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Department of English
Graduate Assessment Report
Last updated December 2002

Purpose of graduate degrees in English

The department of English grants three graduate degrees: the MA in Literature, the MA in Creative Writing, and the PhD.

  • The MA in Literature gives students expertise in English-language literature from the Middle Ages to the present, as well as mastery of theoretical and topical approaches to the study of literature.
  • The MA in Creative Writing trains students to write in a variety of genres and to study literature from the point of view of a working writer. The degree program culminates in the submission and oral defense of a thesis consisting of a creative work of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and/or scriptwriting.
  • Students who enter the PhD program already hold an MA in English, or its equivalent. The PhD prepares graduates as scholars and teachers of literature and may be earned in any field of English, American, Anglophone, or multicultural literary studies; the faculty welcomes work from a variety of theoretical, cultural-studies, and cross-disciplinary approaches.

While all three graduate degrees are valuable preparation for careers as teachers, writers, and/or scholars, the department emphasizes the fact that a graduate degree in the humanities is in itself a valuable goal and a laudable achievement. The main purpose of any graduate degree in English is a deeper understanding of literature, one of humanityís greatest gifts to itself: how and why literature is produced, how and why it survives, what it can tell generations subsequent to itself.

Department of English graduate curricula

How do the curricula meet the goals of the graduate degrees?

  • The MA in Literature curriculum meets its goals by requiring courses in all periods of English-language literature from the Middle Ages to the present; a course in literary theory; a course in transhistorical or transnational approaches to literature; and several electives allowing students to concentrate in a particular field, or to take coursework outside the English department.
  • The MA in Creative Writing curriculum meets its goals by requiring writing workshop courses in several genres (e.g., fiction, poetry, nonfiction, playwriting, screenwriting); courses in literature, taught by Creative Writing faculty, that study literature from the point of view of authorly problem-solving; courses in literary criticism; and several electives allowing students to concentrate in a particular genre of writing, or to take coursework outside the English department.
  • The PhD curriculum meets its goals by emphasizing flexibility: since PhD students enter the program already holding an MA degree and ready to concentrate on a field of specialization, they are allowed to design their own coursework, as long as they have already demonstrated the kind of broad expertise represented by our own MA in Literature. After completing coursework, PhD students go on to take a comprehensive exam in their field of specialization, then to write a defend a dissertation that represents a work of original scholarship.

What curricular changes have been recently implemented or are being considered?
The department of English implements curricular changes for several reasons: to prepare all students more thoroughly for teaching careers at the secondary or college level; to prepare MA-Literature students more thoroughly for PhD study; to distinguish our MA-Creative Writing program from other programs around the country; and, most of all, to reflect changes in the discipline.

  • MA-Literature. The current MA-Literature curriculum was given its basic design in the early 1990s, and paralleled a redesigned undergraduate curriculum. The department decided in 1998, however, that the graduate curriculum was slightly too restrictive and somewhat overemphasized medieval and Renaissance literature at the expense of later literatures, so the curriculum was revised to correct these problems. Currently the department is considering whether to revise the curriculum again so as to allow further specialization in particular periods or types of literature (e.g., ethnic American literature, Romantic literature). The department will decide this issue in Spring 2003.
  • MA-Creative Writing. The MA in Creative Writing was founded in 1986; the current MA-Creative Writing curriculum dates to the early 1990s. While the curriculum has not undergone major revision since then, the faculty reorganized their teaching schedule in 1999 so that more of the creative writing graduate courses, including courses in literary criticism, are taught by creative writing faculty.
  • PhD. The PhD curriculum was revised in 1998 to include no specific course requirements; PhD students now design their coursework, in consultation with the director of Graduate Studies, in ways that will best prepare them for their eventual field of specialization.

Measures of success

Please see the sections below for placement information for our recent graduates.

  • MA-Literature. Completion of the MA in Literature is excellent preparation for PhD studies, for teaching at the community-college or secondary-school level, and for any profession that values skills in writing, editing, and analytical thinking. In the last five years, about 50% of our graduates have entered PhD programs in English, both here at CU Boulder and in programs around the country; about 15% have immediately entered the teaching profession at the college, secondary, or primary-school level; and the remainder have gained employment in various professions including law, editing, technical writing, etc.
  • MA-Creative Writing. Recent MA-Creative Writing graduates have become not only published authors of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, plays, and screenplays, but also journalists, editors, publishers, and college-level and secondary-level teachers. The exact employment of our MA-Creative Writing program graduates is hard to track, as people in arts fields often are; but our records show they generally either enter doctoral or MFA programs or work as editors, technical writers, or writers for nonprofit corporations; many of them are writers with distinguished publication records, whether or not they are earning their living as professional writers.
  • PhD. Of the 18 doctorates awarded from the 1997-98 academic year to 2001-2002, 8 graduates (44%) have thus far been placed in tenure-track positions at two-year and four-year colleges and at universities. In addition, 2 others (11%) are working as full-time college or university instructors; and 4 (22%) have part-time college teaching positions. Since 1990, our placement of PhD graduates in tenure-track positions stands at 49% (35 of 72 graduates). Other placement of PhD graduates since 1990 includes: 11% (8 of 72) in full-time, non-tenure track academic positions; 15% (11 of 72) in part-time academic positions; 4% (3 of 72) in academic administration; and 18% (13 of 72) in various professions outside higher education, including secondary-school teaching, law, technical writing, and computer science.

