Graduate Student Handbook

Department of Italian

MA/MPhil/ Ph.D. Program

Information in this handbook is addressed to current graduate students; for the most part, it does not repeat information on the GSAS website or the Italian Department website.

For programs of study, requirements, and courses of instruction, see the GSAS website at 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, in its bulletin, in its handbook, 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 Italian resources at Columbia and beyond, see the Department’s Web page.



A. The Office

The main office of the Department of Italian is located in 502 Hamilton Hall.

B. Department Office Equipment

a. Photocopier: The department photocopier is available to teaching fellows for teaching materials. Requests for photocopies can be found in the “Photocopy Request Forms” box located above the mailboxes in 502. These forms should be filled out with the date submitted, date needed, number requested and any special instructions, and paper-clipped to the documents to be photocopied. Completed requests must then be placed in “Submitted for Photocopies.” Please note that requests must be submitted one business day prior to the time needed to ensure that there is adequate time for the copies to be completed.

b. Computer Equipment: Computers and printers are available free of charge for graduate student use in the main office of 502 Hamilton. Teaching Fellows also have access to computers located in the TF office of 504 Hamilton. Please do not add/remove programs from these computers and be sure to delete any materials that you may have temporarily saved. Please report any problems immediately to the Administrative Assistant (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. Phones are located in 502 and 504 Hamilton. Incoming callers can leave messages for graduate students at the main office (212) 854-2308. Please do not direct callers to the TF office number.


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 212 854-5306. The cost of sending a personal fax within NYC is $1.00 /page; long distance and international $2.00/page.

E. Department Mail Distribution

The official address of the Italian Department is:

Department of Italian
Columbia University
1130 Amsterdam Avenue
Mail code 2827
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 Italian Department. We do not recommend that you route personal mail through the department. Each student has a mail slot in 502 Hamilton Hall, and mail is sorted by the Italian Department staff.

F. E-mail Accounts and Lists

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. Lists are important sources of information, you will be added to the appropriate lists by departmental staff. Should you wish to distribute information to the lists please email the message to the AA.

G. The Teaching Fellows Office

Teaching Fellows have access to the TF office located in 504 Hamilton Hall. Each TF is entitled to a key during the semesters in which he or she teaches. Please see the AA. Each TF has shelves to store classroom materials and other teaching resources. Please realize that this is a shared space and try to keep the room clean and enjoyable for others.

H. The Conference room/Kitchen

Everyone in the department has access to the kitchen located in our Conference Room, 506 Hamilton Hall. The kitchen is equipped with a hot water maker, a coffee machine, a small refrigerator, a microwave, and a supply of dishes. Please be sure that in using the kitchen you are mindful to clean any messes and to do any dishes. The graduate student key is located on the coat rack in 502 Hamilton Hall. Staff, Faculty and TFs will use this room for meetings and other departmental/instructional functions. Additionally, 506 and 501 have been used by students interested in similar fields to hold discussion groups. If those using 506 wish not to be disturbed by others, they must make arrangements with the office staff to reserve the room.  Please be sure to check for any signs on the door, or ask the staff about availability before entering the Conference Room to avoid disrupting other department members.

I. The Pedagogical Library

The Pedagogical Library contains various instructional materials (books, films, audio tapes) and is located in the Audiovisual Closet in 502. These pedagogical materials are accessible to everyone in the department. To borrow materials the card located in each item must be filled out with your name and date and given to the AA. The borrower assumes all responsibility for materials, returning them in the condition in which they were found and, in case of damage or loss, replacing the materials. Materials may only be checked out for two days, although materials can be renewed by speaking with the AA.

J.  The Audiovisual Closet

The audiovisual closet is accessible Monday-Friday 9am to 5pm and contains stereos, TV/VHS/DVD equipment, overhead projectors, and an LCD projector to be used for classroom instruction. This material must be signed out in the Sign-Out book located in 502 Hamilton. Should you need equipment after hours, please contact the AA.

K. 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 writing to the Director of Academic Finance and Administration (DAAF). 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.



Faculty Advisers

Any student should feel free to ask any faculty member for advice. However, certain issues 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 Language Coordinators, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the dissertation adviser.

