The English Graduate Organization at SU affords graduate students in English an opportunity to be involved in the creation and direction of departmental policy in a way that (we believe) is both unique and beneficial. We see EGO’s role as three-fold: political, professional, and social.
Politically, EGO is a University-recognized student organization that represents English graduate students in the administrative processes in the department. Every graduate student in the English department is automatically a member of EGO, and can begin contributing right away. We have standing positions in the English Department Assembly (including a vote in Faculty Search committees and a voice in the evaluation of graduate applications) and positions in the committees that determine both graduate and undergraduate curriculum. Unlike other departments who appoint graduate students to some committees in “advisory” positions, our representatives are elected, with full voting powers in all standing committees and hiring committees.
In terms of the professionalization, EGO offers an introduction to the kind of “extra-curricular” service work that the profession requires — working in committees, engaging yourself in department policy, etc. These are practices that will develop your relationships with faculty outside of a classroom setting.
We also have a position in the university-wide Graduate Student Organization, which allows us to apply for funding for anything from publishing our own journal, running our own conference, holding lecture series, or sponsoring other events. In the past, EGO has published a journal, hosted colloquia, and brought internationally recognized scholars to the University, all events that were planned, overseen, and executed by graduate students.
Additionally, EGO manages and operates Negotiations, a monthly graduate reading series, which helps students to transform their work from seminar papers to publishable or presentable scholarship. An extraordinarily high percentage of work that comes out of Negotiations goes on to be published or presented at national conferences, so it has been a very successful professional development tool.
With the generous support of the Dean’s Professor for the Public Humanities, EGO also helps sponsor Metathesis, a collaborative forum for critical analysis and engaged, cross-disciplinary dialogue. Graduate students from across the university write about their research, current events, and popular culture for a public audience, while English graduate students edit the blog, manage the website, run advertisements and outreach, and host events related to public scholarship. This initiative gives Syracuse University graduate students the opportunity to engage in public scholarship and receive visibility and compensation for their intellectual work as we pave the way for fairer academic labor.
Finally, EGO is also valuable as a social support system for students in the department. Grad students here have historically valued community over internal competition; shared inquiry over hyper-specialization. Students are not cloistered into research cliques, or simply putting in time until they get their degree in hand. This is evidenced in anything from our weekly pub trivia team, the parties people throw, or just getting together for a few drinks after teaching. When you’re dropping yourself into a whole new life, it helps to have already-existing social networks in place that will be welcoming to you. EGO endeavors to be that for its members.