Publications, awards, and conference papers
Most publication in the humanities occurs after the PhD is earned. However, a number of our PhD and MA students have published essays in literary-criticism journals or works of creative writing (primarily short fiction and poetry) before graduation. Students in our department regularly do extremely well in competitions for campus-wide dissertation fellowships in the humanities, including the Reynolds and Udick Fellowships offered through the Graduate School, the Emerson and Lowe Fellowships offered through the College of Arts and Sciences, and the Devaney Fellowships offered through the Center for Humanities and the Arts.

Department of English
Placement of M.A. Graduates
Spring 1996-Summer 2002

Placement of M.A.-Literature Graduates

Ph.D./MFA programs in English or Creative Writing 46
Ph.D. programs in other disciplines 1
Master's in Library Science 1
Adjunct teaching at 4-year colleges or universities 2
Community college teaching 3
Secondary-school teaching 8
Primary-school teaching 1
College or university administration 3
Law school or law practice 4
Computer programming, technical writing, translation, web site design 8
Business (PR, banking, printing/bookbinding, etc.) 3
Working for non-profit organizations (grantwriting, etc.) 2
Film/theater production 2
Creating writing/journalism 1
Farming 1
Homemaking 1
Police work 1
Training sled dogs for the Iditarod 1
Unknown 3
Total 92

Placement of M.A.-Creative Writing Graduates

Ph.D./MFA programs in English or Creative Writing 7
Tenure-track professorship 2
Professional writer or journalist 10
Adjunct teaching at 4-year colleges or universities 6
Community college teaching 3
Secondary-school teaching 5
Law school or law practice 1
Computer programming, technical writing, translation, web site design 2
Working for non-profit organizations (grantwriting, etc.) 5
Business (administrator for petrochemical corporation) 1
Unknown 34
Total 76

Tenure-Track Faculty Appointments of CU-Boulder Doctorates Awarded AY 1990-2002
Arranged According to Carnegie Foundation Institutional Classification

Associate of Arts Colleges
(1,471 nationwide; 41% of total institutions enrolling 43% of students)

  • Arizona Western Community College (Yuma, Arizona)
  • Denver East Community College (Denver, Colorado)
  • Gordon College (Barnesville, Georgia)
  • Mira Costa Community College (Oceanside, California)

Baccalaureate Colleges
(722 nationwide; 18% of total institutions enrolling 7% of students)

  • Adrian College (Adrian, Michigan)
  • Calvin College (Grand Rapids, Michigan)
  • Colby College (Waterville, Maine)
  • Eastern Connecticut State University (Willimantic, Connecticut)
  • Fairmont State College (Fairmont, West Virginia)
  • Hope College (Holland, Michigan)
  • Midland Lutheran College (Fremont, Nebraska)
  • Seton Hill College (Greensburg, Pennsylvania)
  • Southern Utah State College (Cedar City, Utah) (2 placements)

Masterís Colleges and Universities
(529 nationwide; 15% of total institutions enrolling 21% of students)

  • Augusta College (Augusta, Georgia)
  • California State University at San Marcos
  • East Carolina University (Greenville, North Carolina)
  • Eastern Illinois University (Charleston, Illinois)
  • Mountain State University (formerly College of West Virginia) (Beckley, West Virginia)
  • Naropa University (Boulder, Colorado)
  • New York State College at Buffalo
  • State University of New York College at Cortland
  • University of North Carolina at Charlotte
  • University of North Florida (Jacksonville, Florida)
  • University of Texas at San Antonio
  • University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh
  • Virginia State University (Petersburg, Virginia)
  • Viterbo College (LaCrosse, Wisconsin)

Doctoral & Research Universities
(236 nationwide; 6% of total institutions enrolling 27% of students)

  • University of Denver
  • Middle Tennessee State University (Murfreesboro)
  • University of Maine-Orono
  • University of Missouri at Kansas City
  • Wright State University (Dayton, Ohio)

Specialized Institutions
(722 nationwide; 20 % of total institutions enrolling 4% of students; eg., schools of engineering, law, medicine, business, etc.)

  • University of Colorado Health Sciences Center (Denver)


  • Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia)

PhD placement in seven major employment categories used by Modern Language Association:

Tenure-track appointment 35
Full-time non-tenure-track appointment 8
Part-time appointment 11
Postdoctoral fellowship 0
Academic administration 3
Outside higher education 13
Not employed 1
[Unknown] 1
Total 72

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Last revision 12/31/02

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