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Additional Information for Graduate Students and Teaching Assistants

1. Graduate Assistantships

Graduate Assistantships carry a stipend of $10,000 per academic year and covers the cost of tuition for the entire program.  This award is offered on a competitive basis.  Students interested in obtaining a teaching assistantship must be officially admitted into the MA program in Romance Languages.  Part-time students or students who have a full-time job or any other activities that may interfere with their academic responsibilities are not eligible for these assistantships.  There is no stipend for the summer. Graduate students who obtain a graduate assistantship are usually supported for two academic years provided their academic and teaching performance are satisfactory. GA’s may also request to teach courses in the summer provided their academic and teaching performance are satisfactory. Summer courses cannot be assigned or guaranteed in advance since they are offered according to enrollment figures. In previous years our graduate assistants have generally been assigned courses, especially in the second summer session. This additional source of income may increase significantly the total amount of the stipend.

In addition to satisfying all the previous requirements set by the Graduate School and the Department, students interested in obtaining a graduate assistantship should submit a letter of intent, addressed to Dr. Will Thompson, Chairman, Department of World Languages and Literatures with a copy to Dr. Fernando Burgos Pérez, Coordinator of Graduate Studies. Prospective candidates will be interviewed by the Spanish faculty to determine their command of the language. Candidates are also interviewed by the Chairman of the Department. 

2. Duties and Responsibilities of Graduate Assistants

Each semester graduate assistants must register for a minimum of nine (9) credit hours of graduate work chosen from courses taught in the Department of World Languages and Literatures unless an exception is approved by the coordinator. All courses must be approved by the Coordinator of Graduate Studies.

Graduate Assistants are not permitted to teach during their first and second semester unless they have eighteen (18) credit hours of graduate work in Spanish, teaching experience in the field, and the approval of the graduate coordinator. Graduate Assistants will receive training in the teaching of lower-division courses. The training requires a total of 20 hours per week for two semesters. As part of this training, they will be required to visit classes taught by the faculty, and make an oral and written report to the Supervisor of Graduate Assistants as well as to the Coordinator of Graduate Studies. [Please refer to specific guidelines regarding class visitation]. GA's will also assist Spanish faculty with the teaching of upper-division courses for six hours per week. GA's may also be required to perform other functions such as assisting instructors in the teaching of lower-division courses.  All of the aforementioned activities constitute a significant part of the graduate assistant training. Starting with their third semester GA's will teach two courses per semester. At this point graduate assistants become instructors of record and the total number of hours related to teaching is 20 per week, which includes actual teaching of 2 courses, class preparation, office hours, participation in online and on-campus workshops, and meetings with the GA supervisor.

GA's will be monitored every semester by the GA Supervisor. This supervision will include weekly meetings, seminars and class visitations. The GA Supervisor and the Coordinator of Graduate Studies will also determine the teaching schedule of each GA.

All GA's who are assigned to teach courses or to assist in the teaching of courses are required to hold office hours (three [3] hours per week) and to post them at the appropriate place. Non-native English speakers must pass the SPEAK test or score 26 (or higher) on the speaking portion of the TOEFL iBT before they can be appointed as instructors of record. For further information you can visit SPEAK Test.

3. Visitation Guidelines for In-Training Graduate Assistants

During their first year in our M.A. program, Graduate Assistants do not have full responsibility for teaching their own classes. This first year is devoted to providing appropriate pedagogical training in order to ensure that GAs are qualified to assume full responsibility of their own classes during the first year. According to the University of Memphis Graduate School and Human Resource Department's regulations, GAs are required to devote 20 hours of significant academic activities outside any class that they take.

Graduate Assistants assist a faculty member in his/her classes. This entails attending class everyday but it also implies a degree of preparation and communication with the faculty member. Through their participation in these classes, GAs experience first-hand what it means to be a foreign language educator, they learn useful and practical teaching techniques and develop an understanding of how to cope with unplanned situations and student issues that occur in our everyday teaching.

