Slavic Graduate Program

Located within GNS, the Slavic Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is one of the nation’s leading doctoral programs, and welcomes students with a BA/BS or MA who are interested in all areas of Russian and comparative Slavic prose, poetry, drama and philosophy. Our curriculum offers breadth and depth in a variety of areas of Slavic philology, literature, and culture, and is known for offering a balanced approach to training in teaching, writing, and research. If you are considering graduate work in Slavic Languages and Literature, you probably already know that many universities have PhD programs in Slavic. At UW-Madison, our strength at the doctoral level is in Russian literature with a strong comparative Slavic perspective. We are currently unable to accept students seeking a Ph.D. specifically in Slavic linguistics, but are in the process of developing a second track in Comparative Slavic Cultures. Check with us for more information on this option. In the meantime, students seeking a PhD in a Slavic literature other than Russian would be considered on an exceptional basis and are encouraged to contact the department for more information.

We are fortunate to count among our faculty specialists in Bosnian, Czech, Polish, Russian, and Serbian languages, literature, and culture, including current and former presidents of AATSEEL and ASEEES , award-winning authors and teachers, and editors of leading journals. Our faculty biographical sketches provide more information on our faculty and instructional academic staff.

In addition to their excellence in teaching and research, our professors are unparalleled mentors to graduate students. Our students work closely with faculty members on writing, teaching, and publishing. Graduate students are expected to produce publishable articles during their graduate careers, and are provided the guidance and feedback to do so. Other professional development opportunities include the annual Wisconsin Slavic Conference in which graduate students, faculty members, and other scholars present their research and receive timely and effective feedback.

The Slavic Program places high expectations on graduate students to achieve and maintain professional-level proficiency in the Russian language in all four modalities: speaking, writing, listening, and reading. All students who are not native speakers of Russian will be tested in those modalities — plus Russian grammar — when they enter program and periodically throughout their tenure. Appropriate competency must be demonstrated before receiving a teaching assistantship and before passing from MA to PhD candidacy.

Our graduate students receive exceptional training in teaching both language and literature. The Slavic Program has a thriving undergraduate program in Slavic languages with strong enrollments in language, literature, and culture, providing many opportunities for teaching experience, working closely with master teachers among our faculty and academic staff. In addition to teaching assignments in first- through fourth-semester Russian language — and occasionally in Polish and Bosnian, Croatian, or Serbian as well — and in our two-semester survey of Russian literature course, we have also instituted an apprenticeship program for adequately prepared graduate students in the teaching of advanced literature and language classes. Our graduate teaching assistants regularly win prestigious campus awards for their excellence in the classroom.


Located within GNS, the Slavic Program at UW-Madison currently has the following programs available for graduate students:

Other related programs are available in collaboration with or independently of the Slavic Department:

Please note that the Slavic Department does not typically award a terminal MA degree. Rather, the MA is earned as part of studies towards the PhD. Students who are admitted already holding an MA in Slavic from another institution are required to complete a qualifying exam no later than the first semester in residence, or to fulfill all UW-Madison MA requirements as well.

General Requirements for MA Degree (Russian Literature and Culture)

  • 23 credits in the major area, including at least five credits of Professional (800-level) Courses, and two 3-credit Seminars (900-level). See Required Coursework for details.
  • Passing grades on three of the program’s six Foundation examinations in Russian literature
  • Satisfactory demonstration of Russian language proficiency

Completion of MA requirements is expected by the end of the student’s fourth semester (second year) in residence. At that time, students also undergo a “Gateway” exercise in which the full faculty reviews progress to date. Consensus must be reached that the student has the capability of writing a dissertation, and at least one senior faculty member must express willingness ultimately to serve as dissertation advisor. Following successful completion of the “Gateway” exercise, students with the MA are advanced to work towards the PhD.

