Mentoring and Advising

The Romance Studies Ph.D. program is committed to providing thoughtful and supportive mentoring and advising of all students. This document is reflective of an overall shared philosophy of graduate pedagogy, and clarifies expectations for the roles of advisers, committee members, and doctoral students. These guidelines are meant to facilitate communication and support the community of scholars gathered in the department.


All incoming students are assigned a mentor. This mentor will remain in place through the second year.  Mentors can be counted on for general questions about Duke, the academic profession, alternative professional opportunities, and sources for support with personal challenges that may emerge. Mentors are drawn from faculty outside the student’s main area of specialization, in order to provide general support and insights that complement the academic relationships with potential primary faculty advisors and committee members.


Prior to the Preliminary Exam

The Director of Graduate Studies is the official advisor to all graduate students until they confirm a dissertation advisor at the end of their second year. The DGS sets out the arc of requirements that students will pass through as part of their academic process, and is available to consult with students about progress and to help them select courses. The DGS meets with all first and second year students at the beginning of each semester to plan the courses and evaluate their progress through the program. Those meetings allow the DGS to recommend faculty at Duke whose research aligns with the student’s research interests, and help to identify additional opportunities on and off campus.

The DGS monitors the progress of students based upon faculty reports, individual meetings, and annual reports during the first two years, and helps students plan for their preliminary exams (portfolios) in their third year. The DGS, with the support of the DGSA, organizes workshops for students on questions including fellowship and job applications, how to build a dissertation committee, and the Portfolio exam and Dissertation Prospectus.

After the Preliminary Exam

Students will have a primary advisor, who is also the chair of their dissertation committee. Once students confirm their Preliminary Exam committee and start work on their Portfolio, and then dissertation prospectus, the thesis advisor functions as their main advisor. The DGS is still available for consultation on any programmatic questions, and often writes letters of support for students that attest to their standing in the program.

All faculty in the department are committed to the support of enrolled doctoral students, and advising and committee membership is considered essential to their position. Students accepted into the PhD program and who remain in good standing should feel no hesitation in requesting the participation of faculty in their committee or as their advisor. Course work with faculty members within the department during the first two years— including meetings during office hours and careful development of seminar research projects— is essential to developing those scholarly conversations and relationships.

The primary advisor helps the student to design the major area of specialization for the preliminary exam, aids in shaping the dissertation project, and guides the student toward a timely completion and defense of the dissertation. The primary advisor also supports students as they apply for fellowships and jobs, whether those are in the academy or other fields. Committee members, in turn, provide support (individual meetings, revision of texts, suggestions of bibliography, etc.) for the specific areas of the dissertation that correspond to their specialization, and also write letters of support for student applications to fellowships and jobs.

Expectations of Faculty

In addition to the expectations for all Graduate Faculty at Duke and the advising roles detailed above, expectations of all professors in the Department include:

  • Create an environment that promotes linguistic and cultural diversity.
  • Support international students as they adapt to the US academic system, and to help prepare them for professional opportunities both in the US and another system if they so desire.
  • Provide professional guidance about teaching opportunities, alternative career paths, work-life balance, etc.
  • Depending on their role as course instructors, advisors, and committee members, be available to be consulted on written work. This includes consultation and advising on written work for course assignments, exam lists, dissertation prospectuses, dissertation chapters, fellowship and grant applications, job and post-doc application materials (CVs, cover letters), and so on.
  • Set clear expectations for students regarding:
  • Levels of participation and deadlines for work to be submitted in seminars.
  • The procedure by which students should request a letter of recommendation.
  • The responsibilities of students serving as TA or RA.
  •  Respond in a timely manner to all student communications.

Expectations of Students

In addition to the expectations for all Graduate Students at Duke, doctoral students are expected to assume primary responsibility for the successful completion of their degree, and to make active use of the advisory relationships and support in place. 

Students more generally are expected to:

  • Keep abreast of their own progress through the program. Follow the guidelines for each year of the program, and reach out to the DGS or their advisor(s) with any questions.
  • Submit their annual report on time, planning any necessary meetings with the DGS or advisors well in advance of the deadline for submission of the signed report. Meet the goals set out in the annual report of the previous academic year.
  • Be an active advisee. Planning for each semester should include: arranging meetings with the DGS, faculty, mentors, and advisors to discuss coursework, summer research and teaching plans, exam preparation, language study, dissertation topics, fellowship and job applications, letters of recommendation, and other aspects of professional development.
  • Prepare for meetings with all faculty carefully. Send necessary materials with sufficient time for faculty to read them; agree upon and then meet deadlines.
  • Attend departmental workshops to prepare for all major milestones; those include workshops on grant writing, the job market, formation of your dissertation committee, etc.
  • Attend most if not all departmentally-organized lectures and symposia; attend all presentations of job candidates in the department.
  • Respond in a timely manner to all departmental and faculty communications.

Liaison Committee

Each year, graduate students meet at the beginning of the Fall semester to elect representatives from each year for the Liaison committee. Those representatives call regular meetings for students to discuss interests, concerns, and proposals for activities. They attend faculty meetings, and meet at least once per semester with the DGS.

Peer Advising Resources

We encourage students to consult with their peers in the department and to work collaboratively. The DGSA has an archive of materials available for students that includes sample portfolio exams, sample job letters and cv’s, and more.

There is a new pilot system for peer advising via the Graduate School; we encourage students to participate in it as mentors and/or mentees. For information, email Maria Wisdom, Director of Interdisciplinary Advising and Engagement, at


Students with concerns or grievances may speak to their mentor, the DGS, or the Chair of the department. Confidentiality will be maintained as much as possible.

Faculty with concerns about students should contact the DGS.

Students may bring concerns or reports of harassment to the appropriate staff member at the Office of Institutional Equity: