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Committees, Advising and Thesis Plan

Mentoring, Second-Year, and Thesis Committees

The mission of the mentoring (first-year), second-year, and thesis committees is to guide and provide advice and perspective for graduate students as they pass through the program. The committees should meet at least once a semester and at each meeting hear from students about their progress with classes and research. Members can and should meet with students individually as needed.  

During the first year students are assigned a Mentoring Committee by the department that consists of dedicated professionals who not only advise about academics and research but who also assist and advise students with the transition to graduate school. During the second year, students wil form their Second-Year Committee, which will include an increased focus on the research that students are doing for their second-year project. After passing the prelims, students will form Thesis Committee, similar in scope to the Second-Year Committee but which may (or may not) include different members. 

These committees are a long-time resource for students but also serve to help students maintain the expected timeline for completion of the Ph.D. It should be recognized that committee members also benefit from this interactive experience, not only in research but also in learning how to become better advisors, colleagues, and educators. The committee provides an additional layer of advocacy and protection alongside the principal advisor.

Members of the committees should provide advice, feedback, and guidance on any topic relevant to reaching this goal, including the following:

1) developing and adjusting a plan for successful research projects that result in important publications and build up competitive skills/expertise by the time of graduation;

2) developing and maintaining productive and harmonic student-advisor and student-collaborator relations;

3) questions related to ethical aspects of the research and collaborations;

4) any non-work related problems the student seeks the committee's advice on;

5) development of skills, knowledge, and connections that are important for career development. 

Forming Your Committee:

Mentoring committees will be assigned their first-year students, and will include the research advisor and two other faculty members. Second-Year and Thesis committees shall consist of no less than four faculty memebers, including the student's principle research advisor, chosen by the student with close consultation with the student's research advisor, and approved by the department Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). 

Committee Meeting Format:

Meetings will consist mostly of time during which students can present details of their current work and seek feedback and/or advice from committee members. Every meeting will include some time where the student leaves the room, and some time where the student's advisor leaves the room.

Committee Meeting Frequency Requirement:

Mentoring Committees for the first year students should first meet by the end of the first semester. Second-Year Committees should first meet by the end of the fifth semester. After successful completion of the prelims, Thesis Committees should convene twice a year. The department office will send out reminders regarding committee meetings, and students should inform the office that the committee meeting has taken place. Those who are havin difficulties in scheduling committee meetings by the middle of the semester are strongly encouraged to seek help from the DGS and the department office. Students will only be allowed to register for independent study or thesis research credit hours for the subsequent semester when either the committee has met, or permission is granted by the DGS for the postponement of the committee meeting.

Thesis Plan:

By the end of the fifth semester, students should develop a working outline for their thesis plans. This document contains succinct descriptions of the thesis projects. The thesis plan will likely evolve over the course of graduate study and be updated regularly. Thesis plans should be made available to the thesis mentoring committee before committee meetings, and should be sent to the APC before the annual graduate student review meeting.