Mentorship in CDG

Statement of Expectations for Advising

Carolina-Duke Graduate Program in German Studies


Respect, collegiality, transparency, and flexibility among faculty, graduate students, and staff are hallmarks of the CDG program.  Beginning in the second year, the relationship between advisor and advisee will be the student’s central mentoring relationship.  This relationship is embedded within the broader network of the student’s committee and the advisory role of Duke’s and UNC’s DGSs. 

Expectations for advisors, Ph.D. students, and committees

Not all advisor-advisee relationships follow the same patterns, but the program has some general expectations for the reciprocal responsibilities in this relationship.  Because these expectations and responsibilities are mutually constituting, they will be laid out together.

  • Students will have primary responsibility for the successful completion of their degree. The advisor will help the student think through the student’s goals for their Ph.D. experience, and offer support in accomplishing them.
  • Advisees are responsible for knowing the policies and requirements of the CDG program.  The advisor will also stay properly informed in order to help the advisee grasp CDG requirements.
  • Graduate students and advisors should be in contact at least several times per semester.  Advisors and advisees will respond to email promptly, ideally within four business days.
  • Advisors offer advice on course selection when still relevant and on course auditing selection throughout the advisee’s studies.
  • During the composition of the Writing Proficiency Review, the advisor works closely with the advisee on development and writing.  Remaining committee members read the essay and provide feedback during the WPR review.
  • The advisor and advisee work together on the composition of the exam lists.  Each member of the committee must approve the lists.  The advisor writes exam questions, taking the suggestions of other committee members into consideration.  All members of the committee participate in the defense.
  • The advisor and advisee together establish writing deadlines for dissertation progress.  The advisee should meet these deadlines and the advisor should provide timely feedback on written work.
  • The advisor reads and provides timely feedback on proposals, abstracts, and article drafts, as long as they are provided in a timely fashion. While the time frame will vary depending on the length and complexity of the document, advisors will be sensitive to submission deadlines and will inform students if their response will take more than 2-3 weeks.
  • The advisor, other committee members, faculty and teaching supervisors write letters of recommendation for the advisee upon request, as long as the request is made in a timely fashion, ideally a two-week minimum. 
  • The advisor helps the student think about and advance their personal career aspirations.  Such help includes assisting with the composition of job market materials, particularly for the academic job search, and helping to locate resources on each campus for non-academic job advice.  The advisee provides materials for review in a timely fashion.  The advisor is accepting and supportive of the advisee’s career plans, whether inside or outside academia.
  • The advisor continues to support the advisee’s career after completion of the degree, for example, by updating letters of recommendation upon request, connecting alumni with appropriate networks, and offering academic and/or professional advice.
  • The advisor and advisee treat each other with respect and professionalism.
  •  Advisees may switch advisors after a pre-dissertation milestone if either their research focus changes or the relationship with the original advisor is no longer optimal. They should consult with the DGSs to ensure a smooth transition. Switching advisors during the course of a milestone, including the dissertation, is also possible, but should only be considered after consultation with both the DGSs and Chairs. A faculty member may withdraw as advisor or committee member after consultation with the DGSs. An advisee changing the composition of their committee should promptly notify all committee members affected.

Expectations regarding graduate student teaching:

Students take a pedagogy seminar and receive individualized supervision as language instructors.  Opportunities exist for many students to serve as teaching assistants in lecture courses in close consultation with faculty or, when they have become more experienced, as instructors in culture courses.  Graduate student teachers are expected to fulfill the specific requirements of the position as stipulated in the teaching assistantship offer letter. Faculty will supervise teaching assistants by meeting with them before the beginning of the semester to plan, as well as meeting regularly during the semester, discussing lesson plans and grading rubrics, and answering any pedagogy-related questions that emerge in the context of the course. Faculty supervisors are also expected to observe and provide feedback to graduate student teachers as needed, but at least once per semester, and to write letters of recommendation as long as the requests are made in a timely fashion.

In addition to their roles as advisors and committee members, faculty will:

  • return seminar papers to students with comments.
  • participate in admissions and recruitment events.

In addition to their roles as advisees, students will:

  • write an annual progress report.
  • participate in recruitment events.
  • treat each other with respect and participate in informal peer mentoring, for example, by sharing ideas, experiences, tips for time management, and other opportunities (such as conferences, job workshops, and cultural events).
  • check their e-mails regularly (at least daily) and respond promptly to any requests for information, whether from administrative staff or faculty. 
  • attend program events.
  • self-consciously and responsibly inform and avail themselves of academic and non-academic opportunities as they progress through the program.
  • if participating in an exchange program abroad, comport themselves well, remain in regular contact with the program staff, their advisor and committee members, and continue to make good progress toward the degree.

Specific program requirements towards the degree are provided elsewhere on the website.

Ensuring standards

The CDG program is designed to ensure that the standards above will be maintained through the collaborative manner in which the advisor-advisee relationship is embedded within a committee and within the larger faculty network of the program. 


At each milestone, the committee meets together with the student as a group, as follows:

  • The Writing Proficiency Review at the end of year 2: advisor and 2 committee members.
  • The preliminary exam at the end of year 3: advisor and 3 committee members.
  • The dissertation prospectus and chapter review at the end of year 4: advisor and 3 committee members.
  • The dissertation defense: advisor and 4 committee members.

Each committee meeting includes a discussion among the committee without the student present in which advising approaches are explicitly discussed.

Annual progress review

Each spring, the full faculty of CDG meet to discuss student progress, assisted by a progress report written by each student.  Advising approaches are explicitly discussed.


At any given time, there are two DGSs serving concurrently, one at Duke and one at UNC, who serve to guide and advise students before they find advisors and in an ongoing supplementary fashion through the rest of their studies.    

If students experience issues with their advisors, they should consult with the Duke or UNC DGS or, if they prefer, with the Duke or the UNC Chair.  DGSs and Chairs will then consult on such matters and engage with the advisors to ensure best practices.  All student concerns will be treated seriously and with respect.

After such intervention by the DGSs and Chairs, if problems should continue, faculty members may be liable to official grievance policies. Students may also turn to the university ombudsperson at Duke or UNC.

These mutual expectations reflect CDG’s ongoing commitment to a respectful, informed, and engaged intellectual community.