Graduate Student Handbook


Information in this handbook is addressed to current students; for the most part, it does not repeat the GSAS Bulletin or the Slavic Department web page.

For programs of study, requirements, and courses of instruction, see the GSAS Slavic Languages webpage and the Department’s web page at

Students should be sure that they comply with GSAS rules and regulations governing progress to the degree, academic standing and fellowships, as set forth on the GSAS website, and in memos sent to graduate students by GSAS.

For professional biographies and contact information for faculty and students, for a Departmental directory, and for Slavic resources at Columbia and beyond, see the Department’s Web page.


1. Financial Aid


A. Fellowships (tuition and stipend)

A limited number of full five-year GSAS fellowships is offered to incoming students in programs leading to the Ph.D. degree. The fellowships are awarded on the basis of the applicants’ statement of purpose and record (grades, GREs, letters of recommendation, and, in particular, a writing sample). Full fellowships are subject to yearly review. Beginning with their second year of study, recipients are normally required to teach. They receive full tuition and a stipend equal to the amount offered that year’s incoming students. Students who come in on four-year fellowships are offered support from the second through the fifth year of study, subject to yearly review.

Fellowship recipients are subject to the regulations established by GSAS. See:

To be paid promptly in the fall, all fellowship recipients and teaching fellows must submit all required paperwork no later than May 15 of that year. Students should contact the Departmental Administrator for instructions.

All graduate students who expect to teach in a particular academic year must fill out a Slavic Department planning questionnaire and sign up for an interview the preceding spring.  (This planning questionnaire is not the same as the GSAS progress report.) The interviews are conducted by the Department Chair, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Language Coordinator.

Students in their second, third, fourth, or fifth years of study may apply for appointments to serve as instructors in the Undergraduate Writing Program. After obtaining their M.Phil. degree, students are also eligible to teach in Columbia College Core programs (Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization). Students can apply in November of the school year in which they anticipate completing the M.Phil. requirements. Applications are not accepted from students beyond the sixth year of continuous registration. The number of positions is limited, and the application process is competitive. Successful applicants are expected to teach for two years.

B. Other types of financial aid

a. Departmental: These sources of funding have been established by long-time teachers in the Department, and are intended to enrich students’ opportunities. The Rose Raskin Fund is awarded at the Department’s discretion for study either here or abroad. The Elena T. Mogilat-John P. Mihaly Fellowship is awarded annually for summer travel to Russia (see the GSAS bulletin for special provisions). Departmental funding opportunities are normally announced—along with submission guidelines—by departmental email. Certain sources of funding, such as the Department's named fellowships, may not be available every year; some funding may be available on an ad hoc basis for travel to conferences, etc. For information on the current status of these funds, please consult the Chair.

b. University: every year, the GSAS provides funds for the Department to make several summer awards, usually $3,000 (these awards are competitive; students should apply in writing to the Department Chair). The Core Curriculum Office awards summer stipends to students teaching the Core courses. FLAS awards are available for students planning to study languages pertinent to their field of research.

For FLAS and other available fellowships and their application deadlines, see the GSAS bulletin and the Web page at Take note of The Whiting Fellowships in the Humanities: awarded annually to outstanding candidates for the Ph.D. degree in humanities departments and in the Department of History; recipients must be in their final year of writing dissertations. As with other fellowships in GSAS, students may not hold a Whiting Fellowship beyond their seventh year of study.

c. Harriman: see the Institute’s Web page at for funding for summer language study. Harriman certificate candidates are eligible for Harriman Junior Fellowships and Pepsico grants.

d. Work-study: work-study positions may be available to graduate students through GSAS, the Harriman Institute, and the Slavic Department. For information and eligibility, consult GSAS or the Department.

e. Outside Funding: See the Department’s web page, under “Slavic Resources: Funding and Summer study opportunities.”  GSAS requires its fellowship recipients to make at least one bona fide attempt at securing outside funding. See:

The Slavic Department strongly advises students to spend at least one year in Russia or another Slavic country under the auspices of IREX, ACTR, Fulbright, or other appropriate organizations. 

C. Emergency Loans

Emergency loans are available to students who, for one reason or another, do not receive paychecks or fellowship stipends on time. A loan must be repaid (either in a lump sum or in installments) during the semester in which it was received. Note that the loan process must be initiated either with the Chair or the Director of Graduate Studies.


2. Timetable for coursework and degrees


Students should be aware that the failure to comply with GSAS rules about “time to degree” will jeopardize their fellowships.

A. No more than three semesters of full-time study from the time a student begins graduate study will be allowed for the completion of the M.A. in any of the Slavic Language programs offered by the Department.

B. The M.A. in Russian translation is usually a two- or three-semester program. The M.A. in Slavic Cultures is usually a three-semester program. These are “free-standing M.A. programs” which do not lead toward the Ph.D. degree.

C. The Slavic Department expects students to complete all requirements for the M.Phil. degree by the midpoint of their fourth year (seventh semester of the program) and no later than the end of the eighth semester. Students must complete all requirements for the M.Phil. degree and file the degree application before the end of their eighth semester of study in order to receive their full funding from GSAS for the following year. (This is a GSAS policy.) See the GSAS website for further information:

Students should plan their studies with this timetable in mind, bearing in mind the language requirements, the coursework for the minor, as well as the requirements for the major and preparation for the comprehensive exams.

Whenever possible, required coursework should be completed in the first three years. Completion of required coursework does not, however, mean that students should stop taking classes: the Department considers these classes to be an integral part of the ongoing intellectual development of its advanced students and encourages them to take courses (whether for E credit or R credit) throughout their graduate studies.

Students should take their comprehensive exams at the start of their fourth year of graduate study. Comprehensive Examinations are usually offered twice a year, at the beginning of each semester. Students intending to take the exam should notify the exam coordinator and/or DGS ahead of time.

Students should take their minor oral in their fourth year, preferably in the first semester.

The language proficiency exams may be taken at any point before the eighth semester.

D. After the M.Phil.: Students should defend their dissertation brief within six months of completing their M.Phil. and before the end of their ninth semester. Upon defending a dissertation brief, a student should file a GSAS Dissertation Proposal Committee Report. See:

GSAS requires students in their fifth year and beyond to fill out a Report on Candidacy in the Doctoral Program. Information about the progress report can be found here:

E. The Dissertation Defense: Students should follow GSAS timetables, rules, and procedures as outlined on the GSAS website:

GSAS requires students to finish all requirements for the Ph.D. within seven years.


3. Registration: Definition of terms

A. Residence Unit (RU): one residence unit is granted for one semester of full-time study (a minimum of 12 points). Two RUs are required for the M.A. degree, and an additional four for the M.Phil.

B. Extended Residence (ER): required of all students who have completed 6 RUs but (a) hold a GSAS fellowship or University appointment or (b) are completing a degree requirement such as coursework or language and qualifying examinations. The cost of one unit of ER is half that of an RU. Students may continue to take the usual number of courses while on ER.

C. Matriculation and Facilities (M&F): students who have fulfilled all degree requirements except for the dissertation and who do not hold a GSAS fellowship or University appointment may maintain their status as graduate students by registering for M&F, which entails a reduced fee (see the GSAS Bulletin under Tuition). The semester in which the dissertation is distributed for defense is the last semester in which a student is required to register. The student should register at least for M&F. Please note that the crucial date is that of the distribution, not the defense.

Continuous registration until all requirements are satisfied is obligatory for each degree. Students are exempted from the requirement to register continuously only when granted a leave of absence.


4. Leave Of Absence

A student who must interrupt studies for a compelling reason, such as ill health, may be granted a leave of absence, usually not to extend beyond one year. The period of a leave of absence is not counted as part of the time toward the completion of the degree. For further important details see the GSAS.


5. Readmission

A student who leaves the University without obtaining a leave of absence, or who fails to pay the Matriculation and Facilities fee, is usually not readmitted. The special approval of the Dean, contingent upon the merits of the student’s request and the recommendation of the Department, is required for readmission. Please note that the GSAS rules require that any student readmitted under these circumstances pay retroactively M&F fees for all intervening semesters.


