Jump to content

Recommended Posts

I am an undergrad beginning applications next Fall semester, and I need advice on my current school list and perhaps any experience with the schools or living in the cities. I am primarily interested in Southern literature, theory, identity, and philosophy, Civil War literature, history, and philosophy like Transcendtalism, and African American literature from pre-Civil War to now. I plan to pursue an MA first then go on to a PhD. My current top two MA schools and potential advisers or professors with whom I am interested in working are Leigh Anne Duck and Adam Gussow at University of Mississippi and Cody Marrs at University of Georgia. Aside from University of Mississippi and Georgia, my list includes, in order, University of Alabama and Kentucky, and if I decide to pursue Rhet/Comp instead, University of Illinois. My dream PhD schools are UNC Chapel Hill and University of Virginia.

I am confident in getting a good placement for the MA level, but I am concered about things like living stipend, fit with the university, and potential for improvement before moving to PhD. I have a strong application which I think will place me at the top of any MA level group of entering students, but I do not think it would be strong enough to ensure me a spot at my dream PhD schools. I will definitely be applying to an MA at Miss., Georgia, Alabama, and Kentucky. Would the application fees be worth it to also apply to PhD at UNC or Virginia?

Does anyone have experience with Mississippi or Georgia and their faculty working in Southern Lit? What are some schools I am not considering which also have strong Southern lit faculty? 

What is it like to live in Oxford, Tuscaloosa, Athens, or Lexington? How do the costs of living compare? Of the four, Alabama and Georgia offer the highest MA living stipend at $13,500 and $14,000 respectively, but Georgia expects a much higher teaching load at 3/3 for the second year. Mississippi offers $10,000, and I do not yet know Kentucky's stipend.

 

I have chosen each of these MA schools because they offer funding. Mississippi is my top interest, but they also have the lowest stipend offer. How likely am I to get other fellowships or scholarships in addition? Will $10,000 go very far in Oxford? That is already below my lowest margin for a stipend, but Mississippi seems like where I want to be for Southern lit.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm finishing up my MA at Mississippi, and it's been lovely. Small, inclusive department in a college town. The $10000 is just the base pay, they might offer you merit bonuses (I got an extra $1000 a semester for the first two years), and summer teaching and research assistantships are readily available, paying $3500 and $2000, respectively. MS is obviously a cheap state, and it's not like you'll be loaded, but I've found my stipend (including bonuses and summer work) adequate. Plus, the three-year program is excellent with an eye toward the PhD; it's longer, sure, but you get a full year beyond coursework to write a thesis (meaning you're digging deeply into your intended field) and to prepare your apps with much greater leisure than you would if you were scrambling to finish coursework in the second year.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Cotton Joe: I can't speak to any of these schools, so I hope you won't think me too forward, but - since you're looking in the South - I would DEFINITELY check out Dr. Robert Brinkmeyer, over at the University of South Carolina. I know his work, and he's bloody-brilliant, and I believe USC has a history of a.) offering decent stipends, and b.) having a very healthy, collegial English department.

Sorry if this is a detour from the info you want, I just wanted to put in a good word where I've heard good things happening!

Edited by angel_kaye13
Tagging person responding to.
Link to comment
Share on other sites

A couple of notes here:
Alabama is mostly renowned for its Strode Program within the English Department + the Creative Writing MFA.  I think the Strode Program boasts a 100 percent placement rate at the Ph.D. level.

If you're really interested in southern lit:
Southern Carolina is a good place to check out
Mississipi is a good place for it
LSU is another place I'd consider
Western Carolina has a decent number of faculty interested in Southern Lit and they also offer a funded MA.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I think you might want to consider the MA at Virginia Commonwealth University. There are a number of faculty there working on Southern Lit, 19th Century, and/or African American. Definitely check out Les Harrison and Kathy Bassard. The stipend is in the ballpark of the other programs you are considering but the teaching demands are a little less. Richmond is a great city, housing is relatively inexpensive, and there is a ton of civil war history and really great resources and research opportunities for that. The department is a good size and the faculty are all lovely. I had 2 great years there. I'm at Rutgers doing a PhD now but I really miss my VCU times. GO RAMS!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@piers_plowman  Thanks for the information. Sorry for the huge list of questions that I am about to throw at you, but you are the first person from Miss. that I have talked with on this site. Does the Mississippi MA require three years, or are you just taking three years? Do they offer funding for the third year? How do they determine who gets merit scholarships, and are those awarded for the first semester that you attend? What is the teaching load during the semester and during summer? If you don't mind my asking, how much is your rent, or do you have other non-rent living arrangements? Are there affordable places close to campus? I will potentially be moving with a partner so hopefully rent won't be as big of an issue, but I want to make sure I can survive on my own regardless. Do you have a car? Is life in Oxford viable with just a bike? Is there any kind of public transportation? 

The university website has a list of current graduate students, but it does not have email addresses. If I wanted to contact a grad student for further information about the school and the city, how would I go about finding email addresses for them?