A. Department Chair

The Chair is the chief academic and financial officer of the Department. The Chair oversees the Department's teaching responsibilities at the graduate and undergraduate level and periodically reviews the program and proposes changes. 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. The Chair transmits the Department's needs and wishes to the central administration, 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 Italian 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 and to GSAS 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. program at the beginning of each semester, before students register for classes.

C. Language Coordinators

The faculty members who coordinate the Italian Language Program are an important resource for students who are Teaching Fellows. Language Coordinators work with the students to develop pedagogical materials and course quizzes.  The Department aims to give all graduate students the opportunity to teach at various levels of the language program, based on their linguistic proficiency.

F. Written QUALIFYING Examination Coordinator

The student prepares the fields in consultation with the likely dissertation advisor and two other faculty members. The DAAF serves as the coordinator of the written exam, in the sense that she asks the faculty members to provide their questions. For a comprehensive description of the written qualifying exam, see the Department’s Web page. It is the student’s responsibility to notify the DAAF of the dates of the exam, so that the necessary paperwork can be prepared.

G. Dissertation Sponsors

Post-M.Phil. students choose a faculty member to become the dissertation sponsor, who was very likely already identified during the preparation of the M.Phil. exam. The student, in consultation with the sponsor, chooses the committee members, two of whom will normally be members of the Italian Department. (For ICLS students the second and third readers can come for any participating ICLS department, please see 

The final responsibility for forming the defense committee and contacting potential committee members rests with the Sponsor. Students should not be placed in the position of having to ask faculty members to serve on their defense committee.

At least 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. A specialist from another institution may be brought in if an appropriate outside reader cannot be found at Columbia or Barnard.

ICLS students should consult:

Please review the University rules, policies, and procedures for writing and defending dissertations on the GSAS Bulletin under Doctor of Philosophy Degree and the Dissertation Office Website.

Department Staff

a. The Director of Academic Administration and Finance  (DAAF): The DAAF 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 Assistant (AA): The AA provides support for the Chair and the department. The AA’s responsibilities include assisting the Director of Academic Administration and Finance 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 DAAF and AA can keep track of them.



A. Fellowships (tuition and stipend)

A very limited number of full five-year GSAS fellowships are offered to incoming students in programs leading to the Ph.D. degree. The fellowships are awarded on the basis of the applicant’s statement of purpose and record (grades, GREs, letters of recommendation, and writing sample). Beginning with their second year of study, recipients teach one course per semester until they take their fifth-year dissertation fellowship. During these first five years, they receive full tuition and a stipend equal to the amount offered that year’s incoming students.

Fellowship recipients are expected to maintain good academic and administrative standing and are subject to the regulations established by GSAS.

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

After obtaining their M.Phil. degree, students are eligible to teach in Columbia College Core programs (Literature Humanities and Contemporary Civilization) and/or the University Writing Program. 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 in the Core for two years.

For advanced students beyond the fifth year of funding, the Teaching Scholars Program is an option.

B. Other types of financial aid

a. Departmental Travel Grants: Grants and awards are announced by email or posted on the bulletin board in 502 Hamilton. The Oldrini Travel Fellowship is available to students within the Department for travel following completion of the M.Phil. requirements. In order to apply for the Oldrini the student is required to first apply for the competitive GSAS Travel Fellowship (several Italian Department students have successfully competed and have been awarded the prestigious GSAS Wollemburg award for travel to Italy).  Conference funding may be available on an ad hoc basis for travel to conferences, up to two (2) times in a student’s career.

b. University Awards:

GSAS provides an additional summer stipend (up to $2,000) for students who independently taught a language course(s) during the academic year.

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 awards, and their application deadlines, see the GSAS bulletin and the Web page at

c. Outside Funding: Outside sources of grants and awards are announced by email and/or posted on the bulletin board in 502 Hamilton. Additionally, the GSAS Financial Aid office posts major external funding sources. GSAS requires its fellowship recipients to make at least one bona fide attempt at securing outside funding. See:

If a student is awarded external funding within their first five years, it is possible to “bank” a year of GSAS funding for an additional year of funding.

In the past, graduate students in Italian have received Javits Fellowships and American Association of University Women (AAUW) Awards.