General Requirements for PhD Degree (Russian Literature and Culture)

  • 34 credits in the major area. This includes the 23 credits required for the MA, plus an additional 11 credits, including four credits of Professional (800-level) courses, and three credits of Seminar (900-level). (see Required Coursework for details)
  • Nine credits for the PhD minor
  • Passing grades on all six Foundation examinations in Russian literature
  • Demonstrated Russian language proficiency in all modalities
  • Knowledge equivalent to two years of college-level study of either 1) French or German OR 2) a second Slavic language. Must be demonstrated through coursework or placement test/examination. In well-grounded cases, when a different language is necessary for student’s research, it may be counted towards fulfillment of language requirement. A student will submit a respective petition to DGS, which will be discussed and decided upon by all Slavic graduate faculty.
  • Submission of a capstone portfolio
  • Submission and defense of a dissertation proposal
  • Submission and defense of the PhD dissertation.

PhD students prepare a capstone portfolio at the beginning of the seventh semester (fourth year), consisting of all six Foundation exams plus two revised seminar-length papers (of which one can be from the area of the PhD minor / secondary specialization). Students then prepare a 20-30 page dissertation proposal plus bibliography, which is submitted to the Department’s prelim committee and defended by oral examination at the end of the seventh semester.

Following the successful defense of the dissertation proposal and the meeting of all other requirements, students advance to dissertator status and begin work on the dissertation. Defense of the dissertation is expected to take place during the sixth year of graduate study, and no later than the end of the seventh year.

Deadline for financial funding consideration is January 2nd if you are applying for Fall admission

In addition to the requirements of the Graduate School, the Slavic Program requires the following:

  • Applicants must have the equivalent of the BA from an accredited institution.
  • Applicants must have an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • Applicants who have done graduate work elsewhere must have a GPA in graduate work of at least 3.25.
  • Students who do not fulfill the above requirements may be recommended to the Graduate School for admission, but, if admitted, will be placed on departmental probation.
  • Students admitted with deficiencies must make up such deficiencies by taking the appropriate courses in addition to fulfilling regular degree requirements.
  • Students with an MA in Slavic Languages and Literatures from another institution are required, if admitted, to take a qualifying examination to confirm their MA degree no later than the end of their first semester in residence, or to earn a second MA from UW-Madison.
  • Students usually enter the University of Wisconsin Slavic program intending to pursue a PhD in literature. Applicants should check the PhD degree goal on the application, and will earn MA degree as they progress through coursework. Students interested in a terminal MA in Area Studies should contact the Center for Russia, East Europe, and Central Asia (CREECA), University of Wisconsin, 210 Ingraham Hall, 1155 Observatory Dr., Madison, WI 53706. Phone: (608) 262-3379, Fax: (608) 265-3062,

Deadline for financial funding consideration is January 2nd if you are applying for Fall admission

Most of our graduate students are funded for at least six years of their studies with a stipend, full tuition remission, and generous health benefits. Depending on circumstances, we can often guarantee funding for up to five years, and continue funding yearly toward completion of the PhD. This funding usually takes the form of a combination of fellowship, teaching assistantship, and project or research assistantship. Student hourly funding is usually available to supplement the stipend.


Some university-based fellowships are available for incoming students, including University Fellowships and Advanced Opportunity Fellowships. The Slavic Program nominates a small percentage of its accepted students for University Fellowships, which are awarded through the Graduate School.  Advanced Opportunity Fellowships are also available to targeted minority and disadvantaged students from a partnership of the Graduate School and the College of Letters and Science, through the Community of Graduate Research Scholars (L&S CGRS). This program also offers special mentoring, professional development, and networking opportunities to its scholars. Applicants for these fellowships should complete the Graduate School’s on-line “Funding Form” as well as the Slavic Program’s form “Statement of Interest in Fellowships and Financial Aid.” All admissions materials must be received by the Slavic Program by January 2 if you wish to be considered for these fellowship competitions and many other forms of support.

Other fellowships are awarded directly from the Slavic Department, including Michael and Emily Lapinski Graduate Fellowships in Polish Studies and the Xenia Z. Gasiorowska Fellowship in Polish. The Lapinksi Fellowship has its own application form; the annual deadline is on or around March 1. Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) fellowships are awarded for academic year and summer language study by CREECA; this also requires a separate application and the annual deadline is on or around February 15.

