Graduate Student Handbook

Policies for Hispanic Studies Graduate Students


Academic Program

1. Course registration

Each semester, continuing students will meet with the Graduate Chair or their designated Advisor to discuss course selections for the coming term. Following the registration discussion, students should enroll themselves for courses in Penn InTouch. For enrollment access to certain courses (e.g. SPAN800), the students should contact the Graduate Coordinator. Each student should complete a minimum of 20 units to complete the requirements for the Ph.D. in Hispanic Studies. Students should keep this policy in mind when planning their course of study, especially with regard to anticipating transfer credits and ensuring the fulfillment of all required courses.  Students can take additional courses in consultation with the Graduate Chair, and these course credits will be covered by the Graduate School.  After the student completes the 20 units, there is no limit on how many units a student can take before h/she graduates.   Courses taken during the summer, except the language courses offered for reading knowledge by the Graduate School during the first summer session, will no longer be covered by the Graduate School. 


2. Incompletes

Incomplete grades may not be carried from semester to semester, except in emergency circumstances. Please note - The Graduate School will withhold your stipend if you have incompletes. Students who have completed all work for a course and have not received a final grade are urged to notify the Graduate Chair and Graduate Coordinator as soon as possible.


3. Independent studies

Independent studies are reserved for those special cases in which a student needs directed reading in an area not covered regularly in coursework offered by the relevant Graduate Group. Students should not take more than one independent study per semester. Students should get the approval of the individual professor to undertake an independent study, and communicate this with the Graduate Chair and Graduate Coordinator. It is expected that an independent study will involve a syllabus and writing assignments and will culminate in a letter grade.


4. Departmental language examinations

Language (translation) exams in French, Italian, Portuguese, and Catalan will be administered by the Department twice a year, in October and in March (language exams in German and Latin can be arranged through that department). The Graduate Coordinator will announce the date and will notify students when they may sign up for an exam. Students may not choose their native language for examination. Please review your section's Graduate Guidelines to determine the language requirements you must fulfill and the various methods by which you may do so. Students may ask to take an exam in a language other than those listed above if the language bears particular significance to the student's research. Such requests will be considered by the appropriate Graduate Chair on a case-by-case basis.


5. Dissertation registration

In the semester following the completion of coursework, students will be registered for dissertation credit (course number 995). Once students reach dissertation status, they may still register for an additional course either for credit or for audit with the approval of the Graduate Chair. Students who have not graduated before the expiration of their fellowship will be charged and must pay dissertation tuition for each subsequent semester of dissertation registration. (There is no tuition charge during the summer sessions.) Students who receive a sixth-year university fellowship or teaching assistantship or who teach an evening course through the College of General Studies will receive dissertation tuition remission.  However, depending on the situation, these students may still have to pay the University general fee.  The Graduate School will also waive dissertation tuition for the semester in which a student graduates if all graduation requirements have been met by a predetermined date, which normally falls six weeks after the start of the semester. Please consult the Graduate Coordinator for all graduation deadlines.   


6. Residence requirement for dissertation-level students

Dissertation-level students are expected to remain in the Philadelphia area regardless of their funding status. Exceptions may be made on an ad hoc basis if a student shows convincingly that his or her dissertation research necessitates residence somewhere else, and in any case for not more than one year. This policy does not apply to academic exchange programs.

In cases in which a student's dissertation research clearly requires residence outside the Philadelphia area, the student should present to the Graduate Group a convincing and well-documented case to this effect. Documentation should include a cover letter explaining the student's research plans; a list of the libraries, archives, or other institutions where the student will conduct research; a list of the materials the student expects to use; an outline of the student's schedule for dissertation chapter submissions; and any other supporting documentation that the Graduate Group deems appropriate.

Students who are granted permission to suspend the residence requirement should remain in regular contact with their advisors and their respective graduate chairs. If the Graduate Group finds that the student is not making significant progress toward completion of the dissertation or fails to remain in regular contact with the advisor and Graduate Chair, the student may compromise his or her good standing in the Department.


7. Graduation

Students must apply for all degrees conferred at the University of Pennsylvania, including the Master's degree. Applications and degree calendars are available from the Graduate Coordinator. Please refer to your section's Graduate Guidelines to determine when you are eligible for the M.A. degree. Ph.D. candidates will work closely with the Graduate Coordinator to ensure that all necessary forms are completed by the required deadlines. Note that if you do not graduate within the degree cycle for which you have applied, your candidacy is not automatically renewed; you must complete another application for the following cycle.




Information about general PhD program policies can be found here.


