Program Policies for Students

This page presents policies relates to students.  Policies related to faculty can be found here

The first year of graduate school (also known as the G-1 year) typically occurs in either the Quantitative and Chemical Biology Program (QCB), the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program (IGP), or the Medical Scientist Training Program (MSTP).  At the end of G-1, students interested in the CPB Program make application by way of a one-paragraph description of their intended area of research and a list of their intended coursework during the G-2 year.  The academic transcript from the G-1 year, research description, and coursework proposal are reviewed by the Graduate Education Committee (GEC). The GEC will review the research description to ensure its congruity with the goals of the CPB program.  If they feel that the research description is appropriate for the CPB, and presuming that the student has performed suitably during G-1 courses, they will recommend that the student be admitted to the program.  They will also review the proposed courses, paying particular attention to the area of intended research and the track requirements (see below); as needed, they will recommend alternative or additional courses during the G-2 year. If the applicant has a GPA of less than 3.0 or a grade lower than B in any required course, the student may be considered for admission, but only under probationary status. In this case, the student and mentor will be required to propose a remediation plan, as described below for students in the didactic phase.

During the summer following the G-1 year, students and their advisors are expected to attend a program orientation and welcome session.  During this session they will be presented with the program’s policies and expectations, receive advice from faculty and senior students about how to progress most successfully through the program and get the most out of their training, and discuss issues with their mentors such as expectations, the mentoring plan, etc

General Requirements of the Graduate College

  • At least 24 didactic hours
  • At least 72 total hours

Program Requirements of All Students

Students typically enter the CPB through either the Quantitative and Chemical Biology Program or the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program.  Some of the courses listed below will have been completed during that phase and are indicated with an asterisk.  Counseling regarding appropriate elective coursework should have begun during that phase of the student’s education.

  • Responsible Conduct of Research*
  • CPBP 8306: Introduction to Chemical and Physical Biology* or IGP 8300A, Bioregulation I*
  • A course in Scientific Communication (CPBP 8324 is preferred)
  • Two semesters of enrollment in a seminar course
  • Annual attendance at the Program Retreat, as discussed further in the policy below
  • The requirements of a programmatic track, as described below

All students must maintain the following minimum requirements:

  • Student must maintain a GPA of at least 3.0;
  • The student must demonstrate professional conduct in his/her interactions with peers, faculty, and the program; and
  • Research hours must have grade of Satisfactory.

If one or more of these requirements have not been met, the student will be placed on academic probation. The student and mentor must ensure that the DGS is made aware of the deficiency.  The student and the mentor will collaboratively propose a remediation plan to the DGS and the GEC. The plan should include, at minimum:

  • The coursework that will be taken to meet the student's didactic requirements;
  • How the student's approach to class work will change;
  • How the mentor will support and monitor the student's progress;
  • The timeline for correcting the deficiencies. Normally, the student and mentor should plan to correct the deficiencies by the end of the subsequent semester. The plan may be extended beyond this time if there are required courses that are not available until a later semester, extenuating personal circumstances, or the need for a leave of absence; and
  • A plan for reporting on the student's progress to the DGS (normally, at the mid-point and conclusion of each semester included in the timeline).

The plan must be approved by the DGS. The student will remain on academic probation until the plan is successfully completed.

The student will be given until the plan's end date to satisfy its requirements. If there are new circumstances that arise during the period covered by the remediation plan, the student and mentor should make the DGS and the GEC aware of these circumstances as soon as possible, and the plan can be amended if necessary. Otherwise, the DGS will recommend the student’s dismissal from the program to the GEC and the Program Director. If the DGS, GEC, and Program Director decide that the student should be dismissed, the student will be notified as soon as possible and the reasons for the decision will be indicated.  The student is allowed to petition this decision to the Senior Associate Dean for Biomedical Research Education and Training and/or the Graduate School.  If the student accepts the decision, the student and mentor may petition for the opportunity to pursue a MS degree.

Track-Specific Didactic Requirements

Please see the table here.

Eligibility

Students must have successfully completed at least 24 didactic hours before becoming eligible to take the qualifying exam (QE).  It is expected that students will have completed the 24 required didactic hours by the end of the G-2 year.

Purposes

The purposes of the CPBP QE are two-fold: to evaluate the student and to evaluate the proposal.  The student is evaluated by examining his or her:

  • Scientific knowledge in areas relevant to his or her proposal;
  • Ability to think critically and creatively about this knowledge, identifying critical gaps in the state of knowledge within a field;
  • Define important scientific objectives to fill those gaps; and
  • Ability to formulate a research plan based on those objectives. 