Graduate Assistantships

All graduate assistants with combined graduate assistant appointments of one-third time or more receive out-of-state tuition remission as well as a remission of in-state fees. (They must still pay segregated fees and special fees approved by the Wisconsin State legislature.) Assistantships at this level also provide an excellent health insurance program and sick leave benefits. Teaching Assistantships are the most common form of graduate student support in our department. Teaching Assistants (TAs) are assigned teaching responsibilities in 1st- or 2nd-year Russian under the supervision of a language program coordinator or for intensive-writing discussion sections for our large literature survey classes under the supervision of the faculty member responsible for the survey course. TAs are occasionally needed for first or second-year classes in Serbo-Croatian, Czech, and Polish, and for discussion sections for a CREECA interdisciplinary course on Russia or on Eastern Europe. All TAs in our department are eligible for full tuition-remission and benefits.Project Assistants assist professors with research, training, or other academic programs or projects. Project Assistantships in our department are offered at an appointment level of at least 33.3% time, making PAs eligible for full tuition-remission and benefits. The Department often has additional funding for students as readers/graders in large undergraduate courses; as student hourly assistants on the departmental website, newsletter, and other tasks; and as librarian/curator of our internationally utilized Pushkin Library.

More detailed information on funding can be found at the Graduate School.

For more information on graduate assistant policies and procedures got to

Step 1: Submit your application online and pay your application fee.. When specifying “Intended Field Study,” select Slavic Languages and Literature.

Step 2:  Materials submit to the Slavic Program include:

1. Upload copies of official transcripts from all undergraduate and graduate institutions attended. *International academic records must be in the original language accompanied by an official English translation.* Documents must be issued by the school with the official seal/stamp and an official signature.

2.Three letters of recommendation from recent employers or faculty
Letters of Recommendation are submitted online by your references. Each recommender will receive an electronic invitation to submit a letter on the applicant’s behalf. You can check to see if your recommendations have been submitted in the online application status system.

3.GRE: Not required but may be considered if available.
GRE scores are sent electronically from ETS – use institution code 1846.

4.TOEFL or MELAB (Non-Native English Students only)
TOEFL scores are required of all applicants whose native language is not English, or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English. TOEFL scores are sent electronically from ETS – use institution code 1846

5. Upload writing sample (preferably in English about literature) of 15-25 pp. in length

6.  Upload statement of purpose

Step 3:   Watch your application status page through My UW for missing checklist items or additional information.  Activate your NetID in My UW to ensure continued processing of your application. Contact if you do not receive the email with instructions within two days of final submission of your application.

Please contact Mark Mears, the Graduate Coordinator, at or ph: (608)262-6764 if you have any questions about the application process.

Applications for admission to the graduate program in Russian literature can be received at any time, but only complete applications received by January 2 will be considered for fellowships for the following fall semester.

Advice on Applying


Students interested in applying to the graduate program should ask for recommendations from those professors who know well not only their language skills, but also their ability to work with literary and other cultural texts (both primary and secondary). Often it is best for students to get recommendations from professors from whom they have taken several courses and with whom they have had personal contact.  It is sometimes helpful for students to get a good recommendation from a professor outside their department.  A student’s performance in third-year Russian grammar may be less impressive than an outstanding performance in a course on the modern English novel, in which the student outperformed all English majors.  Please note, however, that most of our students begin graduate study with very good to excellent Russian language skills.

First-year graduate students from other institutions who have only been at that institution for one semester (and have not taken more than one course from a professor) should solicit most of their recommendations from their undergraduate or previous institution.

Statement of Purpose and Writing Sample

A good Statement of Purpose for Graduate Study (500 words or more) is very important, and so is a writing sample. The writing sample should be a scholarly paper in English, generally under 20 pages in length, analyzing a literary text or texts (preferably a Russian literary text or texts). 

Foundation Courses and Exams (700-level)

The Slavic Program offers six Foundation courses in Russian literature. These two- and three-credit courses cover the medieval period to contemporary, post-Soviet literature. One Foundation course is offered each semester. Assessment is by final examination.

General credit requirements aside, only the examination is required for satisfactory progress to the MA and PhD degrees. Thus, students who do not need to take a particular foundation course for credit can prepare the reading list independently and sit for the equivalent of the final examination for the course, to be offered twice per year. Exams will be graded by an instructor who regularly teaches the course. Passing the exam will fulfill the degree requirement, although course credit will not be granted.

For the MA, students must pass three examinations.
For the PhD, students must pass all six examinations.

Old Russian Literature [2 cr.]
Eighteenth-Century Literature [2 cr.]
Romanticism (~1790s – 1840s) [3 cr.]
Realism (~1840s – 1890s) [3 cr.]
Modernism (~1890s – 1920s) [3 cr.]
Soviet, Emigre, and Post-Soviet Periods (~1930s – present) [3 cr.]

Required Professional Courses (800-level)

These courses introduce students to graduate study, the Slavic field, research methods, language pedagogy, the historical and linguistic origins of colloquial and literary Russian, and literary theory in the Slavic world and beyond.

For the MA, five of the 23 total credits are required in this area.
For the PhD, nine of the 34 total major credits are required in this area.

Proseminar: Introduction to Graduate Study in Slavic [1 cr.]
Critical Theory [2 cr.]
Structure of Russian [2 cr.]
Introduction to Old Church Slavonic and the History of the Russian Literary Language [2 cr.]
Methods of Teaching Slavic Languages [2 cr.]

Seminars (900-level)

Seminars are one- to three-credit advanced-level courses on literature. At least one three-credit seminar is offered once per semester. In the Seminar format, students study an aspect of literature or culture in detail, engaging in individual research related to the theme. Seminar students write a research paper and generally give one or more presentations throughout the course of a Seminar.

For the MA, at least two seminars (six out of the 23 total credits) are required.
For the PhD, at least three seminars (nine out of the 34 total major credits) are required.

Recent seminars in the Slavic Department include:

“Modernism: Aesthetic Ideas, Poetics, and Cultural Mythologies”
“Gogol’s Mertvye dushi”
“The Petersburg Text in Russian Literature”

Examples schedules illustrating a student’s progress through the entire program are available here.

In addition to required coursework, the Slavic Program offers its graduate students a number of options for one-on-one independent or directed study with faculty members and academic staff, including Apprenticeships in Teaching and Writing.

Apprenticeships are one-credit courses that can be taken repeatedly after completion of the second year of coursework.  They require intensive one-on-one interaction with a faculty member over the course of the entire semester.

  • Directed Reading / Independent Study courses provide graduate students with the opportunity to work one-on-one with faculty members and academic staff, studying and writing on a topic not otherwise covered in departmental course offerings.
  • An “Apprenticeship in Teaching” pairs an advanced graduate student with a professor who is teaching a specialized undergraduate literature course or an advanced language/literature course in the major. It provides the student with the opportunity to discuss the rationale behind the syllabus with the professor at the beginning of the semester, sit in class with the professor periodically throughout the semester, and meet outside of class to discuss strategies for presentation and discussion. Depending on the situation, the student might give a guest lecture or lead a discussion under the professor’s supervision.
  • The “Apprenticeship in Writing” is designed to help the student work one-on-one with a faculty member to develop a paper already written for a seminar or other course, and bring it up to publishable quality.


Grievance Procedures

If a student feels unfairly treated or aggrieved by faculty, staff, or another student, the University offers several avenues for resolving the grievance.

Procedures for proper accounting of student grievances:

  1. The student is encouraged to speak first with the person toward whom the grievance is directed to see if a situation can be resolved at this level.
  2. Should a satisfactory resolution not be achieved, the student should contact their unit’s Director of Graduate Studies to discuss the grievance, who will facilitate problem resolution through informal channels and facilitate any complaints or issues of students. The first attempt is to help students informally address the grievance prior to any formal complaint. If students are reluctant to approach their Director of Graduate Studies, they may consult with the unit head or the Department Chair. Students are also encouraged to talk with their faculty advisors regarding concerns or difficulties if necessary. University resources for sexual harassment, discrimination, disability accommodations, and other related concerns can be found on the UW Office of Equity and Diversity website:
  3. Other campus resources include
  4. If an issue is not resolved to the student’s satisfaction, the student can submit the grievance to the Director of Graduate Studies and the Department Chair in writing, within 60 calendar days of the alleged unfair treatment.
  5. On receipt of a written complaint, a faculty committee will be convened by the Department Chair to manage the grievance. The program faculty committee will obtain a written response from the person toward whom the complaint is directed. This response will be shared with the person filing the grievance.
  6. The faculty committee will determine a decision regarding the grievance. The Department Chair will report on the action taken by the committee in writing to both the student and the party toward whom the complaint was directed within 15 working days from the date the complaint was received.
  7. At this point, if either party (the student or the person toward whom the grievance is directed) is not satisfied with the decision of the faculty committee, the party may file a written appeal. Either party has 10 working days to file a written appeal to the Graduate School or College of Letters and Science.
  8. Documentation of the grievance will be stored for at least 7 years. Significant grievances that set a precedent will be stored indefinitely.

The Graduate School has procedures for students wishing to appeal a grievance decision made at the school/college level. These policies are described in the Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures:

Reporting Misconduct And Crime

The campus has established policies governing student conduct, academic dishonesty, discrimination, and harassment/abuse as well as specific reporting requirements in certain cases. If you have a grievance regarding unfair treatment toward yourself, please refer to the procedures and resources identified above. If you learn about, observe, or witness misconduct or other wrongdoing you may be required to report that misconduct or abuse. Depending on the situation, it may be appropriate to consult with your advisor, Director of Graduate Studies, or other campus resources.

Research Misconduct Reporting

The University of Wisconsin–Madison strives to foster the highest scholarly and ethical standards among its students, faculty, and staff. Graduate students and research associates are among the most vulnerable groups when reporting misconduct because their source of financial support and their progress in their careers may be at risk by raising questions of wrongdoing. They are also often the closest witnesses to wrongdoing when it occurs and therefore must be appropriately protected from the consequences of reporting wrongdoing and be informed of their rights. Please find full details at

Academic Misconduct Reporting

If you know that a fellow student is cheating on an exam or other academic exercise, notify your professor, teaching assistant, or proctor of the exam. As a part of the university community, you are expected to uphold the standards of the university. Also, consider how your classmate’s dishonesty may affect the overall grading curve and integrity of the program.

Sexual Assault Reporting

UW–Madison prohibits sexual harassment, sexual assault, dating violence, domestic violence, and stalking. These offenses violate UW–Madison policies and are subject to disciplinary action. Sanctions can range from reprimand to expulsion from UWMadison. In many cases, these offenses also violate Wisconsin criminal law and could lead to arrest and criminal prosecution.

Students who experience sexual harassment, sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and/or stalking have many options and services available to them on and off campus, including mental health counseling, victim advocacy, and access to the criminal and campus disciplinary systems. For a list a confidential support and reporting options, please visit

Faculty, staff, teaching assistants, and others who work directly with students at UW–Madison are required by law to report firsthand knowledge or disclosures of sexual assault to university officials for statistical purposes. In addition, disclosures made to certain university employees, such as academic advisors or university administrators, may be forwarded to the campus Title IX coordinator for a response. For more information, please visit

Child Abuse Reporting

As a UW–Madison employee (under Wisconsin Executive Order #54), you are required to immediately report child abuse or neglect to Child Protective Services (CPS) or law enforcement if, in the course of employment, the employee observes an incident or threat of child abuse or neglect, or learns of an incident or threat of child abuse or neglect, and the employee has reasonable cause to believe that child abuse or neglect has occurred or will occur. Volunteers working for UW–Madison sponsored programs or activities are also expected to report suspected abuse or neglect. Please find full details at (midway down, right hand side)

Reporting and Response to Incidents of Bias/Hate

The University of Wisconsin–Madison values a diverse community where all members are able to participate fully in the Wisconsin Experience. Incidents of bias/hate affecting a person or group create a hostile climate and negatively impact the quality of the Wisconsin Experience for community members. UW–Madison takes such incidents seriously and will investigate and respond to reported or observed incidents of bias/hate. Please find full details at