The Italian Department strongly advises students to spend at least one year in Italy or another country relevant to their doctoral studies under the auspices of the GSAS Travel Fellowship, the Oldrini Travel Grant, SSRC, Fulbright, or other appropriate organizations. 



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 two for the M.Phil. -- Full Residence Unit (RESI G0001, call number 99991) -- an "RU" is for students who are within the first six semesters in their Ph.D. program. The completion of 6 RUs is a requirement for the doctoral degree.

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. -- Extended Residence (EXRS G0001, call number 77771) -- "ER." is for students who are beyond the first six semesters in their Ph.D. program and are either registering for a course or are holding a University teaching or research appointment.

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; call numbers can be found on the bulletin. Please note that the crucial date is that of the distribution, not the defense.  -- Matriculation and Facilities (MTFC G0001, call number 88881) -- "M&F" is for students who are beyond their first six semesters and are only completing a degree requirement outside the classroom, such as a language examination or qualifying examination, preparing the dissertation proposal, or writing or distributing the dissertation. It is not for students who are on teaching appointments or who are taking classes.

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.



A. Foreign language requirements

Students must acquire proficiency in one foreign language appropriate to his or her prospective field of specialization to earn the MA; they must acquire proficiency in a second foreign language to earn the M.Phil. Students may satisfy each requirement by passing a written proficiency examination or by completing an approved course (Intermediate II level or higher) with a minimum grade of B-. The choice of languages will be made upon consultation with the DGS or advisor.

B. Target Language Maintenance

Most graduate students who receive the Ph.D. degree and look for teaching positions find themselves 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 Italy, and, while on campus, they should make every effort to speak Italian with faculty members and fellow graduate students who are native speakers.

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 by the eleventh week of 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 two more for the M.Phil.

The mark of IN is given to a student who has satisfactorily met all the requirements of a course except for the completion of certain assigned papers or reports or the final examination, which the student has been compelled to postpone for reasons that are 1) beyond his or her control and 2) satisfactory to the instructor. For a course in the Arts and Sciences, if the student does not submit the outstanding work by the deadline specified below, the mark of IN will be changed to an F, which will not be subject to change at a later date.

For Incompletes earned in the fall semester, the deadline for students to submit their outstanding work is the June 30 that immediately follows. For Incompletes earned in the spring semester or summer term, the deadline for students to submit their outstanding work is the December 30 that immediately follows. Departments and instructors may set an earlier deadline for completion of the outstanding work; in such cases, that deadline will supersede the GSAS deadline. 

Language courses may not be taken for R credit.



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

  1. The M.A.: The M.A./M.Phil./Ph.D. program is designed to allow a well-prepared student to earn the M.A. degree within one academic year of full-time study.

Course requirements: A total of ten one-term courses (two Residence Units): (1) nine graduate literature/culture courses within the department taken for a letter grade, of which at least three must be in the period before 1600 and at least three in the period after 1600; substitutions of courses from other departments or from the Inter-school Doctoral Consortium must be approved by the DGS; (2) 1 one-term course from another department for R credit, chosen in consultation with the DGS;

Languages: Students must acquire reading ability in a foreign language appropriate to his or her prospective field of specialization, satisfied by passing a written proficiency examination or by completing an approved course (Intermediate II level or higher) with a minimum grade of B-. The choice of languages will be made upon consultation with the DGS or advisor.

 A student who postpones completing the requirements for the M.A. degree while accumulating Residence Units toward the M.Phil and Ph.D. degrees does so at his or her own risk. Continuation of study beyond the M.Phil. degree is authorized by the Executive Committee of the department.

B. The M.Phil.: Course requirements: a total of 8 courses: (1) six graduate literature/culture courses within the department taken for a letter grade; (2) the Pedagogy course (currently FREN GR4025), pass/fail; (3) the ITAL GR9100-level Research course relevant to the student’s field of study

Students should attempt to complete all requirements for the M.Phil. degree by the midpoint of the third year (fifth semester of the program), with the goal of taking the M.Phil. exam by May of the third year or September of the fourth year. GSAS policy requires students to 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. See the GSAS website for further information:

Students should plan their studies bearing in mind this timetable, as well as the language requirements and preparation for the M.Phil. exam.