It is expected that the student will perform at a typical level for a G-2 student at Vanderbilt in these areas.

The QE proposal also serves as the thesis proposal; following the successful completion of the QE, changes to the aims should only occur following discussion with the committee.  Regarding the proposal, the committee is charged with answering such questions as:

  • Is the subject matter of the proposal appropriate for a PhD degree in CPB?
  • If the aims of the proposal are successfully accomplished, would the product constitute a significant contribution to knowledge in this area?
  • Does the proposal demonstrate innovative thought and/or methods?
  • Is the design of the studies suitable to address the aims?
  • Does the research proposal clearly communicate expected results/interpretations and contingency plans?

As also noted below, the student is advised to consult the review guidelines for NIH NRSA applications for further information concerning proposal evaluation.

Committee Composition

QE committee members should be selected for their expertise in the student’s research area. It is not required that the QE committee be the same as the final thesis committee. The minimal composition of the committee is:

  • At least three CPB faculty members from the student’s curricular track
  • At least one faculty member from outside the student’s track
  • The DGS will be appointed to the QE committee in an ex officio capacity, unless s/he is one of the official members

Timeline

Each second year graduate student in the CPBP will be expected to begin his/her thesis research immediately after matching to the mentor’s lab.  The student and mentor should begin formally discussing the aims of his/her project and the potential composition of the QE committee by the start of the spring semester. The DGS must approve the research topic and the committee’s composition in advance.  To obtain these approvals, the student should send an abstract of his/her proposed dissertation research and a list of possible committee members to the DGS and Program Coordinator before contacting the proposed committee members.  Prior approval of committee composition is required in order to prevent potentially embarrassing retractions of offers.  The student is responsible for contacting the DGS with the abstract and proposed committee composition by March 15 of the G-2 year. The earlier these issues are resolved, the more time the student has to write and edit a proposal that is specifically targeted to the intended audience.

After receiving approval from the DGS of the research description and committee composition, the student should begin scheduling the exam.  It is required that the exam occur by the start of the fall semester of the third year of graduate study.  This means that barring unusual circumstances, exams will occur during the summer following the G-2 year.  Because summer is often a time for personal and professional travel, it is strongly advised that the student begins scheduling the exam as soon as the DGS approves the committee composition and research topic.  The student should copy the DGS and Program Coordinator on all email communications related to the scheduling of the exam.  Please note that it is the student’s responsibility to ensure that the exam occurs in a timely manner; however, if the student encounters difficulties, the DGS can assist in this process.

The QE occurs in two parts: a written document and an oral defense.   The written document is to be distributed to the committee, DGS, and Program Coordinator 2 weeks prior to the meeting.  The committee evaluates the written document in advance of the meeting; one week beforehand, they will decide whether or not to proceed with the oral exam as scheduled.  This is what typically occurs.  However, if the committee finds major deficiencies in the written proposal, they are communicated to the student and the exam is delayed by one month.  The student is given two weeks to revise the written document.  The re-scheduled exam then takes place, regardless of whether or not the written deficiencies have been suitably corrected. 

Written Proposal Format

The general format for the written proposal is that of an NIH NRSA pre-doctoral application (Specific Aims followed by a Research Strategy that includes Significance, Innovation, and Approach). A one page description of the aims is expected, followed by up to 9 pages for the Research Strategy.  When preliminary data are included, the student should make clear who was primarily responsible for collecting the data. In addition to the 10 pages allotted to Aims, Significance, Innovation, and Research Strategy, the student should include a title page, single page abstract, and references.  The font rules specified for NIH applications, available at http://grants.nih.gov/grants/funding/phs398/phs398.html), must be followed.  The student is expected to consult with his or her advisor when developing the aims.  However, he or she is expected to have written the rest of the proposal without input from the mentor. The student is advised to examine the review guidelines for NIH NRSA applications found at: http://grants1.nih.gov/grants/guide/pa-files/PA-11-111.html.

Prior to the Oral Defense

As part of their accreditation process, the Southeastern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) requires us to demonstrate ongoing efforts to assess student performance and to use these assessments to effect programmatic improvements as warranted.  At the QE, a SACS scoring form will be completed by the committee; similar instruments will also be used at later stages of the program.  SACS scoring is done electronically by using a customized project on the Research Electronic Data Capture (REDCap) system (https://redcap.vanderbilt.edu).  Full instructions for doing so are found on the CPB website; briefly, the student will log in to REDCap, navigate to the “CPB SACS” project, and email him/herself an invitation to complete the REDCap survey for the QE.  The student forwards the email to the committee chair. The chair and the committee will complete this survey at the QE. This should be done prior to the oral defense.

Oral Defense Format

The oral exam is attended by the student, committee, and DGS.  The DGS and committee meet privately in order to review instructions for the exam and discuss the student’s academic record and written proposal. The student is then invited back into the room and the oral exam begins.  The total duration is up to 90 minutes.  Of this, the first five minutes may be used by the student for a brief presentation. The student may present three slides to accompany this.  The slides are of the student’s own design and content, but typically include a statement of the aims, any key preliminary results, and key aspects of the experimental design or methods.  The content and style of the oral exam can vary, but typically includes questioning on the background material related to the proposed project, explanations of the technical details of methods, questioning about expected results and contingency plans, etc.  Areas of deficiency that were noted from the written document may be followed up upon.  After the conclusion of the questioning, the student is asked to leave the room while the committee deliberates on the outcome.

Potential Outcomes

Consistent with the purposes of the QE, the exam’s outcome is based on the committee’s opinions of 1) the student’s performance during the written and oral phases of the exam and 2) the proposal itself.  Three possible outcomes exist: Unconditional (Full) Pass; Conditional Pass; and Failure: 

  • A grade of Unconditional Pass is awarded when all aspects of the student’s performance on the exam are deemed acceptable and appropriate for a 2nd year graduate student at Vanderbilt. There may be deficiencies, but they are deemed by the committee to be minor in nature.
  • A grade of Conditional Pass is awarded when most aspects of the student’s performance on the exam are deemed acceptable and appropriate for a 2nd year graduate student at Vanderbilt, but there is one area of major deficiency.  A major deficiency is one that presents a significant obstacle to the student’s advancement through his/her research.  The committee and the DGS determine the conditions and time frame that must be met for the grade to be converted to a Full Pass.  If the conditions are not met, the grade is instead converted to Failure.
  • A grade of Failure is awarded when there is more than one area of major deficiency.  In the case of failure, the student is given up to 6 months to retake the examination. The examining committee, in consultation with the DGS, determines the date for the reexamination. Failure to pass a second qualifying examination results in dismissal from the program. On successful completion of the oral examination, the student is admitted to candidacy.

Using these criteria, the committee will deliberate on the outcome.  They will also complete the SACS QE evaluation survey.  The student is invited into the room and the committee communicates the outcome of the exam and discusses the SACS form with the student.

After the survey is completed, the REDCap system will automatically generate an email invitation to upload a letter describing the outcome of the exam.  The letter should be completed within one week of the exam date.  The letter is authored by the committee chair and agreed to by all members of the committee.  Regardless of the outcome, the letter should indicate those aspects of the exam in which the student performed well and those aspects of the exam in which deficiencies were noted. Strengths and weaknesses of both the student’s performance and the proposal itself will be described.  In the case of deficiencies, their severity should be indicated and a mechanism for the student to improve his/her performance should be described.  In addition, depending on the grade assigned, the following additional information will be communicated:

  • For grades of Unconditional Pass: The committee makes a recommendation about the scheduling of the next meeting. The next meeting may take place in 3, 6, or 9 months.  
  • For grades of Conditional Pass: The conditions to be met and their timeline for completion will be indicated. 
  • For grades of Failure: A statement of the policies for taking the 2nd instance of the exam and potential consequences if a grade of Full Pass is not earned.

The letter and the student evaluation form will become part of the student’s permanent record.

Providing critical feedback is one of the ways in which the committee helps the student through his/her degree program.   It is important for the student to heed the committee’s advice and demonstrate that s/he has incorporated it into his/her work.

After successful completion of the QE, the student is admitted to candidacy. After all of the students within a given cohort have successfully completed the QE, a meeting is held to introduce them to the requirements of candidacy and to give them practical advice regarding the completion of their programs.  The event is required for students and recommended for mentors.

Formation of the Thesis Committee

Once a student has been admitted to candidacy, the student, in consultation with the thesis advisor and the DGS, selects a dissertation advisory committee.  Typically, the committee is the same as the QE committee.  The committee must be chaired by a graduate faculty member other than the research advisor. The dissertation committee will be composed of at least four graduate faculty members, at least two of whom will be from the student’s CPBP curricular track and one of whom must be from outside the student’s CPBP curricular track.