Graduate Student Funding

1. Applying for funds for summer study / research abroad

The Department offers awards to a limited number of students for short-term research abroad or for enrollment in summer academic programs, to be awarded competitively on a yearly basis. Funds may not be used solely for the purposes of enhancing language proficiency. Applications will be solicited once a year. Interested students should submit to the Graduate Chair the following:

A.) A research proposal addressed in which you describe thoroughly the intention of your trip and why it is apposite to your dissertation or your course of study. For research trips, please be sure to include: a) a list of the libraries, archives, or other institutions where you will conduct research; b) a list of the materials you expect to use. For academic programs, please be sure to include a) the name, location, and sponsoring agent of the program; b) a description of courses or workshops you will attend.

B.) An itemized account of any anticipated expenses that apply, such as airfare or other means of transportation; lodging; food (if board is not part of a predetermined package, we estimate a per diem allowance according to the State Department's published guidelines); program fees and any other relevant expenses.

C.) A copy of the program brochure or other official description (e.g., printouts of relevant pages from a website) in the case of an academic program.

Funded expenses must be reconciled IMMEDIATELY upon the student's return from travel or else subsequent funding will be jeopardized. Be sure to save all ticket stubs and receipts.


2. Applying for funds for academic conferences

The Department offers up to $450 for each conference to a limited number of students delivering papers at scholarly conferences, to be awarded competitively on a yearly basis. Only one such conference will be funded per student per year for a maximum of three in the student's graduate career. Funds may not be used for participation in graduate student conferences. Materials should be submitted to the Graduate Chair and the Graduate Coordinator according to the following guidelines:

1) Send an e-mail to the Graduate Chair asking for departmental funding for a conference. Be sure to include conference information and an anticipated breakdown of costs and their estimates (e.g. ticket, transportation, accommodations).

2) Graduate Chair will approve or reject request will inform Graduate Coordinator. If request is approved, you can purchase conference expenses up front. Expenses should be paid with a form of currency that allows for records (e.g. credit card, PayPal). You cannot get reimbursed for expenses that you pay for in cash without an itemized receipt.

3) Communicate with the Graduate Coordinator about steps for reimbursement.

Students attending the annual MLA Convention for the purpose of interviewing for academic positions will be reimbursed up to $750 for travel-related expenses. Such funding is awarded once to all job seekers. Please save all receipts and bring them to the Graduate Coordinator upon your return.

 Students can also apply for travel grants from GAPSA.


3. Stipend disbursement

Fellowship stipend checks are issued in 10 monthly installments (September through June) at the end of each month.

Stipends are taxed as follows: educational fellowships (all non-service fellowships, including Benjamin Franklin, University, and SAS Dissertation Fellowships) are taxable only at the federal level, although taxes are not withheld. You must report your fellowship earnings as income and may be required to pay taxes when you file your tax return. Teaching fellowships (the two service years required as part of the Benjamin Franklin fellowship) are taxable at the federal and city levels (the latter at 50% of earnings), and taxes are withheld each pay period. Teaching assistantships (any teaching assignment additional to the two required service years) are taxable at the federal, state, and city levels (the last at 50% of earnings), and taxes are withheld each pay period.

See the Tax Office website for additional details:

Should you have any questions about your stipend checks, suspect that you were overpaid or underpaid, or believe you have been taxed incorrectly, please see the Graduate Coordinator. Note, however, that the Department does not have the capacity to evaluate or correct payroll errors directly; we must operate through the Williams Hall Business Office and the Payroll Department. Please be patient as we investigate your payroll queries.


4. Filing an income tax return

Please direct all questions regarding filing your income tax return to the University's Corporate Tax Office, 3451 Walnut Street, Room 329; 215-898-8967 or 215-898-6573; website: If you do not receive a W-2 form or other tax filing information, please contact the Payroll Office at 215-898-6301 as soon as possible.


5. Updating your personal information

If either your permanent or local address changes during your graduate career, please notify the Graduate Coordinator. You may update your addresses and other personal information online through Penn In Touch. To officially register a change of name, bring the appropriate legal documentation to the Office of the Registrar, 221 Franklin Building, 3451 Walnut Street; 215-898-7511.

All foreign nationals must be sure that the Business Office has on record a copy of their current visa. If your visa expires, please submit a copy of the renewed visa to the Graduate Coordinator as soon as possible.


6. Problems with Bursar's bills

Billing discrepancies may arise whenever the University issues a tuition or fee charge before the Graduate School has posted a fellowship or assistantship award to your Bursar's account. If this occurs, you will receive a Bursar's bill showing the balance owed. If the Graduate School has not posted tuition and fee credits by the bill's due date, you will be charged a late penalty fee as long as your balance remains outstanding. Though you do not need to pay late fees or expenses other than those personal charges you may have incurred (such as bookstore purchases, cash advances, or dining dollars), do not ignore your bill hoping that the charges will eventually disappear. Bring the bill or send an e-mail to the Graduate Coordinator to avoid the accumulation of late fees and eventual problems with your Bursar's account. You can also check the status of your account online through Penn In Touch.


