Graduate Advising

The advising system is an important element in the graduate program. Graduate study is, in a sense, an apprenticeship in scholarly work and it requires the constant close association of students with faculty members. For example, although the department and the Graduate College have minimum hours requirements for degree completion, it isn't the case that just any collection of hours will do. The courses you take need to form a coherent program that will prepare you for your future professional goals. Advisors and program planning committees help you to develop a coherent program. In addition, advisors play an important role in helping you identify research and career opportunities. We begin our discussion of graduate student life in the department with the topic of selecting and working with an advisor and program planning committee, because this is central to your success in our program.

Initial advising of a new graduate student is typically handled by the Director of Graduate Studies, although in some circumstances a student may immediately be assigned to a particular faculty member for advising. Each student must have a faculty advisor by the time of registration for the student's third semester in residence (about the middle of the spring semester for students who begin in the fall). It is desirable, however, for a student to establish an advising relationship with a faculty member even sooner, so that he or she can receive guidance in registering for second semester courses during the registration period that begins in the middle of the first semester.

Although we don't suggest you change advisors frequently, we do realize that advising relationships are not fixed forever. Students may change advisors when circumstances warrant it (e.g., when a student changes the focus of her/his graduate program). A student who thinks such a change would be wise is encouraged to consult with his or her advisor and/or the Director of Graduate Studies.

A candidate for a master's degree is advised by one faculty member who must be a member of the department's Graduate Faculty (all department faculty holding the rank of Professor, Associate Professor, or Assistant Professor are members of the Graduate Faculty). The student and faculty member work together to select courses that form a coherent program and to plan a comprehensive exam. Some students may also write a thesis under the direction of their advisors.

Doctoral students work with a faculty advisor and with a program planning committee. A program planning committee consists of at least three faculty members (i.e., the advisor plus two others) who must also be members of the Graduate Faculty; at least half the committee must be departmental faculty. The advisor, program committee, and student jointly have the responsibility for assuring the development of a coherent and acceptable program of study given the candidate's goals and interests, a plan to ensure competence in research methods, and continued evaluation of the candidate's progress throughout coursework.

A program of study approved by one's program planning committee is a prerequisite for admission to the Ph.D. preliminary examination. Each student should work with her or his advisor to prepare a full outline of the proposed program of study during his or her first 2 years as a doctoral student. The form for these programs may vary according to a student's goals, area of study, and advisor preferences. Samples of approved programs are available from the Director of Graduate Studies. A program of study approved by the committee should be filed with the Director of Graduate Studies no later than the end of the third semester in the Ph.D. program. The Program of Study for Doctoral Students form can be found here.

Ordinarily, the program planning committee serves as the preliminary examination committee and then becomes the dissertation committee. Likewise, the student's advisor ordinarily becomes the director of dissertation research and chair of the final examination committee (when a dissertation is defended). However, changes in the role of the original advisor and in the make-up of committees sometimes occur when warranted by special circumstances.

Doctoral committees appointed to administer Preliminary Examinations and Final Examinations on dissertations must have at least four voting members. At least three of the voting members must be members of the Graduate Faculty, and at least two must be tenured. (In addition, the department requires that at least half of your committee members be members of the department faculty). Committee members need not be present at examinations, but may participate via appropriate electronic communication technology (i.e., telephone or video conference). The advisor must be physically present at the examination.

The faculty at large should be considered an advising resource. Students should feel free to consult with any faculty member on any academic subject. Students can facilitate advising by familiarizing themselves with the various rules and requirements of the department, the Graduate College, and the University. In particular, students should read this Handbook with care.