is not unduly hindered. Students will have a chance to indicate what feedback was received on their annual spring review form, which will be reviewed by the DGS, the Department Chair, and EALC faculty members at the spring review meeting.
  4. Advising Oversight: Additional oversight of advising is handled by the Department Chair, Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), and the Department Administrator (DA).
    • Department Chair:  The Department Chair must provide official written approval (usually via signature) for all committee selections, scheduling of exams and defenses, and changes thereto. Communication with the Chair is handled through the DA.
    • DGS: The DGS is available for questions concerning requirements, advising procedures and issues, and individual progress in the program. The DGS will work in coordination with your primary adviser to communicate the outcome of the annual spring review and any follow-up review in the fall.
    • DA:  The DA helps track student progress through the program with respect to both degree and teaching requirements (i.e., the Pedagogical Training Plan). Please keep the DA informed of changes or other issues in meeting these requirements.

II. Teaching

  1. Pedagogical Training Plan: A critical part of student mentorship relates to pedagogical training. At the end of Year 2, a student will meet with their primary advisor to discuss their teaching goals and possible teaching options for Years 3 and 4. This should be done in consultation with the Department’s Pedagogical Training Plan, which maps out teaching requirements for EALC students. Prior to the years that students plan to serve as a course assistant (CA), it is recommended that they meet with their advisor to discuss teaching options before the spring review meeting in May. This will allow students and faculty to better coordinate teaching assignments for the following year. The student should also notify their adviser of plans to teach a stand-alone course, which usually happens in Year 6 of the program. All stand-alone courses require departmental approval.
  2. Student Teaching: As outlined in the Pedagogical Training Plan, the faculty for whom you serve as CA are generally expected to discuss the course with you before it begins; outline your responsibilities and duties for the course; to meet with you on a regular basis as the course proceeds; and to supervise and give feedback on your performance. When teaching a stand-alone course, students are encouraged to reach out to their primary advisers so that they can observe the class and provide relevant feedback.
  3. EALC Methods Course: This required course, while focused primarily on methodology, also addresses pedagogical issues as they relate to the teaching of East Asia. Offered every other year, the course is for students in Years 1 or 2 of the program. A portion of the course will be dedicated to best practices for teaching content courses in area studies, focusing on dominant theoretical paradigms (e.g., Orientalism, colonialism, religion, state relations) and how they can most effectively be introduced in the classroom.

III. Professional Development

  1. Courses/Support: The department provides several support structures for helping students to develop professional skills. These are in addition to the many courses and individualized support offered through UChicago Grad (https://grad.uchicago.edu/).
    • Dissertation Proposal Support: Students at the dissertation proposal stage will organize a series of meetings (in consultation with a faculty adviser) to help guide them through the proposal writing process. These meetings will focus on learning how to identify, develop, and describe a long-term research project. Students can invite advanced students to share their experiences of the proposal process, and are expected to provide feedback on each other’s proposals with the aim of completing them by spring quarter.
    • Academic Writing/Publication Seminar: This seminar is designed for advanced students who wish to learn about academic writing and publication. Though not a required course, it will provide students with the opportunity to discuss academic writing as a practice; learn the ins-and-outs of journal publication (e.g., submission, reviewing, revising); hear from faculty members about their own experiences with writing and publication; and to prepare an article for submission. Students will receive extensive feedback on their writing from peers and from the instructor.
    • CAS Workshops: The Center for Advanced Study provides funding for several graduate-student workshops, some of which are sponsored by EALC faculty and largely attended by students and faculty in the department. These workshops offer the opportunity to present work-in-progress, workshop conference papers, or host a mock job talk. Thus they are important venues for learning how to give effective academic presentations and constructive feedback.
  2. Career Advising: Students are encouraged to explore the extensive opportunities for career advising made available through UChicago Grad. They can also expect that their faculty advisers and committee members will help coordinate mock interviews and mock job talks as necessary. 
  3. Additional Mentoring/Community Building:
    • Departmental Activities: Throughout the year, designated student “social chairs” will help to coordinate quarterly lunches for students and faculty. These provide an informal venue in which to get to know the wider EALC community. Annual fall and spring parties are also hosted by the Department.
    • Peer Mentoring: Introduced and run by graduate students since the 2017/2018 academic year, the EALC Peer Mentor program is an initiative that started as a response to similar structures found in peer institutions. Primarily catering to first year students, the department appoints a second or third year student(s) to conduct social activities to assist new students in better adjusting to a new department, institution, city, or country. The program also serves as a platform for first year students to meet with upper year students who are otherwise occupied with research and writing. A modest budget is provided by the department to cover food and beverage expenses. Appointment of peer mentor(s) will depend on incoming cohort size and availability of second and third year students. Additionally, the appointed peer mentor will preferably be a student(s) that has undergone the peer mentee experience. In terms of faculty support, the DGS should meet with the appointed peer mentor at least once a quarter to review progress of the program and assist in any issues related to the students or the program.
    • Alumni Mentoring: Each spring, the DGS will organize a workshop that invites 2 EALC alumni back to campus to speak on research, teaching, publication, and other areas relevant to the academic or non-academic career track. This gives students an opportunity to connect with past EALC students and learn about the experiences of those who have most recently had to navigate life after graduate school.

