The Culture of a Graduate Program

  • Gregory M. Colón Semenza


Few undergraduates know or care all that much about how their major departments operate and, in truth, their ignorance probably has no negative consequences. Only rarely are they ever invited to participate in the administrative or curricular management of a department. To succeed in graduate school, however, students must learn quickly about how academic departments—and the individuals who run them—are organized and governed. In the worst cases, ignorance about such factors can lead graduate students to act in ways extremely damaging to their reputations and careers. Based on the premise that both successful graduate study and professional development begin with an understanding of academic culture per se, this chapter provides nuts-and-bolts information on a variety of general subjects, including:
  • The daily life of a typical humanities professor

  • The tenure and promotion system

  • The hierarchical structure of a typical department

  • The major characters in an academic department

  • The politics of academic life

  • The intensity of graduate study


Faculty Member Graduate Student Assistant Professor Academic Freedom Academic Department 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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  1. 5.
    For a good summary of what’s being done about it, see Scott Smallwood, “United We Stand?” The Chronicle of Higher Education 49.24 (2003): A10.Google Scholar
  2. 7.
    Nelson and Watt, Academic Keywords: A Devil’s Dictionary for Higher Education (New York and London: Routledge, 1999), 210.Google Scholar
  3. 12.
    Kathryn Hume, Surviving Your Academic Job Hunt: Advice for Humanities PhDs (New York: Palgrave Macmillan), 2005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Gregory M. Colón Semenza 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gregory M. Colón Semenza

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