Dec. 7-13, 2001
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U.Va. selects award-winning New York architect firm for South Lawn Project
Hot Links -- copyright policy
Students promote healthy behavior

Casteen reflects on the University's achievements and the national tragedy in his annual message

In English, a new way to a B.A.,/M.A.
There is room for both science and religion in seeking to understand the universe, Trinh says
Off the Shelf -- recently published books by faculty and staff
Holiday open house
Important dates
Cross & co. create five-star experience at Carr's Hill
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In English, a new way to a B.A./M.A.

By Nicola M. White

Over the years, English Department chair Michael Levenson and his colleagues have noticed more and more talented undergraduate students in their classrooms. These articulate individuals, with their obvious love of literature, often performed at the same level as their graduate student counterparts.

The department’s recent formation of a combined five-year undergraduate and graduate degree program seemed like the natural thing to do, said Levenson, who designed the program with these students in mind — students who want to pursue their studies, but aren’t sure about going straight to graduate school. The program will start in the next academic year.

The new program is unique to the University, where the English major is a popular ndergraduate choice.

Michael Levenson
English Department chair

“It just came from a number of us realizing that undergraduates wanted and needed more, often,” Levenson said. “They finished a four-year degree and they were really just ready to begin the study of literature.”

Many students are unsure about committing the one-and-a-half to two years after college required to obtain a master’s degree. By allowing some outstanding students to combine the undergraduate and graduate experience in a five-year program, Levenson said, he hopes to encourage more students to pursue their love of English in a more approachable way.

In the traditional route to a master’s degree, a graduate English student must complete eight classes within two years. With the new five-year program, undergraduate English majors can take two graduate school classes in their fourth year and, in their fifth, complete the remaining six.

Interested candidates will apply in the spring of their third year. But earlier this year, when Rita Felski, director of graduate admissions, sent out an e-mail to gauge initial interest, several current fourth-year students scrambled to see if they could still apply.
“A lot of these very bright students are taking more classes than they need to graduate. They have spare time, so to speak, to take graduate programs,” Felski said.
To apply for the program, students must have a minimum GPA of 3.6 and provide two writing samples and letters of recommendation. Accepted students can be dismissed if their grades slip during their fourth year. As to concerns that the program could diminish the graduate school’s nationally renowned reputation, Levenson said he believes the new program will only enhance the department’s stature.

The inception of the five-year program — which will only be available to undergraduate University students — will mean that fewer outside candidates will be accepted into the traditional graduate program, but not by too much.

“It will be more selective — although it’s selective now,” Levenson said.

Recent turbulence in the economy also has meant an increase in the number of applications to graduate school programs across the country. In Levenson’s view, people are re-evaluating what they really want to do with their lives.

“We get so many hundreds of applications from people who would have dreamed of going to Silicon Valley and becoming rich who are now thinking English is a better choice — which is true,” he joked.

Some graduate English students go on to pursue their Ph.D.s, but many take other paths. Among current English graduate students, some are teachers, lawyers, journalists, even scientists.

“We’ve got some extremely great students, very smart, very articulate,” Felski said. “I think it’s a really excellent idea. It’s been very enthusiastically received.


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