Departmental Distinction Guidelines

I. Departmental Distinction at St. Olaf College

Each department’s faculty may award “Departmental Distinction” to selected graduating majors at Commencement.  The department’s faculty determines the criteria for such distinction and the special opportunities that will be made available to encourage students to develop special abilities and achieve distinction,­­ subject to guidelines established by the Special Studies Subcommittee and administered by the office of the Associate Dean of the College.

Departmental Distinction should go to those students who have those qualities most valued in their discipline.  The definitive criterion is the student’s demonstrated ability to produce independently work of the highest scholarly or artistic standard consonant with his or her training.

II.   English Department Policy on Departmental Distinction

The Department of English seeks to foster an understanding of, and appreciation for, the nature and function of language and literature; to promote knowledge of literatures written in English; and to teach the skills of critical thinking and verbal expression.

In the awarding of departmental distinction, the department recognizes those students who have maintained a strong academic record in the discipline and who have engaged in literary or linguistic activities of distinction.

Departmental distinction will be awarded on the basis of:

1)    the candidate’s overall record in the discipline, and

2)   a portfolio submitted by the candidate in his or her senior year.

III.   Procedures

A.  Eligibility

To be eligible to be a candidate for departmental distinction, a student must have completed a minimum of seven graded courses in the major, six of which must have been taught by St. Olaf College faculty. The combined GPA of all graded courses in the major taught by St. Olaf faculty must be 3.8 or above.

B. Paths to Distinction

In the past, the awarding of departmental distinction involved writing or revising a single piece of writing in consultation with a faculty supervisor. Beginning in the 2014-15 academic year, distinction will be awarded on the basis of a portfolio of work produced in two or more courses, taught by two or more professors. As such, revision of past work under the direction of a faculty member is no longer required.

Step 1: In the second week of the spring term, the department will invite all majors with a GPA of 3.8 or above in the English major to apply to be candidates for distinction.

Step 2: Qualified students who wish to be considered for distinction will submit a portfolio representative of their best written work. This portfolio may represent critical or creative work, or a combination of the two. The portfolio should represent work from at least two courses, taught by at least two professors.

•  Critical portfolios should consist of 2-3 papers with a total length of approximately 20-30 pages. At least one of the submitted critical papers must engage with secondary (literary and/or cultural criticism, theory) materials.

•  Creative portfolios should consist of approximately 20-30 pages of creative work. Among other qualities, creative portfolios must demonstrate excellence in craft.

•  Combined portfolios should consist of approximately 20-30 pages of creative and critical work.

•  Students may submit digital or multimodal work that is commensurate to the guidelines for creative/critical work. Such students should address how this work conforms to the relevant creative and/or critical guidelines in their reflective essay (see below).

In addition to the portfolio, candidates for distinction must demonstrate their ability to reflect upon their own work in literary studies and/or creative writing by including a short essay (up to 1250 words) that addresses how the pieces that make up their portfolio demonstrate their development and achievements as English majors.

Step 3: The portfolio and reflection will be submitted in April. The department will evaluate both to determine which portfolios should be awarded distinction.

C.  Evaluation

Distinction projects will be evaluated by a three-person departmental committee.  The department distinction coordinator, in consultation with the department chair, will establish this committee and name its convener.

The evaluation committee will receive the completed projects within a week of their submission. The committee, through its convener, should deliver its evaluation to the department. This recommendation must then be endorsed by the English faculty as a whole for a student to be awarded distinction.

IV.   Timetable

Fall Semester: The Department will inform majors of the criteria, procedures, and timetable pertaining to departmental distinction.

February 18, 2015: Students who have met the eligibility requirements will be invited to submit a portfolio for distinction.

April 10, 2015: By this date three copies of the completed project must be submitted to the Administrative Assistant in the English Department.

April 27, 2015: Evaluation Committee reports to the Department.

May 6, 2015: Candidates who are recommended for distinction are notified by this date, and the Department forwards its recommendations to the Registrar’s Office.

May 13, 2015: Candidates who are recommended for distinction must bring one complete, clean copy of their project to the English Department Office by this date.

Early submission option: Students who are planning to graduate in December are welcome to consult with the department chair about the possibility of early submission of a distinction portfolio and reflection. Students interested in this option should consult the chair no later than September of their senior year.