Frequently Asked Questions

Where is your office?

Rooms 10-22 SignMy office is located in the Department of English, which is housed in Lind Hall, on the East Bank of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. My office is also somewhat challenging to find, since it is in a back corridor of the lower level. The easiest way to get here is to enter the building from the side entrance to the south, which will put you in the main hallway on the lower level. Look for a door on your right marked "Rooms 10-22" and go through it. Keep going through two more doors, the first one marked "Rooms 10-22" (again) and the second one marked "4SS" (for "Southeast Stair"). My office is the second on the left: 21 Lind Hall. Contact me if you have trouble.

Do I need an appointment?

Although you do not need an appointment to visit during my office hours (listed on my home page), you may want to make one, in case I have an unexpected conflict and so you will not need to wait if I am meeting with someone else. Office hours can get especially busy before exams and near the end of the semester. If you cannot make my office hours, email me some days and times that work for you, and I will confirm a date and time that works for me.

Can you write a recommendation for me?

I often write letters of recommendation for students I have advised and/or taught. To help me do this for you, please follow these suggestions:

  • Contact me as soon as possible (my contact information is on my home page), so I will have sufficient time to prepare my letter. I generally do not write letters for which I have not been given at least two weeks notice, and I prefer three or four weeks notice, since I usually have several other deadlines to meet.
  • Tell me when the letter is due, and whether that due date is when I should send the letter or when the letter should be received.
  • Tell me the purpose of the letter (graduate school, scholarship, employment, internship, study abroad, and so on), why you are applying, and how your application fits into your life goals. In addition, please let me know if you are concerned about any faults or weaknesses that could undermine your application, as I may be able to address or contextualize these in my letter.
  • For graduate students applying for academic jobs, tell me how my letter fits into your dossier. What can I say that your other recommenders cannot?
  • Provide any necessary forms (with the applicant's section filled out in advance). If you have the option to waive your rights to read the recommendation, I would suggest that you do so. Confidential letters carry more weight, and reviewers are sometimes suspicious of applicants who decline to waive their rights.
  • Provide any additional material that may help me write a strong letter. This could include:
    • a resume or cv
    • a copy of your transcript (an unofficial one is fine)
    • a copy of your personal statement or statement of purpose (if you are submitting one)
    • copies or summaries of any papers you wrote for me (I read hundreds of papers every year; do not assume I will remember yours, no matter how brilliant)
    • additional information about the position or award you are seeking
    • a copy of the instructions for the person writing the letter
    • Include a stamped, pre-addressed envelope for each letter or, if the letter is to be submitted electronically, a list of the schools from which I should expect to receive an email.
  • Provide all these materials either as email attachments or in hard copy, but not both.
  • Please be reasonable about the number of letters you ask me to send.
    • For graduate students applying for academic jobs, I usually write one letter, which I send to the student's departmental dossier service, though in special cases I will tailor a letter to a particular institution.
    • For undergraduates applying to graduate school, ten letters is generally the maximum I will send, regardless of whether these are to be submitted in paper or electronic form. If you have special needs, please let me know, and we can discuss your particular situation.

Good luck—and let me know if you get what you are seeking!

Do you have any graduate assistantships?

I occasionally do, but these positions usually go to graduate students I already advise and/or teach. If you are applying to graduate school and seeking an assistantship, I usually cannot guarantee that you will get one in advance of your application, because I prefer to have personal knowledge of students before working with them as research or teaching assistants.

Do you have any advice for graduate students?

Nothing can replace the kind of personalized advice a conversation can provide, but there's also a large and growing literature on how to succeed in graduate school and after, which you can consult on your own. I keep a running bibliography of these titles, which I call "Academic Self-Help Books." Knock yourself out. 

I also created a one-page handout, modestly titled "How to Be Happy in Grad School (and in Life)," for the English department's annual Graduate Student Orientation. If it helps you navigate your life in some way, nothing would make me happier.