Graduate Assistants observe one class per week, led by a fellow GA, an instructor or a professor. After that, they complete a report about the class visit and finally, they meet with the GA supervisor (individually or as a group) to discuss what they have learned from the experience and consider how to apply this new knowledge in their own teaching. During the first semester classes observed are Spanish classes but there also are class visitations of classes taught in other languages such as French, German, Italian, Chinese, and Japanese. This gives the graduate assistant the opportunity to understand how different teaching strategies work across languages and to understand the position of a student learning the language for the first time.

Graduate Assistants may also assist the Basic Language Program by creating tests, and banks of quizzes. GAs also need to be knowledgeable about the theories and foundations of second language acquisition and foreign language pedagogy. Hence, GAs are required to read scholarly articles and watch videos and work in order to create a solid theoretical background. GAs may also be required to attend the Department's Pedagogy Workshop Series as well as the annual Tennessee Foreign Language Teaching Conference that takes place in Memphis every Spring.

Teaching demonstration is an essential element in the training of GAs because it allows the supervisor to make sure GAs are ready to take full responsibility of their classrooms. Mini and full class demonstration are used for this purpose.

4. Reappointment of Teaching Assistants

Graduate Assistantships are normally granted for four semesters. Appointments beyond the fourth semester are contingent upon the number of positions and funds available in the Department of World Languages and Literatures. In order to be reappointed, a graduate assistant must:

  1. Show good academic performance. A minimum 3.0 GPA each semester must be maintained in order to retain your assistantship.
  2. Demonstrate a pedagogical competency meeting the requirements of the GA Supervisor. During their first and second semesters, GA's must comply with the required class visitation as stated in the specific guidelines, submit an oral and written report to the GA Supervisor and Graduate Coordinator, participation in online and campus workshops, and assist in the teaching of lower- and upper-division courses.
  3. Give evidence of an improved proficiency in Spanish.

5. Reading List

In addition to the course work, candidates are provided with a reading list, which is found at the end of this document. This particular reading list serves as a guide and a general orientation only.  However, the emphasis is on the actual reading list discussed in each class.

6. Language Proficiency

All graduate students must demonstrate proficiency in Spanish. Deficiencies must be corrected. Lack of proficiency in Spanish can and will be used as a basis for termination of the student’s graduate assistantship.

7. Reading Knowledge of a Second Language

All candidates shall acquire a reading knowledge of a foreign language other than that of the concentration. (See #4 under the section "Program Requirements" in this document). In the case of international students, English will not be accepted to satisfy this requirement.

8. Independent Studies

An independent study is a planned activity, under the direct supervision of faculty, involving a project not covered in any other format in the Department. Independent studies must not be taken in lieu of other courses being offered.  Independent study courses should only be approved in extraordinary situations.   Furthermore, independent study courses depend on the willingness and/or availability of faculty members.

9. Minimum Coursework Requirements for the MA Program in Spanish

3 courses in Peninsular literature at the 7000 level
3 courses in Latin American literature at the 7000 level
2 course in Spanish Linguistics at the 7000 level

Each of these courses carries 3 credit hours. They must be taken in the Department of World Languages and Literatures (unless an exception was approved by the graduate coordinator) and they must be at the 7000-level. This is minimum coursework without which the student is not eligible to take the comprehensive exams.

There are also additional requirements for eligibility. 

This minimum coursework gives you 24 hours of graduate work. The rest of the courses to reach the minimum of 33 may be (these are only suggestions):

  1. SPAN 6563 - Spanish Lit Genres (3), unless this course was taken at the undergraduate level (4563)
  2. PORT 6024 Introduction to Brazilian Short Stories (3), unless this course was taken at the undergraduate level (4024)
  3. Additional 7000-level courses in SPAN Linguistics
  4. Additional 7000-level courses in Spanish literature or Spanish –American literature
    In regard to 4000/6000 level courses. Students who have already taken a combination 4000/6000 level as an undergraduate student or whose topic is determined to have already been covered as an undergraduate student (although the title may be different) WILL NOT be able to count these courses (if taken at the 6000 level) for graduation. 