 

Thanks again, and sorry for so many questions.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Warelin Thanks for the reply. South Carolina's living stipend is below my expected level. As far as I can tell, they offer about $8500 a semester, and I think Columbia might be more expensive to live in than Oxford. Thanks for the information about Alabama. I am also interested in early modern lit, and some important early modern stuff comes from the south, so I think I could make that work as well. I have not looked into LSU at all, but I will be checking them out as well now.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

28 minutes ago, Cotton Joe said:

@Warelin Thanks for the reply. South Carolina's living stipend is below my expected level. As far as I can tell, they offer about $8500 a semester, and I think Columbia might be more expensive to live in than Oxford. Thanks for the information about Alabama. I am also interested in early modern lit, and some important early modern stuff comes from the south, so I think I could make that work as well. I have not looked into LSU at all, but I will be checking them out as well now.

I think it's important to remember (not saying you aren't but might be helpful for other applicants) that what appears to be a high stipend may not get as far as one thinks.

For example, CUNY (while a great school) pays 25k. Alabama pays 13.5k. And you mentioned SC offers 8.5k per semester which equals 17k per year.

In this example, I'll be using myapartmentmap to compare cost of living for rent only within a 10 mile radius.

According to this, the cost of rent near CUNY runs around $2,757 monthly. $2,757*12= $33,084
According to this, the cost of rent near Alabama runs around $697 monthly. $697*12=$8,364
According to this, the cost of rent near South Carolina runs around $744 monthly. $744*12=8,928

Stipend-Rent costs
CUNY: 25,000-33,084= -8,084
Alabama: 13,500-8,364= 5,136
South Carolina: 17,000-8,928= 8,072

While I would never advise choosing any school based on income after rent, I think it's an important factor to consider. These are unfortunately just generalizations in the average rent cost and assumes you'd be living alone in a 1 bedroom apartment with no roommates. CUNY could work out greatly for someone who splits housing costs with another individual. (and it's much easier to find a roommate in NYC than it is in most other places.)

I'd also like to point out that Alabama does have an additional amount provided to those who are accepted into their Strode program, but it is a lot harder to gain admission into since it's sort of separately funded from everything else. From the scholars I've spoken to in the strode program, their previous coursework has been focused on the early modern period.

On a side note, I'm not sure on their reputation in southern literature, but Vanderbilt offers a free application to apply.
 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

On 12/8/2016 at 11:07 AM, Warelin said:

I think it's important to remember (not saying you aren't but might be helpful for other applicants) that what appears to be a high stipend may not get as far as one thinks.

For example, CUNY (while a great school) pays 25k. Alabama pays 13.5k. And you mentioned SC offers 8.5k per semester which equals 17k per year.

In this example, I'll be using myapartmentmap to compare cost of living for rent only within a 10 mile radius.

According to this, the cost of rent near CUNY runs around $2,757 monthly. $2,757*12= $33,084
According to this, the cost of rent near Alabama runs around $697 monthly. $697*12=$8,364
According to this, the cost of rent near South Carolina runs around $744 monthly. $744*12=8,928

Stipend-Rent costs
CUNY: 25,000-33,084= -8,084
Alabama: 13,500-8,364= 5,136
South Carolina: 17,000-8,928= 8,072

While I would never advise choosing any school based on income after rent, I think it's an important factor to consider. These are unfortunately just generalizations in the average rent cost and assumes you'd be living alone in a 1 bedroom apartment with no roommates. CUNY could work out greatly for someone who splits housing costs with another individual. (and it's much easier to find a roommate in NYC than it is in most other places.)

I'd also like to point out that Alabama does have an additional amount provided to those who are accepted into their Strode program, but it is a lot harder to gain admission into since it's sort of separately funded from everything else. From the scholars I've spoken to in the strode program, their previous coursework has been focused on the early modern period.

On a side note, I'm not sure on their reputation in southern literature, but Vanderbilt offers a free application to apply.
 

My "likes" were all out for today, but YES to all of this. I know, too, for a fact that South Carolina tries to give Teaching Assistantships to as many people as possible, which remits half of your tuition for the first semester (as an MA student), and remits full tuition for the second semester.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

41 minutes ago, Warelin said:


I'd also like to point out that Alabama does have an additional amount provided to those who are accepted into their Strode program, but it is a lot harder to gain admission into since it's sort of separately funded from everything else. From the scholars I've spoken to in the strode program, their previous coursework has been focused on the early modern period.

On a side note, I'm not sure on their reputation in southern literature, but Vanderbilt offers a free application to apply.
 

1.) @Warelin, you really are a wonderful contributor to GC. Your investigation into the underlying numbers (not just in this instance, but in many) is the kind of thing that most English majors don't do...to their great detriment. You've been a big help to a lot of folks, whether directly acknowledged or not...so thanks!

2.) Indeed, U of A's Strode Program is exclusively for early modernists and the stipend is considerably higher. It looks like they only accept one person per year, however, so yes...it must be quite competitive (he says, hopefully warding off any other strong early modern candidates...).