6. Grading

The Department uses both E credit (examination credit, "letter credit") and R credit ("registered for the course" credit) in grading the students’ work.

E credit

E credit is given to a student who has completed the required work for the course, including the final exam and/or paper. It is expressed on a student’s record by the grades A, B, C, D, or F. Plus and minus grades are also used. Please note that GSAS considers the grade of B to be minimally passing, but not indicative of adequate progress toward the degree.

R credit

R credit may be given in place of a qualitative grade. The Department’s policy is that R credit does not merely require passive auditing; it presupposes attending class regularly, doing all the assigned work, and participating actively in class discussion. This grade exempts the student only from required papers and examinations. Students with poor attendance may be dropped from the course at the instructor’s discretion.

Students in the Graduate School do not register specifically for R credit. If they wish to be given R credit for a course, they must register for the course and request an R credit from the instructor early in the term. Once awarded, this grade is not subject to change, nor may a course that has been taken for R credit be repeated later for E credit. Please note that the number of R credit courses taken to satisfy the degree requirements is limited: two for the M.A. and three more for the M.Phil.

Language courses, including French and German, may not be taken for R credit.


7. Language Requirements

A. Foreign language requirements

see the Department’s Web page, under Programs of Study.

B. Target Language Maintenance

Most graduate students who receive the Ph.D. degree and look for teaching positions find them in small language and literature programs, and are primarily language instructors early in their careers. In today’s job market there is no place for candidates who do not have native or near-native proficiency in the language of their specialty. Language learning is a continuous process. At this stage, the best language learning often occurs outside the classroom. Graduate students should try to spend as much time as possible in the country of their target language, and, while on campus, they should make every effort to speak that language with faculty members and fellow graduate students who are native speakers. Students wanting to work on their Russian may want to take the Reading Practicum (Russian GU4431y) . Students in the M.A. and M.Phil. programs take yearly written examinations in the language of their specialty to assess their progress. They are expected to be able to translate prose (expository and literary) and poetry into English; they are also required to translate a text on everyday topics from English into their target language. Students in MAO programs are exempt.

If necessary, students can work on their language skills in summer programs. The Department recommends the Russian Practicum at Columbia University, the Russian School at Middlebury College, the Slavic Workshop at Indiana University, ACTR Summer Programs, and the CIEE Summer Russian Program. Funding is available from ACTR, CIEE, FLAS, and the Harriman Institute.

C. Non-Russian Slavic Languages.

The Department offers course work in Czech, Polish, Serbian/Croatian, and Ukrainian. Knowledge of a second Slavic language and literature is not a requirement for the Ph.D. degree, but students are encouraged to develop fluency in at least one of these languages as well, since in the current job market graduates with a command of two Slavic languages have a definite advantage.


8. Summer Study At Columbia

Students can take language courses as well as other courses toward their degree during the Summer Session. See the Bulletin of the Summer Session for the list of offerings and for details on tuition. Tuition for summer courses at Columbia is covered by Fall term registration of that calendar year. Tuition waivers must be obtained in 107 Low Library.

The Russian Practicum offers courses in Russian language and literature (some of which are conducted in Russian). It also offers specially designed courses on working in Russian archives and on library and online resources for research and teaching. For details, consult the website for Columbia's Summer Session: Please note that any 3000-level course must be approved by the Department for graduate credit.


9. Study Outside Columbia

A. Exchange Scholar Program

After earning the M.A. degree, students may study in one of the participating schools for a limited period of time in order to take advantage of particular educational opportunities not available at Columbia. For the list of institutions and eligibility, see the GSAS Bulletin under Exchange Scholar Program. Please note that students who study elsewhere during a semester when they would otherwise be teaching are expected to make up their teaching semester.

