Traversing the Terrain: Navigating Grad School’s Hidden Curriculum (GSC Session)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2021
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA 2022) Graduate Student Caucus
contact email: 

How does one prepare for a comprehensive exam? Who would make for the best members of a dissertation committee, and how should one ask them for help? What kind of relationship should one have with other graduate students? How does one move from being an undergraduate to a graduate student?

Many a graduate student has asked themselves these questions, and rightly so; these are some of the questions that one needs to answer in order to be successful in grad school. Yet, these kinds of questions are the ones that are perhaps least openly discussed, largely because they exist on the peripheries of arguably the more rewarding realms of completing coursework, publishing research, and writing grant proposals, to name a few. These “soft” skills are part of grad school’s “hidden curriculum”: things that one is expected to know, but which are not explicitly taught.

The existence of a hidden curriculum perhaps begs the question: if such knowledge and skills are so important to every graduate student’s success, why are they hidden to begin with? In the often dazzling and complex world of academia, traversing the terrain to success requires that every graduate student clue in on and pick up certain competencies that more seasoned scholars master but usually take for granted, or which otherwise become considered as the least pragmatic investment of time and training. This sense of “given-ness”, however, belies the asymmetrical ways that academic culture operates, setting up for success those privileged few who have an inkling of how things work while systematizing barriers that hinder those who don’t. This GSC-sponsored roundtable session thus hopes to help demystify the myriad ways that the hidden curriculum of grad school might pose unnecessary challenges to graduate student success, while also capitalizing on the wisdom of experience of those who have engaged with and successfully overcome such institutional barriers. Some possible points of discussion may include but are not limited to the following:

1) setting up a grad school support team;

2) making sense of academic jargon;

3) correlating one’s research with others’, including one’s supervisor;

4) managing life in and out of one’s program;

5) transitioning from one academic stage to the next;

6) overcoming imposter syndrome, etc.


Please submit proposals of 250-300 words, with a bio of at most 100 words, on how you intend to address one or more of the talking points above.


For inquiries, please email Christian Ylagan at or


This is a GSC-sponsored session proposal. Non-GSC officers may be tapped to be co-chairs.

Please submit abstracts directly to