Department of Middle Eastern Studies
Department of Middle Eastern Studies

Support, Mentoring, Recommendations

Financial Support and Scholarships

CMES itself has a limited number of small scholarships, but UT has much more to offer. One of the best funding sources available to our students is the Foreign Language and Area Studies scholarship (FLAS), administered through the Center for Middle Eastern Studies and other departments at UT. Other scholarships are available through the Graduate School—these are all very competitive, but MES students have done very well in obtaining them. There is a variety of university-wide and outside funding opportunities. The Graduate Coordinator and Graduate Advisor can help you locate such support.

We expect our students to apply for external scholarships, and are happy to help with the application process. Because we want to support as many students as we can and “spread the wealth” so to speak, we will at times restrict the support given to one student (e.g., a holder of FLAS will not be offered a TA position). We will, however, consider internal support in the form of TAships for students who compete successfully for non-University scholarships (e.g., the NSEP Boren scholarship) or pursue a Dual Language Track.

 

Letters of Recommendation

Letters of recommendation are critical for success in everything you do as a competitive student, from admissions to scholarships and employment. We expect a detailed letter written by a person who knows you well, understands how competitive the endeavor at hand is, and can emphasize your merits. 

Typical things that you should or should not do:

  • Cultivate your referees! Stay in touch with faculty who might be writing a letter for you. Let them know periodically what and how you are doing so that when the time comes your request does not come as a surprise.
  • It’s a tragic day when we open up letters of recommendation and they are from former employers, clergy, senators, friends, or even assistant instructors. The letters of recommendation that matter the most for admission and funding are those from faculty who taught you. If you don’t have many choices, ask at least two university faculty to write letters for you. If you have more options, ask faculty who have taught you, have worked with graduate students, and know what it takes to thrive in graduate school.
  • Not every faculty knows how to write good letters of recommendation. Ask around—students and advisors usually know whom you should not ask for a letter. A typical indication of weakness that you may recognize immediately is a request by the faculty for you to write the letter for her—stay away from that! Another indication of weakness that we often see is a letter that addresses at length the faculty and the courses that you took with them and spends very little time on how you actually performed in these courses.
  • A strong letter may take a good couple of hours to write. Plan ahead, and do not ask for last-minute references. Faculty may be accommodating, but even with all good intentions, they may not have enough time to invest in the letter.
  • Stay away from faculty who are known to have poor time management skills. A late letter may cause an irreparable damage.
  • Provide referees with relevant information on the application process and whatever you are applying for; add a current CV, a statement of purposes, or any materials that can help them write a strong letter.
  • Think about it: Some of our faculty write tens of letters every year, usually during crunch times, and spend much time on these. They want you to succeed—help them help you!

 

Mentorship

Mentorship by faculty can take many forms, depending on the nature of individual faculty members and students. Entering graduate students in DMES are assigned a faculty mentor, who will work with them until they choose a Comprehensive Exam or Dissertation supervisor. In most cases, a mentorship relationship is beneficial to students. Rarely, though, such relationships may turn sour—remember that a mentor is there to support and guide you, not to control your life and decisions. Talk to the Graduate Advisor if you feel that your mentoring experience is going in the wrong direction.

 

Petitioning

If you are told to petition to have something done, this usually means that the Graduate Advisor or Department Chair will need to write a letter on your behalf to one of the Deans. You should provide the Graduate Coordinator with the information needed to craft the letter, and follow up with her.

Think about it: A petition is a request. The Dean may deny it—do not consider the matter done until you have received confirmation from us.

 

Parental Accommodation

The College of Liberal Arts endorses an academic accommodation for new parents that will grant students a one-semester extension in the expected time to degree in cases of childbirth or adoption. The goal of this accommodation is to emphasize that new parents among our graduate students will not be penalized for a delay in progress toward the degree.

It is the responsibility of a graduate student anticipating a birth or adoption to inform his or her Graduate Adviser, Graduate Coordinator, and thesis/dissertation or research project supervisor of any anticipated accommodation needs as early as possible, and to submit the required documentation in support of the accommodation request.


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