B. New York Consortium of Doctoral Degree Granting Programs

Columbia University participates in the New York Consortium of Doctoral Degree Granting Programs, allowing Columbia graduate students to take graduate courses for credit at no additional charge at The City University of New York, Fordham University, The New School for Social Research, and New York University. To learn what courses are available in any particular term, students should contact the relevant department directly or look at this Department’s Web page under "Courses of Instruction." Students should consult with the Registrar's office for the current procedures for enrolling in courses through the Consortium and with the Director of Graduate Studies in the Slavic Department to confirm that degree credit can be granted for the particular course.  Further information is available in the GSAS Bulletin at


10. Office Support

A. Department Staff

a. The Department Administrator (DA): The DA is in charge of the Departmental Office. He or she is responsible primarily for managing the Departmental budget and payroll, supervising and training support staff, and scheduling classes. He or she can also help graduate students with special registration problems, changing grades, applying for degrees, scheduling dissertation defenses, and other paper work.

b. The Administrative Aide (AA): The AA provides support for the Chair and the department. The AA’s responsibilities include assisting the Department Administrator with financial affairs, supervising the work-study students, greeting visitors, handling telephone inquiries, assisting instructors with course packets and the like. All academic related inquiries should be directed to the AA via email.

Please note that the best way to submit requests is by email, so that the DA and AA can keep track of them.

B. Department Office Equipment

a. Photocopier: Every member of the Department, whether faculty or student, is assigned (usually by the Administrative Aide) a photocopy code that enables him or her to use the photocopy machine. There are two kinds of accounts: (1) for personal materials; (2) for teaching materials. The personal accounts are charged at the rate of 8 cents a page. This includes the cost of paper, toner, and developer, all of which are becoming increasingly expensive. There is no charge for copying teaching materials. Everyone should maintain a distinction between these two kinds of accounts. Note that the Department employs work-study students who can assist you with photocopying teaching materials. Please contact the AA ahead of time with your request. First-time users should ask the AA for orientation on using the machine. No user of the machine should attempt any repairs. The Department has a service contract, which provides speedy and efficient service.

b. Computer Equipment: Computers and printers are available free of charge for graduate student use in the Slavic Reading Room. Please report any problems immediately to the AA. Do not attempt any repairs of any equipment.

C. Telephones

If you wish to make local calls outside the University system, you should contact the Office of Telecommunications (854-2498) to obtain a Personal Security Code (PSE) that will enable you to do so, and for which you will be billed personally. Brief local calls may be made from the Department at no charge. Incoming callers can leave messages for graduate students at the main office (212) 854-3941.

D. Fax

Faculty and students are allowed to fax academic materials from the office for a fee, and to receive academic faxes at no cost. The office fax number is 212 854-5009. The cost of sending a personal fax within NYC is 0.50/page; outside NYC $1.00/page; international $2.00/page.

E. Department Mail Distribution

The official address of the Slavic Department is:

Department of Slavic Languages
Columbia University
1130 Amsterdam Avenue
Mail code 2839
New York, NY 10027

Please instruct those who are sending you mail to use this address if you wish the mail to be collected by the Slavic Department. Each student has a mail slot in 708 Hamilton Hall, and mail is sorted by the Slavic Department staff. Personal mailboxes (located on the first floor of Hamilton Hall and accessible 24 hour a day) are available on request from the AA.

F. E-mail Accounts and Listservs

a. Please set up your Columbia e-mail account as soon as possible by going to For help see the AA. Please note that without a Columbia e-mail account you may miss important University, Graduate School, and Department communications.

b. The following listservs are important sources of information: "Slavstud" <> (Slavic Department faculty, staff, and graduate students); "Ulbandus" (Slavic Department graduate students); "Harriman-news" and "Harriman-events"; and "Othereurope." To be added to the slavstud list, so that you can send and receive department-appropriate announcements, see the AA; to be added to the Ulbandus list, so that you can communicate with the department graduate student body, see the Department Webmaster; to subscribe to Harriman-news or Harriman-events, see the Harriman Institute web site; to be added to Othereurope, see the web site of the East Central European Center. Many students also choose to subscribe to SEELANGS, an unaffiliated listserv for discussion of Slavic and East European languages and literature that often distributes useful information such as job opening announcements.

G. Reading Room

The Department has a Reading Room located in 713 Hamilton Hall. Each graduate student is entitled to a Reading Room key. Please see the AA. Books in the Reading Room are non-circulating. Re-shelve the books after use. Please keep in mind that the Reading Room is a common workspace and should be kept clean and quiet. For assistance with the Reading Room see current Slavic Reading Room Librarian.

