PhD program advice yet again

There’s a discussion going on the WPA-L mailing list right now about advice for PhD programs; the basic request was to come up with a “top 10” list of PhD programs in composition and rhetoric, but it would appear to me that most people on the list resisted that temptation pretty quickly. As they should, of course. This did bring back for me this post from a month ago, but I liked this post from Paul Kei Matsuda’s blog that Mike Garcia of a “top 10” of advice on what to think about when choosing a PhD program. This is a heck of a lot more useful than a list of ten schools that may have or may not have earned their reputations.

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2 Responses to PhD program advice yet again

  1. Mike says:

    Yeah, I resist such lists not only for the reasons mentioned in the WPA thread, but because 10 is just way too small of a number. Tons of very good programs wouldn’t make the list.

    Besides, such Top 10s seem to be compiled by people acting on their own without any deep knowledge of most of the programs — they’re often based on personal preferences, secondhand rumors and other flimsy factors. For example, there seems to be a belief out there that my school’s program has “declined.” But that’s all the further the discussion goes — no other information is available. In terms of publications, job placements, awards, etc. the past three or four years have been our strongest ever. The best I can figure is that our *undergraduate* comp program is (allegedly, not really) tied to the expressive tradition, which has fallen out of favor. This doesn’t really connect to the PhD program in any way, but it’s enough of an association to make some people adjust their lists, I’m guessing.

    Again, with such a short list, it wouldn’t take much more than a stray remark or assumption for a school to jump on or off.

  2. Steve Krause says:

    On the WPA-L discussion, it also seemed to me that a lot of “quality” was actually tied to “quantity” and longevity: That is, schools like Purdue and Penn State and UT Austin and Ohio State get mentioned because they are big and because they have been around for a long time. These are all good programs, don’t get me wrong, but how are you going to distinguish in a top 10 list between them and (for example) Texas Tech, Syracuse, Michigan Tech, Kent State, Michigan State, or even my own humble Bowling Green State?

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