Managing Milestones: Navigating Grad School’s Hidden Curriculum (GSC Session)

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2022
full name / name of organization: 
Northeast Modern Language Association (NeMLA 2023) Graduate Student Caucus
contact email: 

How does one move from being an undergraduate to a graduate student and then to a professional? How does one prepare for a comprehensive exam? Who would make for the best members of a dissertation committee? What are some milestones to keep track of in the final year before graduation?

Many graduate students have asked themselves these questions, and rightly so. Yet, these kinds of questions are the ones that are perhaps least openly discussed. As grad school serves to be a transitional period for many junior academics, many of its milestones and the means required to navigate this terrain are relegated to being a “hidden curriculum”: things that one is expected to know and manage, but for which the skills and strategies 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 complex world of academia, success requires that every graduate student pick up certain competencies that seasoned scholars master but usually take for granted, or which are otherwise considered as the least pragmatic investment of time and training. This belies the asymmetrical ways that academic culture operates, setting up for success those few who have an inkling of how things work while systematizing barriers that hinder others. 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, including one’s supervisor and/or committee;

2) teaching your own class for the first time;

3) transitioning from one stage to the next, especially in the context of lateral moves (within academia), transpositional moves (moving away from academia), and displacements;

4) navigating immigration barriers to securing professional opportunities as international students;

5) navigating the job market, especially in the context of being a junior academic, entering “public humanities”, transitioning to non-academic industry; or teaching in a foreign country.


Please submit proposals of around 250 words, as well as a brief bio, on how you intend to address one or more of the talking points above. Please submit proposals directly to

Since this is a GSC-sponsored session, non-GSC officers may be tapped to be co-chairs.