IV. Degree Progress

  1. Academic Milestones: The timeline below provides a general overview of how students will progress through the program. After 2 years of coursework, students will begin their preliminary exam preparation while completing any outstanding requirements for the MA degree. In Year 4, students prepare and defend their dissertation proposal and are expected to advance to candidacy (ABD status) by the end of the year. Each of these milestones are described in more detail in the Graduate Student Handbook. At the end of Year 2, students should complete their required coursework (18 credits) and show evidence of substantial progress toward meeting the MA requirements. At the end of Year 4, students are expected to show evidence that they are close to achieving candidacy. In Year 6 and beyond, students are expected to show continued progress on their dissertation. Faculty assess the progress of students during the annual spring review (details below) and during the first faculty meeting of the fall quarter as necessary. Students are encouraged to apply for one-year Dissertation Completion Fellowships (DCFs) beginning in Year 6 of the program, and the two-year Humanities Teaching Fellowships (HTFs) beginning in Year 7. HTFs serve as a teaching postdoc for students who have completed their degree. Students are expected to defend their dissertation in Year 7 or 8, depending on language training or fieldwork needs. Year 9 is the last year one can register. Students who exceed this limit can still defend their dissertation, however, by following the Time Limit Administrative Withdrawal procedure.
  2. Tracking: The Department Administrator, in coordination with the DGS, is responsible for tracking the progress of students through the degree program. Any academic milestones reached should be communicated to the DA so that this can be recorded in the system that the DGS and Dean of Students use to monitor student progress. In most cases, as described in the Graduate Student Handbook, this involves submitting forms signed by a committee and reviewed by the Department Chair. Students can consult with the DA or DGS at any time to make sure their records are current. During the annual spring review, the DGS will notify students of their current progress and alert them to upcoming milestones so that they can stay on track.
  3. Reviews: The Department conducts an annual review of students during the spring quarter. In April, students submit a self-review form to the DA which provides updates on current progress and milestones achieved and plans for the following year. This includes updates on degree requirements as well as on pedagogy training. The forms also provide students with the chance to raise general concerns about the department or address their advising needs.
  4. Remedies: If a student is not making adequate progress in the program, they may be placed on academic probation. This is a sanction internal to the department. This can happened for such reasons as accumulating incompletes, for failing to redeem them as agreed upon, for failure to schedule an annual advisory meeting during candidacy, or poor performance in course work. Upon receiving written notice from the DGS or Chair, the student, in consultation with their adviser and the DGS, should draw up a timetable for correcting the problems in question. Depending upon the nature of the case, failure to comply may result in the student's being required to take a leave of absence in order to complete the necessary work or, in some cases, dismissal from the program. If at any stage a student feels they have been unfairly assessed, they should consult the Division’s grievance procedures.
  5. Counseling Out: If at any point a student wishes to leave the program, they should discuss the matter with their adviser and the DGS. If a student does not feel comfortable contacting either party about the matter, they should contact the Department Chair and/or the Dean of Students Office.

V. Student Support

  1. Communication: The EALC mentoring plan will be distributed to all incoming students and reviewed as part of graduate student orientation in September. Should the department mentoring committee decide to revise the document during its annual review, the updated plan will be shared with all students as soon as it is approved by the faculty. 
  2. Interventions: If a student is having difficulty with their primary adviser, they should bring this up with the Chair of the mentoring committee, usually the DGS. If they would not feel comfortable doing so, they can then reach out to the Department Chair. In the case that the Chair is their adviser, or would otherwise not be an appropriate person to discuss the matter with, they bring the issue to the Dean of Students office.
  3. Changing Advisors: If at any point a student wishes to change their adviser, they should contact the Chair of the mentoring committee, usually the DGS. If a student does not feel comfortable contacting this person, or if this person is their current adviser, they should contact the Department Chair.

VI. Faculty Support

  1. Communication: The mentoring plan is distributed to all faculty during the annual spring review of graduate students. Faculty will be encouraged to review the document as they evaluate the progress of their advisees.
  2. Assistance: Faculty are encouraged to utilize the UChicago Faculty Development Program for resources and workshops that can help them become more effective mentors. Current workshops include “Maintaining Effective Communication,” “Aligning Expectations,” “Mentoring Across Difference,” and “Conducting Crucial Conversations.” Department trainings are also available upon request.

VII. Amendments to Mentoring Plan

  1. Every academic year, the department Chair will appoint 3 faculty (including the DGS) and 2 students to serve on the mentoring committee. One of the charges of this committee will be to review the mentoring plan and consider any revisions or updates that should be made to the plan. Proposed changes must be presented to faculty and to graduate students during one of the department’s quarterly town halls. The revised plan must then be approved by a vote of the faculty during the spring quarter. This committee will also serve to address or mediate any concerns that students have with mentoring and advising.