10. Comprehensive Examinations

Before being recommended for graduation, every candidate for the Master’s degree is required to pass a final written and oral comprehensive examination which is offered once a year during the first week of the fall semester. Eligibility to take the comprehensive exams includes the following:

  1. The student must have already completed a minimum of thirty-three (33) semester hours of graduate work including the minimum required coursework which is a combination of Spanish Literature, Spanish American Literature and Linguistic courses. All of these courses must be taken in the Department of World Languages and Literatures (unless permissions was granted by the graduate coordinator) and must be at the 7000-level.
  2. At least twenty-three (23) hours must be taken in 7000-level courses (eight [8] courses in all). Only three courses at the 6000 level will count toward the degree.
  3. The reading knowledge requirement must be satisfied prior to the comprehensive exams. A reading knowledge of a foreign language other than that of the concentration is required of all students in order to graduate. This is explained under the Program Requirements.
  4. The student must have at least a 3.0 average in all graduate work.

It is the student's responsibility to confer with the Coordinator one semester prior to the examination date regarding the time and place of this examination. At that time, the candidates should also arrange individual meetings with the professors of Peninsular literature, Latin American Literature and Linguistics to discuss material to be included in the comprehensive exams.

The comprehensive written and oral examinations will be conducted in Spanish. All exams are proctored by a faculty member or by personnel designated by the Coordinator. After the written exam candidates are required to take an oral examination which may include questions related to the written part (further analysis, clarification of points, etc.) as well as questions related to the reading list and/or content of the courses or any other material indicated by each member of the examining committee which may not have been included in the written exam.

In order to obtain a passing grade on the comprehensives, the candidate must pass the areas covered by these exams with a grade of B or better (80-100). A student who does not perform satisfactorily on the first comprehensive examination will be given an opportunity to retake the areas that he/she has failed when the exams are offered again. The Spanish faculty will recommend relevant coursework which the student may elect to take in preparation for retaking the exam. If the student's performance is unsatisfactory on the second examination, he/she will be dropped from the program.

The oral and written comprehensive exams are mandatory for all the students in the program.

After the administration of both the written and oral exams, the chair of the examining committee will ask each faculty member participating in these exams to sign the Comprehensive Examination Results Form which will be submitted to the Graduate School within a week. This form will indicate if the student passed or failed the comprehensive exams. 

11. Procedures for Comprehensive Exams

  1. All students will take the exams during the same period of time.
  2. Exams will be administered by a faculty member or designated personnel.
  3. Written and oral exams are always in Spanish.
  4. Students must finish the exam within the allotted time. Missing any of these exams --including the oral-- will subject the student to a failing grade.
  5. The student can use a dictionary (Spanish-Spanish or Spanish-English). Notes, books or any other materials are not permitted and their usage will subject the student to a failing grade.
  6. Students who decide to postpone the date of the comprehensive exams should inform the Graduate Coordinator the semester they are completing their coursework. When the student decides to postpone the exam date, he/she will need to arrange with the Coordinator to schedule a new date. The new scheduled date will fall within the policy according to which comprehensive exams are given once a year. Therefore, the student needs to be very careful when postponing these exams because he/she will have to wait an entire academic semester or more to retake them.
  7. Eligibility to take the comprehensive exams includes: a) 33 hours in the field; b) passing the Reading Knowledge requirement.
  8. The written and oral comprehensive exams may include the following sections in the areas of Spanish and Spanish American literature. These are only guidelines. It is mandatory to consult with each faculty member who is participating in the exam. The comprehensive exam in Linguistics, for instance, may have a totally different format.
    • a. Questions requiring that the student identify literary works from the reading list and/or from the course work. The student should always consult with the corresponding faculty member to agree on a final reading list in each particular area.
    • b. Questions that require specific knowledge regarding the content of the courses.
    • c. Questions that require analysis and interpretation of literary works. This would usually be an essay intended to demonstrate the student's ability to analyze literary works at a level corresponding to the critical thinking required of graduate students.

Each section must be allotted a certain percentage. The following percentages are recommended:

  • Part a: 20-30%
  • Part b: 20-30%
  • Part c: 40-60%

12. Additional Information regarding the Comprehensive Exams

The student will have three written and oral exams 1) Spanish Literature; 2) Spanish American Literature; and 3) Linguistics.