H. Library Carrels

The Department is currently assigned a limited number of library carrels to provide advanced students with space to work on their dissertations. A formal request must be made to the Department by submitting an application, which can be obtained from the Department. Graduate students can occupy that space until their dissertations are deposited or they have exceeded seven years of registration, whichever comes first, after which, the carrel must be vacated and the keys returned to the Department. Please keep in mind that we have limited carrel space, and that there is a waiting list for use of the carrels.

I. Student-Faculty Curriculum Committee

The Student-Faculty Curriculum Committee serves as the main formal channel of communication between students and faculty, raising issues such as the shape of the curriculum, advising, and student life. The Committee consists of three graduate students (one nominated by the faculty and two nominated by the students) and three faculty members (one nominated by the students and two nominated by the faculty). The Department Chair participates ex officio.


11. Faculty Advising

Any student should feel free to ask any faculty member for advice. However, certain problems are more easily addressed by consulting the appropriate person. Furthermore, at specific stages of their graduate careers, students work closely with specific faculty members, such as the Proseminar instructor, the first reader of the M.A. essay, the mentor, and the dissertation adviser.

A. Department Chair

The Chair is the chief academic and financial officer of the Department. He or she is elected by the full-time faculty for a term of three years, and may be re-elected to a second term (but rarely beyond that). The Chair oversees the Department's teaching responsibilities at the graduate and undergraduate level, periodically reviews the program and proposes changes, and presides over searches for new faculty members. In consultation with faculty colleagues, he or she oversees the awarding of grants to graduate students, and makes nominations to part-time teaching positions in the Department and the Core Curriculum of the College. The Chair transmits the Department's needs and wishes to the central administration, negotiates details of the annual budget with the Vice President of Arts and Sciences, and draws up plans that will shape the Department's profile in the years to come. In turn, he or she serves as the channel through which the administration communicates with the Department as a whole. The Chair is also responsible for presenting an accurate image of the activities of the Department to other Slavic Departments throughout the world, to the academic community at large, and to non-academic interests such as the media.

B. The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS)

The DGS is appointed by the Chair from among the full-time members of the Columbia and Barnard Departments holding a professorial rank to serve for an unspecified term. She or he is responsible for advising graduate students on requirements and courses. The DGS is well placed to represent each student to the faculty when it comes to matters like fellowship aid, teaching, advanced standing, exemption from certain requirements, and leaves of absence. A meeting with the DGS is required of all students in the M.A. and M.Phil. programs at the beginning of each semester, before students register for classes.

C. Proseminar instructor

The faculty member who teaches the Proseminar is an important resource for students in the first year of graduate studies. He or she helps students to choose their M.A. topics and assigns the First Reader for the M.A. essay.

D. M.A. essay readers

While writing his or her M.A. essay, each student works with a faculty member (First Reader); after the First Reader approves the final draft, another faculty member (Second Reader), chosen by the student in consultation with the First Reader, must read and approve the work. The two readers confer on the grade for the essay.

E. Mentors

Students in M.Phil. programs (between conferral of the M.A. degree and defense of the dissertation brief) work with a faculty mentor assigned to them by the Chair and the DGS. Mentors are available to help plan a student’s individual course of study and examinations, advise on conference papers and publications, and attend students’ classes to assess their teaching.

F. Written Comprehensive Examination Coordinator

The DGS or another member of the faculty will serve as coordinator for all written exams. The exam coordinator will: a) advise students preparing for the exam (in addition to the more specific advising provided each student by his or her mentor); b) ask faculty members to provide questions, read answers, and comment (in 1-2 sentences) on the student's performance in each section; c) discuss the results with the student. The task of preparing and reading the exam will always be divided among several faculty members, so that there will be at least two comments provided for each section. For a description of the Written Comprehensive Examination, see the GSAS Bulletin under Slavic Languages or the Department’s Web page. It is the student’s responsibility to notify the DA of the time of the exam, so that the necessary paperwork can be prepared.

