The first requirement of the PhD program is that all entering graduate students attend an Orientation Meeting. Towards the end of September, at the end of the week just prior to the official start-date of the Fall Quarter, the Philosophy Department holds this annual First-Year Orientation Meeting. The purpose of the meeting is to inform entering students about the various informal rules, formal requirements, and additional expectations governing the graduate program. The meeting is led by the Chair and the Director of Graduate Studies, usually with the assistance of an additional faculty member. A handful of more advanced graduate students are also on hand to supplement the account provided by the faculty with the consumer's point of view on these matters, to answer questions which might arise about the experience of living with the program requirements, and to provide helpful advice about how best to negotiate them. After having attended this meeting, graduate students are expected both to have and to continue to retain a knowledge of the program requirements for the duration of their careers in the program.
First-Year students are also required to enroll in the First-Year Seminar. It is taught by one of our faculty and is designed to introduce beginning students to some of the fundamental texts and issues of analytic philosophy. Its purpose is threefold: (1) to lay the groundwork for a philosophical lingua franca among the members of the first-year class, (2) to foster some intellectual solidarity among the members of the class by stimulating the regular exchange of philosophical ideas between them, and (3) to create a philosophical framework for a series of short written assignments, in order to ensure that the writing juices of our entering students already begin to flow at the beginning of their first year in the program. The seminar is graded pass/fail.
Every first-year student is assigned a faculty advisor to whom he or she can go to discuss any problems, be they academic or non-academic in nature. One responsibility of the advisor is thus simply to be on call and available to that student at all times. At the very beginning of each quarter (including their very first quarter), graduate students in their first two years in the program are additionally required to meet at least once briefly with their advisor in order to have their study cards approved and signed. The advisor's responsiblility in this context is to make sure that the student's selection of courses reflects a reasonable plan of study along a number of dimensions, not least of which is its degree of progress from one quarter to the next in satisfying the departmental course requirements. Once a student begins work on their preliminary essay, they are assigned a new faculty advisor who will also serve as one of their two preliminary essay supervisors.