The Department of History takes mentoring and advising very seriously, as an essential part of the graduate experience. The guidelines below reflect departmental policies and best practices developed and revised over many years.

Choosing an Advisor

All students are assigned to a primary advisor upon admission to the program. For many students, this is a relationship that will flourish throughout the training process, and beyond. For some, the nature of the dissertation project may warrant a co-advising partnership. For still others, changing interests and research trajectories will entail a change of advisors.  All of these configurations are perfectly acceptable.

In addition, we firmly believe that all students benefit from having many faculty mentors and interlocutors who can enrich their studies and support their research. Students should therefore consult widely with a range of faculty, including those with expertise and perspectives beyond the student’s own primary field(s) of study. 

Responsibilities of Faculty Advisors

The success of the department rests to a very large degree on the quality of the training we provide to our graduate students. Advising and mentoring graduate students is thus one of the most important functions faculty perform.  It is expected that faculty will bring the highest standards of professionalism and integrity to this relationship. It is crucial that individual faculty act responsibly and follow the spirit as well as the letter of our guidelines, even during periods of leave.

The specific responsibilities of the faculty advisor include:

  • regular meetings with students
  • advice about minor fields and specific courses
  • responding to written work and communications with reasonable promptness and attention: students the right to expect at least a brief reply or acknowledgment within 24 hours
  • specific and sustained guidance in selecting an appropriate dissertation topic, commentary on the dissertation proposal, and advice on its revision and preparation for the oral exam
  • professional mentoring, including advice about relevant funding opportunities, archival sources, conferences, contacts and networking, preparing for job talks
  • writing letters of recommendation for fellowships, TAships, and job opportunities
  • submitting annual progress reports, both to the student and to the department
  • prompt reading of dissertation chapters with critical comments, in person and/or in writing
  • openness to diverse career choices
  • advice on publishing beyond the dissertation, i.e., how to turn the dissertation into a book, how and where to publish articles
  • information on alternative sources of support. Advisors should be open to students' obtaining advice from other faculty members. They should also try to ascertain when problems go beyond the reach of their responsibilities and require some form of outside assistance
  • treatment that is respectful, honest, and intellectually challenging. Personal relationships between advisor and advisee can enrich the intellectual and professional exchange; however, caution should be exercised to ensure that inappropriate demands are not placed on either side.
  • acting as a liaison with the department when necessary
  • understanding and adhering to university and departmental ethical guidelines, including those concerning sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, and discrimination
  • respect for students' privacy and private life
  • recognition of students' diverse backgrounds, needs, and goals
  • reasonable discretion about communications with, and on behalf of, students. There are some instances in which the DGS or other individuals will need to be informed of an issue; if that is the case, the advisor should warn the student that information will be shared.

Please note that faculty continue to bear full advising responsibilities when they are on academic leave and sabbatical.

Advisors are not responsible for:

  • emotional or psychological counseling
  • meeting student deadlines when information/materials are not provided in a timely matter
  • providing information of advice that cannot be shared without violating professional ethics.

Faculty should remember that relationships with graduate students are professional relationships and must adhere to professional ethical standards.  

Responsibilities of Students

The unequal power relationship between advisor and advisee puts the burden of responsibility on the advisor's shoulders. Nevertheless, students also bear a share of responsibility in fostering and maintaining a productive relationship.

The student's specific responsibilities include:

  • treatment that is respectful, honest, and intellectually challenging
  • regular communication with the advisor(s) to inform them of progress through the program. It is not the sole responsibility of the advisor to initiate contact; students must take an active role in initiating meetings and communication
  • giving the advisor fair warning about deadlines for letters of recommendation or other requests
  • communicating with the advisor regarding personal problems that may impede or hinder progress. Students are clearly entitled to privacy about their personal lives, but they should inform their advisors if unusually disruptive personal matters arise
  • respect for the advisor's privacy and private life
  • understanding and adhering to university and departmental ethical guidelines, including concerning sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, and discrimination.

Students' responsibilities do not include:

  • performing any service for advisors beyond the regular requirements of coursework, preliminary exams, etc. – unless as part of a paid RAship or hourly appointment (and then limited to appropriate work).

Students should remember that relationships with faculty are professional relationships and must adhere to professional ethical standards.

Students should consult the DGS or, if they prefer, the department Chair, if they have any concerns about the relationship with their advisor or any other faculty member.


Changing Advisors

Students are free to change advisors, if necessary. Before taking this step, the student should consult with the DGS and the potential new advisor and come to an understanding about the mutual expectations of the relationship. If a student cannot find an appropriate advisor, the DGS will consult with other appropriate faculty to find a solution; in exceptional circumstances, advanced students have found faculty advisors and/or directors of research beyond the department or the university. The ultimate responsibility for locating an advisor, however, rests with the student. Before accepting a student, who has chosen to switch advisors, faculty should acquaint themselves with the student's background and progress in the program and judge carefully whether he or she is suited to direct the proposed dissertation. Ongoing consultation with the DGS is essential during the course of this decision-making process.