G. Adviser in the minor field

A student’s principal adviser on the Minor Oral Examination should be a specialist in this field. He or she helps a student plan the examination and select the committee members. He or she determines when the student is ready to take the exam and serves as one of the members of the examination committee. When this principal adviser is not a member of the Slavic Department faculty, the student should ask one of the other members of the committee who is a member of the Slavic Department and familiar with Slavic Department procedures to serve as coordinator.  (This be responsible for administrative details.  The students are advised to distribute the drafts of the materials to every committee member ahead of time for feedback. For a description of the Minor Oral Examination, see the GSAS Bulletin under Slavic Languages or the Department’s Web page. It is the student’s responsibility to notify both the DA and DGS of the time of the exam, so that the necessary paperwork can be prepared.

H. Dissertation advisers

Post-M.Phil. students choose a faculty member, who normally becomes the Dissertation Adviser (First Reader), to help them prepare their dissertation briefs. For instructions on writing a dissertation brief, see the GSAS Bulletin under Slavic Languages or the Department’s Web page. The students, in consultation with the First Reader, choose their Second and Third Readers, both of whom will normally be members of the Slavic Department.

When the First Reader deems it appropriate, the dissertation is passed to the Second Reader for comment. From then on, the First and Second Readers work together to help the student prepare a complete version of the dissertation that is nearly ready for defense. At that point it is passed to the Third Reader for final comment. Once all corrections and revisions have been made, the three Departmental readers approve the dissertation as being ready for the defense. About a month before the scheduled defense, the student distributes the dissertation. At this point, the three departmental readers, plus the Fourth and Fifth (or Outside) Readers receive the final copies, on which they will comment at the defense itself. Outside Readers must come from outside the Department and be Columbia faculty members. Only if an appropriate Outside Reader cannot be found at Columbia or Barnard, specialists from other institutions can be brought in. The First Reader helps the student choose Outside Readers. For the University rules and policies on writing and defending dissertations, see the GSAS Bulletin under Doctor of Philosophy Degree.

I. Graduate Career Advisor (GCA)

The GCA is appointed by the Chair from among the full-time members of the Columbia and Barnard Departments holding a professorial rank (preferably tenured). He or she works with the graduate students who are currently applying for jobs or are planning to do so in the near future.

12. Professional Development

A. Local Resources

In addition to the Columbia and Barnard Slavic collections, New York City and the Metropolitan area offer many other opportunities for research. The Baltic and Slavic Division at the New York Public Library is an invaluable resource. Students can obtain access to the collections of peer universities (New York University, Princeton, and Yale are within reach). For those interested in medieval or religious studies, the libraries of Union Theological Seminary and St. Vladimir’s Seminary (in Crestwood, NY) are indispensable.

B. Membership in Professional Associations

Students are strongly urged to join, as soon as possible, the three main professional organizations in our field: AAASS (American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies), AATSEEL (American Association of Teachers of Slavic and East European Languages), and MLA (Modern Language Association). All three offer special student rates. Membership includes subscriptions to the journals published by these organizations. Furthermore, membership ensures that students will be listed in the organizations' directories and will be eligible to attend conferences and publish articles in the journals of these organizations. Membership is an essential part of professional preparation and development.

C. Professional Conferences

Students should make every effort to take an active part in professional conferences and seminars, including those held at Columbia and peer institutions. Each of the three professional organizations mentioned under Membership in professional associations has local chapters, and their meetings, which are held annually in addition to the national conferences, are a good place to begin acquiring experience in the art of presenting a paper. The costs of travel to conferences can often be at least partly defrayed by the Department and the Graduate School, or even wholly covered if the conference is not too distant from New York. For advice on writing a paper within the time limits of a conference-panel (usually fifteen to twenty minutes), and locating a panel that is likely to accept you, consult your faculty adviser (M.A. or Ph.D. first readers, faculty mentors, or any other member of the faculty).

D. Publishing

It is essential that students begin scholarly publishing as soon as possible. The best way to begin is with a good course paper or a chapter from your M.A. essay. For advice, consult your faculty adviser (M.A. or Ph.D. first readers, faculty mentors, or any other member of the faculty).

E. The Graduate Student Forum

The Graduate Student Forum convenes three or four times per semester to critique a presentation by a current student. Presentations typically include articles being prepared for publication, chapters from dissertations in progress, or conference papers. The Forum is entirely student-run, and a new student is chosen by his or her peers to chair it each year.

F. Ulbandus

Ulbandus is a graduate student-run, peer-reviewed Slavic journal with international distribution. Graduate students are invited to contribute to and participate in the production of this publication.

G. The Graduate Student Teaching Competition.

Every year, the Department offers graduate students an opportunity to teach one undergraduate literature or culture course. To be considered, students submit a syllabus for the faculty’s consideration. The faculty selects one proposal that shows the strongest academic promise and best fits the current needs of the Department. Those not selected still benefit from the exercise of putting the proposal together; such sample syllabi are both an asset on the job market and good practice for regular academic employment. The competition is held each spring, and the selected course is usually taught in the spring of the next year. Eligibility: all applicants must have either an M.Phil. or 2 years of language teaching experience completed before the semester when the course will be offered. The GSAS does not allow students to teach after their seventh year. Course parameters: the course should be an undergraduate (1000 level) author or topic course. It can be designed either for a broader undergraduate audience (in which case all texts should be offered in translation), or for an audience of Russian heritage speakers. A comparative literature angle might be a plus.

H. The Pushkin Poetry Prize

The Pushkin Poetry Prize is awarded annually for the best translation of a Russian poem into English. Submissions (originals included) should be addressed to the Chair, who appoints the committee and announces winners at the end of each academic year. The size of the prize depends on the current amount of money in the fund bequeathed by Dr. John Paul Mihaly.


13. Job Search

The Graduate Placement Advisor is there to help you with every stage of the job search process. You can also consult any member of the department. UC Berkeley has a famously helpful set of pages with advice and sample documents for the academic job search: see

A. Where to look for information

New positions, both part-and full-time, are announced in the MLA's Job Information List (JIL), which is published four times a year (October, December, March and June; the Department has a subscription.  To check the JIL online, obtain the Department's ID and password from the DA or the Graduate Placement Officer); and in the newsletters of AAASS and AATSEEL (available to members of those organizations). MLA and AATSEEL also post jobs on their web sites. The Department’s web page provides links to those sites. Students are also encouraged to subscribe to the SEELANGS listserv, where job announcements in  the field frequently appear.

There is also a less formal exchange of information among Department Chairs, so you should be sure to check the Department bulletin boards frequently.

B. When to apply

Many of these positions require a Ph.D. in hand, or one close to completion. But there is much to be said for trying to secure interviews even if you do not feel fully qualified on paper. The interview experience is useful as a way of learning how to conduct yourself in a challenging academic situation, and as a way of bringing yourself to the attention of other departments, who may well remember you favorably when you are better qualified. (In addition, such "dry runs" have been known to result in a job offer!)  However, students should keep in mind that being on the job market is time-consuming and may slow down progress on the dissertation.  Weigh your options carefully and, if in doubt, seek advice from a faculty member.

C. Where to apply

It is essential that you consider all opportunities and make your search as broad as possible, both geographically and institutionally.

D. Dossier

As soon as you begin giving serious thought to going onto the job market, you should establish a dossier with Interfolio ( Follow their instructions. Interfolio will mail your dossier to potential employers at your request. For prices, see their web page.. This dossier will contain letters of recommendation, usually from members of the Slavic faculty. You should request letters from people who know your work well and can speak candidly about it.

Recently, many institutions use or their own web sites to manage applications, including letters of recommendation. Make sure your recommenders know where to send/upload their recommendations.

Columbia's Center for Career Services offers information and counseling on academic and non-academic jobs for Ph.D. degree holders. Contact the Center for more information. The Center is located on East Campus, Lower Level; their telephone number is (212) 854-3561.

E. Application letter

Most job announcements in the last three or four years have yielded a hundred or more applications. Of those, perhaps one-fifth make it to the interview stage. Consequently, it is vital that in the cover letter accompanying your application you present yourself as clearly, specifically, and accurately as possible. This letter should not exceed two pages (remember that your C.V. will be attached). Though most of the letter’s contents will be repeated in each of the letters you send out, you should try to speak to the stated needs and requirements of the department to which you are applying: the selection committee should not feel that it is reading a form letter with the blanks filled in. You should show why you think you are qualified for the job that is being advertised, why you are interested in University X, and why College Y should take an interest in you. Finally, you should briefly address the matter of the direction your future professional development is likely to take.