Whenever possible, required coursework should be completed in the first two 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 advantage of the remarkable offerings of this University (in the etymological sense of the word) by taking courses in other fields (whether for E credit or R credit) throughout their graduate studies.

The M.Phil. exam has two components, a written qualifying exam and an oral certifying exam. Students should take their written qualifying exam after completing all required courses and two Residence Units beyond the M.A. Students intending to take the exam should notify the DGS and the DAAF.

The M.Phil. exam process entails working closely with three faculty members, one of whom is the likely dissertation sponsor. In consultation with this faculty advisor, the student chooses two other faculty members with the goal of preparing three individual reading lists pertaining to three different fields. One field will have a broadly conceptual and methodological dimension; the other two will be chronologically complementary. Thus, if two of the three fields fall before 1600, the third will fall after 1600, and vice versa. These specialized reading lists consist of both primary and secondary texts, in which the secondary texts reflect the critical methodologies that the candidate has found particularly important.

The three faculty members chosen by the student will oversee the whole exam. For the pre-oral or written part of the exam, each professor will provide the student with two questions, of which the student will choose one. The student will then write three take-home papers, with a minimum length of five pages each, all three to be written over the course of ten days.

At a date between two and twelve weeks from the successful completion of the written exam, the student takes a two-hour oral certifying exam covering all three fields.

In 2008, the faculty exchanged a comprehensive exam format (based on a required reading list in each century of Italian literature) for a more personalized format in order to allow the candidate to move in directions of personal interest and to assist the transition from being a student in courses to being the writer of a dissertation, by definition an original scholarly contribution. The faculty encourages active thinking about a possible dissertation topic while preparing for the M.Phil. exam, which concludes with an informal discussion of the candidate’s dissertation plans. As a result of this format, it is very likely—although not required—that the student will have identified the dissertation sponsor while preparing for the M.Phil. exam.

The second language proficiency exam should be taken before the M.Phil.

Students enrolled with the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society need to notify the ICLS Administrative Office before scheduling their M.Phil. exams, have any academic materials sent to both the Italian Department and ICLS, and familiarize themselves with the ICLS policies and regulations found on ICLS website.  

C. After the M.Phil.: No later than six months after successful completion of the M.Phil. degree, the student submits the dissertation prospectus (no more than ten pages, plus bibliography), to be approved by a committee of three faculty members including the sponsor and second reader. The prospectus colloquium takes place before the end of the tenth semester. Upon completion of the colloquium a student should file a GSAS Dissertation Proposal Committee Report. See:

Students in the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society must follow ICLS regulations for the prospectus. Please consult the ILCS website.

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. 


The Italian Language program is run by the Language Lecturers in the Department of Italian, who teach the Advanced, Intensive, and Conversation courses, as well as the “Language through Content” courses.  Teaching Fellows teach the standard Elementary- and Intermediate-level courses.

Teaching language, at any level, allows an exposure to students that is a unique and invaluable opportunity in your pedagogical education which entails a high level of responsibility and commitment.  It affords the opportunity to experience direct, hands-on, independent management of a class.  Additionally, as a sole instructor of a language class, you are also eligible for an additional summer stipend for each semester of language taught.[1]

Teaching Fellows will be afforded the opportunity of professional feedback and guidance by being observed on a regular basis by the Language Lecturers, all of whom are established professionals in the field. Columbia University’s Center for Teaching and Learning (CTL) also produces a wide variety of programs to help graduate students effectively develop their teaching, as well as individual services for graduate students, such as consultations, microteaching practice sessions, mid-course reviews, teaching observations, etc.[2] 

Teaching assignments are made by the faculty.  Students are encouraged to state their preferences of time and level. Accommodation for student preferences will be taken into consideration, but is not guaranteed. A diverse set of factors are considered in the assignment of courses, including but not limited to: demonstrated commitment in teaching, availability of sections, and fellowship status.

 The DAAF will solicit your teaching preferences at the beginning of the spring semester, and sections will be assigned by the end of the spring semester.  Any further inquiries regarding assignments should be directed to the DGS.

Teaching Fellows' Handbook




[1] Students who engage in independent teaching of language courses will receive a $2,000 research supplement for the summer immediately following each year of independent teaching, for a maximum of three summers during their first five years in the program. If a student teaches only one semester independently in a given year, the summer award will be $1,000.




Students can take language courses as well as other courses toward their degree during the Summer Session. Columbia’s study-abroad programs are also available to our graduate students. See the Bulletin of the Summer Session for the list of offerings. See the GSAS Bulletin under Summer Session for details on tuition. Tuition for summer courses at Columbia is covered by Fall term registration of that calendar year (which means that incoming students may take courses the summer prior to the start of their program). Tuition waivers may be obtained online.



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 CUNY Graduate Center, Fordham University, New School for Social Research, New York University (including the Institute of Fine Arts), Princeton University, Rutgers University, Stony Brook University, and Columbia University Teachers College (TC). To learn what courses are available in any particular term, students should contact the relevant department directly. 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 Italian Department to confirm that degree credit can be granted for the particular course.

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 Bulletin.

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 retroactive M&F fees for all intervening semesters.




A. Local Resources

In addition to the Columbia collections and those of affiliated institutions such as Union Theological Seminary, New York City and the Metropolitan area offer many other opportunities for research. Students can obtain access to the collections of peer universities (New York University, Princeton, and Yale are within reach).

B. Membership in Professional Associations

Students are strongly urged to join, as soon as possible, one or more  of  the following professional organizations: AAIS (American Association for Italian Studies), AATI (American Association of Teachers of Italian), and MLA (Modern Language Association), as well as the American Historical Association (AHA). 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 may be at least partly defrayed by the Department and the Graduate School. 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.

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. For advice, consult your faculty adviser.



GSAS Compass is an office within GSAS to assist you with career development issues, such as workshops, networking, and on-on-one advising.

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 DAAF. Jobs are also posted by the AAIS and AATI, and their listservs regularly send out job announcements.

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. Students should also keep in mind that being on the job market is time-consuming and will slow down progress on the dissertation. 

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 on the job market, you should establish a dossier in the Center for Career Services. The Center is located on East Campus, Lower Level; their telephone number is (212) 854-3561. This dossier will contain letters of recommendation written by members of the Italian faculty and other faculty members familiar with your work. When you request such a letter, you should have your recommender sign a cover sheet, which you will have picked up from Career Services. It is in your best interest to check the “waive” box: potential employers tend to distrust letters that may be seen by candidates. This form is required every time you ask a recommender to update his or her letter. You should request letters from people who know your work well and can speak candidly about it. You are entitled to have your dossier sent to the DGS or your dissertation sponsor for review of its contents in order to ensure that it reflects your qualifications in the best possible light.

The Center will mail your dossier to potential employers at your request. You are entitled to a certain number of free mailings. See the Center’s web page for details.

The Center also offers information and counseling on non-academic jobs for Ph.D. degree holders. Contact the Center for more information.

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.

Your dissertation sponsor will be happy to help you with the letter, as will any other faculty member.

F. Recommendation Letters

When requesting letters of recommendation from faculty, please allow ample time for the faculty members to fulfill your requests.  A few weeks’ lead time is reasonable.

G. 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.

H. 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.

I. Business cards

Due to identification requirements, business cards for students and postdocs must be ordered in person at one of Columbia Print’s two locations - Room 106, Pulitzer Hall (Morningside Campus) or on the second floor of Hammer Health Sciences Building (CUMC) between the hours of 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday. If you are unable to come in person, special accommodations can be made for an additional offline typesetting fee plus delivery charges (determined based on shipping address).

For questions, please email [email protected].

I. The Job Interview

The faculty is available to conduct mock interviews with all students who have scheduled interviews.

Any job interview is by definition 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 Italian language courses? Which books would you include in an English-language survey course in twentieth-century Italian 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 Clara Sereni? Who's that? Why is he--or is it a she--worth a whole dissertation?" Or: “Hasn't everything been said about Dante 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 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 usually grow tired as the day goes on, 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.

Part of the interview will probably be conducted in Italian. If your spoken Italian is rusty, you should begin practicing it several months before interview time, concentrating on professional vocabulary and idiom. Make sure you can describe in Italian 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 Italian, particularly to a mixture of non-native, native, and heritage speakers.