 

Edited by Wyatt's Terps
Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Warelin Wow thanks for such an in-depth answer. I'm sorry it came at the expense of my own ignorance, but hopefully other people searching this forum will find it useful as well. That was a lot of work that you absolutely did not have to do, and I certainly appreciate it. Although, I think I might have misrepresented SC's stipend. I said it was per semester, but I cannot actually tell from the website if it is per semester or per year. In my previous post, I meant to write per year, not per semester as per year seems to be how most schools advertise stipends. 

 

I could very likely be wrong here, as I was with the SC stipend, but I don't think Vanderbilt offers an MA, and if they do, it is not funded. I may consider them once I move on to PhD level studies, but for now, they are off the list. The stipend is actually a weighty factor in my decision as it will likely be the only source of income I have during my time in school. 

 

With Mississippi offering a summer teaching assistantship and additional merit scholarship, their total stipend per year could end up being about $17,000 as well, though their average rent is about $300 higher than Columbia.

 

Anyways, just thinking out loud. Thanks again for your contributions. South Carolina was not on my radar at all prior to this thread, so you have definitely opened some new doors for me.

Edited by Cotton Joe
Was wrong about SC stipend, it's probably per year, not per semester
Link to comment
Share on other sites

1 hour ago, Wyatt's Terps said:

2.) Indeed, U of A's Strode Program is exclusively for early modernists and the stipend is considerably higher. It looks like they only accept one person per year, however, so yes...it must be quite competitive (he says, hopefully warding off any other strong early modern candidates...).

 

Strode admits 2-3 MAs per year and 1-2 PhDs. 

As a former Strode MA, I'd recommend the program if you're interesting in early modern lit, @Cotton Joe. However, if, as you say in your initial post, your primary interest is not early modern lit, I would not recommend Alabama. The base stipend is paltry, the teaching load is high, and the non-early modern course offerings are not the greatest. My fiancée, an African-Americanist who also did her MA at 'Bama, often felt dissatisfied with the program, thinking it treated its non-early modern grad students as little more than cheap labor. From what I could tell, she wasn't alone in feeling the way she did; there was a general discontentment among the non-Strode literature students. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Also: I would strongly suggest you not consider a MA program that makes you teach a 3/3 load at any point. That amount of teaching should signal to you that the department is less interested in you as a developing scholar than as a source of labor. 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

@Ramus Thanks for your input. I have defintely been wary of Georgia's program because of the enormous teaching load, though I would really like to work with Cody Marrs, who I mentioned in the initial post. His interests almost exactly match mine, but as you say, a 3/3 load would almost certainly overwhelm my ability to concentrate on studying. Thanks for your input on AL as well. So far, Mississippi is still looking like my best option of the schools I have reviewed at this point.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

3 hours ago, Cotton Joe said:

@piers_plowman  Thanks for the information. Sorry for the huge list of questions that I am about to throw at you, but you are the first person from Miss. that I have talked with on this site. Does the Mississippi MA require three years, or are you just taking three years? Do they offer funding for the third year? How do they determine who gets merit scholarships, and are those awarded for the first semester that you attend? What is the teaching load during the semester and during summer? If you don't mind my asking, how much is your rent, or do you have other non-rent living arrangements? Are there affordable places close to campus? I will potentially be moving with a partner so hopefully rent won't be as big of an issue, but I want to make sure I can survive on my own regardless. Do you have a car? Is life in Oxford viable with just a bike? Is there any kind of public transportation? 

The university website has a list of current graduate students, but it does not have email addresses. If I wanted to contact a grad student for further information about the school and the city, how would I go about finding email addresses for them?

 

Thanks again, and sorry for so many questions.

No problem. It's designed as a three-year program; it's possible to finish in two, but you'd be hard-pressed to do so, especially trying to apply to PhD programs in the fall of your second year. That third year might be a detriment to some who are looking to finish quickly, but I've loved the extra time to plan my apps, polish my materials, and write a quality, extensively researched thesis. The third-year, where you write the thesis and nothing else, models a dissertation year. Everyone admitted is funded for three full years.

Extra merit funding is awarded from a checklist - high GPA, high GRE, etc etc. I can't remember the exact cutoffs though.

 

The first and third years you're a TA for a lit. survey course, where you grade and lead three discussion sections a week. The second year you teach a single section of First Year Composition each semester. During the summer you'd teach one section of a survey lit. course, either in June or July. They show preference for first-years, meaning you're basically guaranteed a teaching slot your first year, but it's fairly easy to get them afterward as well, and if not there are many Research Assistantships, which pay less but are less work.

 

I pay $500 a month, which is high because I prefer to live alone. I know many people who split houses for $800 or so a month. Oxford is tiny (20000 permanent residents, 20000 students), so virtually anywhere you'd live is within 3 miles of campus. I do have a car, and I'd recommend it, but because of the size it's possible to get by without one, if not ideal. There is a bus system that's fairly reliable, 7 days a week until about 9 at night. Several color-coded lines.

 

For more info I'd email the department secretary, April Wootten (awootten@olemiss.edu). She'll either forward your email onto our listserv, or set you up with someone to correspond with.

 

Hope that's helpful!

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. See our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use