7. Employment extraneous to the fellowship

Students must obtain the proper authorization before they accept any form of employment at the University of Pennsylvania other than the teaching assignments that are part of their fellowship package. This includes, for instance, work at Van Pelt Library, summer teaching outside the Department of Romance Languages, serving as a Resident Advisor, and performing grading or research duties on behalf of a faculty member. Please notify the Graduate Coordinator as soon as any such employment opportunities arise. A student's total yearly earnings must not exceed the income cap set by the University. Students may not be employed outside the University of Pennsylvania without the prior consent of the Graduate Chair and the Graduate Dean. Students who receive an SAS Dissertation Fellowship are precluded from engaging in any sort of employment, compensated or not.

8. Funding After the 5th Year

PhD students are encouraged to apply for and accept funding opportunities from external sources. Please contact the Graduate Coordinator for the most up to date resources for external funding and funding after the fifth year.


Departmental Facilities and Their Use

1. Computer laboratory

Located in Room 517, the Computer Lab includes three Macintosh computers, five IBM-compatible computers, two laser printers, a scanner, and a telephone. A code to the lab is available from the Graduate Coordinator. The lab is for use solely by graduate students of the Department of Romance Languages. Please observe this stipulation.


2. Multimedia laboratory

All instructors of the Department of Romance Languages may use the multimedia lab located in Williams 542 to prepare materials related to teaching. The lab has both video and sound editing capabilities. You must reserve a time slot on the schedule posted on the door of the lab.


3. Common Areas

The Department has two common areas: the Cherpack Conference and Seminar Room (Room 543) and the Graduate Student Lounge (Room 540). The Cherpack Conference and Seminar Room is used for departmental meetings, lectures, and social functions and features a state-of-the-art multimedia unit. To reserve the Cherpack Conference and Seminar Room for an event, please contact the Main Office staff. A weekly schedule of events to take place in the Cherpack Conference and Seminar Room is posted outside the room's door.

The Graduate Student Lounge is available to all graduate students, faculty, and lecturers in Romance Languages and includes lockers, bookshelves, a coat rack, and a campus telephone.  The lounge also includes a lunch table and chairs, a refrigerator, a microwave, and a water cooler. Be sure to label any food or drinks you do not want thrown away.  The code for the lounge is available from the Graduate Coordinator.


4. Lockers

The Graduate Student Lounge in Room 540 houses lockers for individual use by graduate students of the Department. Locker assignments are issued by the Graduate Coordinator.


5. TA offices

Two TA offices are available for shared use by teaching assistants of the Department of Romance Languages: Williams 536 and 537. Keys will be issued by the Graduate Coordinator only to those students assigned to teach during a given academic year. Each office includes desk space, bookshelves, and filing cabinets for teaching materials and records. TA offices are meant for holding office hours only, and according to the schedule of office hours arranged for each semester. Please do not use this office as work or study space apart from your meetings with your students.


6. Bulletin boards

Refer to the bulletin board located to the right of the Graduate Coordinator's office for events, fellowship opportunities, and job announcements for graduate students. Conference and colloquia announcements are posted on the bulletin board located opposite Williams 516. Other information relevant to graduate students, such as upcoming courses or University events, may be found on the bulletin boards outside the Main Office. If you wish to post personal announcements, apartment listings, etc., please use the bulletin boards in the Graduate Student Lounge.


7. Supplies

Please ask a member of the Main Office staff if you need teaching supplies. Students who are applying for academic positions may ask the Graduate Coordinator for a supply of departmental letterhead and envelopes for their job applications.


8. Mail

Please put stamps on all off-campus mail before you leave it in the outgoing mailbox in the Main Office. The office staff will return any letters to you that do not include proper postage. Students applying for academic positions may mail up to 20 job applications through the Department, free of charge. Campus mail does not require postage; please ask for an intramural envelope for such mailings.

Students who go abroad for the academic year or who leave campus for an extended period of time should inform the office staff of their forwarding address.


9. Copiers

A multi-functional photocopier is located in Williams 539. Graduate students have an allowance of 1,000 copies per year, free of charge. Overage will be charged at three cents per copy. Note that transparencies will melt in the copier if not used properly; ask the office staff for assistance before copying onto transparency sheets. The photocopier located in the Main Office is reserved for office use only.


10. Telephones

 The Graduate Student Lounge (Room 540) and the Computer Lab (Room 517) have telephones from which you can make local calls. The telephones in the Main Office are reserved for departmental use only. There is a telephone for on-campus calls on the 2nd floor of Williams Hall, and a pay telephone on the ground floor of Houston Hall.


11. Fax machine

 The fax machine in the Main Office may be used for local numbers. Please see the office
staff for assistance.


12. Building access

You can gain access to Williams Hall after normal hours by running your PennCard through one of the card readers located near each entrance. Your card will be automatically registered at the beginning of the academic year.