The Graduate Placement Advisor will be happy to help you with the letter, as will any other faculty member.

F. Curriculum Vitae

An up-to-date C.V. should be included with your application letter. It should concisely and accurately present your educational and employment history in reverse chronological order. In addition, it should include all pertinent information on your professional development: awards, publications, conference talks, internships, and the like.

G. Syllabi

It is strongly advised that you include with your application syllabi of any courses you have taught or would like to teach. Well constructed course syllabi will recommend you professionally to the selection committee. Furthermore, working on syllabi will prepare you for the questions about your teaching plans that are always asked during job interviews.

H. The Job Interview

There are typically two interviews. The initial interview is usually conducted during the AATSEEL Convention in December. This interview is discussed in detail below. Of the candidates interviewed there, a few will be invited to a second interview, usually on campus. There are no general rules covering the second interview, but candidates so chosen are welcome to seek advice and direction from the Graduate Placement Advisor and members of the Slavic Department.

Any job interview is by definition is stressful. However, careful preparation can help you handle the stress and even make it work for you positively. Each interview committee will of course have its needs and priorities in mind, but there are certain constants.

Present yourself as a professional, and try to regard the interview as an intellectual exchange with your peers. It will help if you can formulate, well ahead of time, an image of yourself as a professional and be prepared to talk about yourself in broad terms, with the assurance and confidence born of familiarity. Are you mainly a theorist? A close reader of texts? A literary or cultural historian? Do you find such distinctions useful or arbitrary? What do you see yourself doing professionally five and ten years from now? Now that you have completed your dissertation, how do you plan to make a book of it? What is your second book going to be? You should also have reflected on your experiences as a teacher at Columbia, and be prepared to answer questions about your teaching in the future. How would you go about designing a new major for undergraduates? How would you attract more students into Russian or Polish or Czech language courses? Which books would you include in an English-language survey course in twentieth-century Russian literature? If you were asked to teach a general humanities course, what would you do on the first day of class, when your students have done none of the required reading?

Be aware that some interviewers may play devil's advocate, pretending ignorance of a field or an author. "So you've written your dissertation on Staniukovich? Who's that? Why is he--or is it a she--worth a whole dissertation?" Or: “Hasn't everything been said about Pushkin that's worth being said?" Do not assume that such questions betray genuine ignorance: you may unwittingly show condescension or contempt.

Do not make any demands of interviewers at this stage. For example, it is usually fatal to insist that you will not teach certain authors or periods, or are uninterested in teaching language. You should not, at this stage, ask about salary and benefits or course loads; those are questions that will be raised in a second, usually on-campus, interview.

The interviewers will probably press to determine how broad and deep your knowledge is. Of course you cannot be an expert in everything, but as a well-trained graduate student you should be able to speak intelligently, if not profoundly, on any area of our field, without having to bluff or admit total ignorance.

Try to schedule your interview early in the day. Interviewers are usually very tired after 3 p.m., and may have to go on well into the evening. However, it is unwise to demand a particular time-slot as the price of the interview.

Do not mention other schools that may be interested in you. It is considered bad form on the part of interviewers to ask you, but some may; if so, try to be vague.

Part of the interview will probably be conducted in Russian. If your spoken Russian is rusty, you should begin practicing it several months before interview time, concentrating on professional vocabulary and idiom. Make sure you can describe in Russian the kind of scholarly work you are doing now, and plan to do in the future. Furthermore, be prepared to answer a question on whether you can teach a course in Russian, particularly to a mixture of non-native, native, and heritage speakers. The problem of native and heritage speakers and their integration into a language program currently seems to be one of the most urgent in the field.

At your request, the Department will be happy to set up a mock interview for you shortly before you encounter the real thing. The Center for Career Services usually offers mock interviews (separately from the Department)  in early December.