The student will have a written and an oral exam in each of these subjects that they will take the same day.

Each of these written exams may have questions from all of the different professors and their specified area, or only some of them. In any case, you should be well prepared and know all of the material covered by each of the professors. In the oral exams from each subject a minimum of two professors will participate, but all of the professors of the subject may be there even if they have not participated in any of the questions for the written exams.  In the oral exams of each subject there may be questions or comments about the questions from the written exam, or questions from professors who did not participate in the written exam.

The content of the exams may refer to any of the following situations:

  1. The material of the course or courses from the professor with whom the student took the class
  2. New readings or materials- essays, for example- that the professor determines relevant in relation to a specific class
  3. A combination of the course material with the new lectures or materials that the professor determines relevant in relation to a specific class.
    The student must have an interview with each professor who will test the student to determine which of the situations mentioned will correspond to the student. This may be different with each professor that may participate. The responsibility of scheduling the interview relies on the student and is not the responsibility of the professor.

13. Graduation

 In order to graduate, students are required to submit to the Graduate School the following:

  1. Intent to Graduate Card
  2. Master’s Degree Candidacy Form

Students are responsible for submitting electronically both forms and making sure to comply with the deadlines. The Coordinator of the program and/or faculty members are not responsible for informing the students about the deadlines or for filling out these forms.

14. Time Limitation

All requirements for the degree must be completed in six calendar years. Courses more than six years old will not be allowed as credit toward the Master's degree. There are no exceptions to this policy. However, students may request the option of validating old courses as described in the catalog under the section "Course Validations." It should be noted that even though validation of old courses is provided as an option, this procedure is very restricted and subject to several regulations. 

15. Grade Point Average (GPA)

Graduate students must maintain a 3.00 GPA (the equivalent of a "B"). A grade below "C" will not apply toward any graduate degree, but will be computed in the GPA. No more than seven (7) hours of "C" will be applied towards meeting degree requirements. Grades of “D” and “F” will not apply toward any graduate degree, but will be computed in the GPA. Grades earned at another university will not be computed in the cumulative GPA. A graduate student whose cumulative grade point average drops below 3.00 will be placed on probation. A second consecutive semester on probation can result in suspension.

16. Academic Misconduct

Graduate students at The University of Memphis are expected to observe the regulations and policies that govern the behavior of students as members of this academic community. These regulations and policies are published and available online. In particular, graduate students should become familiar with the University's policies on plagiarism in its various forms. Furthermore, term papers may not be used to meet the requirements of more than one course unless approved in advance by both instructors. 

17. Invitation to evaluate the MA program

Graduate students have the opportunity to evaluate each course every semester by means of the standard student evaluation (SETE).

18. Current Graduate Course Offerings

Please refer to the corresponding schedule of classes.

19. Spanish Graduate Faculty

Pilar Alcalde, Associate Professor of Spanish. Ph.D. University of Southern California. Area of Research: Golden Age
Vania Barraza Toledo, Professor. Ph.D. University of Arizona. Area of Research: Spanish American Literature
Fernando Burgos Perez, Professor of Spanish. Ph.D. University of Florida. Area of Research: Nineteenth- & Twentieth-Century Spanish American narrative
Brianna Butera, Assistant Professor. Ph.D. University of Wisconsin, Madison.  Area of Research: Linguistics
Fatima Nogueira, Professor. Ph.D. Vanderbilt University. Area of Research: Latin American Literature. Spanish and Portuguese languages
Iván Ortega Santos, Associate Professor. Ph.D. University of Maryland. Area of Research: Linguistics
Diana Ruggiero, Associate Professor.  Ph.D.  Ohio State University. Area of Research: Spanish for Professional Purposes
Francisco Vivar, Professor. Ph.D. University of California, Los Angeles.
Area of Research: Golden Age prose and drama. Colonial Spanish American literature

Contact information

Fernando Burgos Perez, Professor of Spanish. Ph.D. Coordinator of Graduate Studies, fburgos@memphis.edu