Portfolio Exam

For the Department of Romance Studies, you will take an exam called The Portfolio Examination that includes a portfolio and oral examination. The purpose of the exam is to allow students to demonstrate their readiness to undertake independent dissertation research through a portfolio of their best work to date. The portfolio format, modeled on the tenure dossier, combines a set of requirements (most of which will be completed in the normal progression through coursework during years one and two) with sufficient flexibility to allow the students to display their knowledge of different fields, clarity of written communication, and evidence of teaching ability.

Once you complete your Portfolio Exam you are eligible for Graduate School conference travel funding.

In developing a plan for your Portfolio Exam, you should work closely with your main advisor to make sure to receive the appropriate training to work effectively as a teacher and scholar in the chosen field(s). The selection of fields is up to you and your faculty advisor, but should be conceived broadly in order to provide you with exposure to a range of approaches and fields. A field might be organized around a particular author or group of authors, or a particular historical period. It can also be organized around a broad theoretical inquiry. In addition to preparing you for your dissertation project, the fields also serve to establish expertise in potential teaching areas. It is therefore important for them to include material directly relating to teaching.

Your portfolio will be divided into three fields of specialization:

  1. One of these, the “major” field, completed with your main advisor in the department of Romance Studies.
  2. The other two, the "minor" fields, completed with other faculty in Romance Studies.
  3. In addition to the work completed for the three sections of the portfolio, you must also submit an intellectual statement of three to five pages describing his/her overall agenda and explaining how the three fields cohere.

Each field must be accompanied by a reading list connected to the particular field, which will inform the written work presented. The written materials themselves will in many cases include work produced for graduate classes taken during the first two years. You may also decide to use previous papers as a basis for expanded theoretical or methodological essays.

Your portfolio can include book reviews, critical essays, historiographical reviews, annotated bibliographies, course syllabi, and research papers. The intention is to build on your previous work by assigning a set of written projects that will allow you to demonstrate your understanding and engagement with a particular body of work. As elements of the portfolio are completed, you should meet with the members of the committee to discuss your progress.

You will choose 3 faculty members to represent 3 fields of specialization. In addition to field examiners, students must include one or two additional readers – either from within Romance Studies or from another department – who will read the Portfolio Exam materials and participate in the oral examination.

In order to stay within the graduate school guidelines, the minimum number of committee members is four. Three of these committee members must be faculty of Romance Studies &/or a joint appointment in Romance Studies and one faculty member may be from outside the department and will be representing your minor area. Consult the Chair of your committee and the DGS regarding any questions or concerns regarding the composition of the committee.

As soon as you have confirmed your committee members, send their names to the DGSA. If you have any subsequent changes to the committee, please immediately notify the DGSA.

At the beginning of the process, when the faculty member has agreed to examine you for a particular field, you two will establish a set of written guidelines outlining the kind and quantity of written material the you should include in the portfolio.

This communication between you both will take the form of a contract, signed by the faculty examiner and submitted for Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) approval and a copy given to the Director of Graduate Studies Assistant (DGSA).

After this contract, faculty may not request additional material. This contract should be signed by the beginning of the second year of your course of studies.

Although the precise timing of the presentation and examination of the Portfolio Exam will vary, students must complete the process by the end of their third year in the program. Ideally, they will complete the Portfolio Examination and the Oral Examination of the Portfolio Exam during the fall of the third year, so that they can complete their Dissertation Prospectus Workshop during the following spring semester. Students, however, should begin thinking about the fields for their portfolio, and begin consulting with potential faculty advisors, during their first year in the program. The process of organizing and reorganizing the material they are producing in classes and in independent studies should help students identify their fields and examiners in a timely manner.

Once the student has completed all the work for the three fields included in the portfolio, the faculty examiner for each of the student's fields will evaluate the relevant field section of the student's portfolio, submitting a detailed written assessment to the student, the student's major advisor, and the DGS. Upon receipt of faculty assessments of all sections of the portfolio, the student's major advisor will review the portfolio in its entirety, including the intellectual agenda, at which point he or she will notify the student, other committee members, and the DGS as to whether the student may proceed to the oral examination.

You will proceed to an oral examination when your advisor deems your portfolio is satisfactory and recommend you to the Director of Graduate Studies. At that point, your entire committee will then participate in the two-hour oral discussion of the portfolio. In addition to field examiners, you must include one or two additional readers – either from within Romance Studies or from another department – who will read the portfolio materials and participate in the oral examination. At the end of the oral examination, the committee will determine whether you have completed the Portfolio Examination requirements and can move on to preparing for the Dissertation Prospectus Workshop.

You must satisfy the Graduate School requirements for The Portfolio Exam (Preliminary Exam). Please see the requirements on the Graduate School website.

It is crucial to maintain good communication between the faculty members that form committees and graduate students. In order to avoid last minute complications for all involved, the entire Portfolio must be finalized and distributed to committee members at least three weeks prior to the exam date.