General Guidelines and Expectations

Students must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • The student is required to demonstrate satisfactory progress toward the completion of his/her dissertation in each semester, as determined by the committee and the mentor; and
  • The student must demonstrate professional conduct in his/her interactions with peers, faculty, and the program.

The procedures to be followed should the student not meet these expectations are described below. 

At the mid-point of each semester, the mentor should tentatively assess each student's performance.  If the mentor feels that the student's progress and/or conduct have been unsatisfactory, s/he should notify the student, the student's PhD committee chair, and the DGS in writing. If the student's progress and/or conduct remain unsatisfactory at the end of the semester, the mentor should assign a grade of Unsatisfactory. The reasons for this grade must be specified in a written letter to the student. The letter should also include specific recommendations regarding how the student can improve his/her performance. The letter should be signed by the mentor and the committee chair. A copy of the letter should be sent to the program and DGS. The DGS will take the following actions:

  • Unless extenuating circumstances exist, the DGS will place the student on academic probation.
  • The DGS will notify the GEC and the Program Director, and they may make additional recommendations to the student and/or mentor.

The committee chair should take the following actions:

  • The chair should call a meeting of the PhD committee within the next 45 days. The meeting should be conducted as a regular committee meeting (see below).
  • Committee members who cannot be present in person should join the meeting by video conferencing or communicate with the chair after reviewing the student’s progress report and the mentor’s letter.
  • After the meeting, the committee chair should draft a letter describing the outcome of the meeting. Areas of deficiency and the committee’s recommendations for improvement and future progress should be clearly noted. Likewise, the SACS form should indicate the student’s areas of strength and weakness.
  • A follow-up committee meeting should be held by the end of the semester and the committee should recommend the grade to be assigned.
  • If there are extenuating considerations, such as medical conditions, then these should be communicated. If necessary, the student should request a leave of absence so that this timeline can be extended as appropriate.

The student will remain on academic probation until the student’s research progress becomes satisfactory. As per the Graduate School's academic regulations, the accumulation of three grades of Unsatisfactory for research hours will result in dismissal from the program and the Graduate School.   

Guidelines and Expectations Regarding Ongoing Committee Meetings

In the committee letter generated following the QE, a timeline for the next committee meeting is described (3, 6, or 9 months).  Students need to be cognizant of this schedule and begin scheduling committee meetings at least 4-6 weeks in advance of the expected date, as it is the student who is responsible for ensuring that committee meetings take place on time. Some committee members have extraordinarily busy schedules and so in some cases, 4-6 weeks may not be enough advance time.

Once the meeting is scheduled, there are two tasks to be accomplished.  First, the student should send him/herself a REDCap survey link for the SACS Committee Meeting evaluation form and forward this email invitation to the chair. Also, the student is required to submit a written progress report to the committee at least two weeks in advance.  The student is the primary author of this report and is the one responsible for its preparation and timely distribution.  The student can and should have feedback from his/her mentor about this report.  The student should check with his/her mentor about the timing of preparing this report.  At minimum, the report should include:

  • A reiteration of the abstract and
  • A restatement of the overall objective and the specific aims of the project

There should then follow, for each aim,

  • A 1-2 paragraph summary of the student’s overall progress on that aim, from the inception of the project;
  • A more detailed presentation of the student’s progress since the last committee meeting;
  • A highlighting of any areas of concern that were identified in the last meeting and how they have been addressed; and
  • Other tangible evidence of progress, such as presentations, manuscripts authored or co-authored, etc.

At the committee meeting, student will make a formal oral presentation with this same outline.  As with the written document, the student can and should get feedback from his/her mentor regarding the oral presentation. Also, as with any academic presentation, the student should be prepared to defend his/her progress, results, and conclusions to the committee.  Please note that the committee meeting is a time for the committee to evaluate the student and his/her progress – and so the student is to be the primary presenter and defender of the work. Finally, committees and/or mentors may have progress reporting requirements that go over and above these, and the student should, of course, adhere to them.

Following all committee meetings, the committee chair will draft a letter summarizing the outcome of the meeting to the CPBP.  A chair may also ask the student to draft the letter.  The letter is circulated to all committee members for approval.   The final summary letter will be kept in the student’s file in the CPBP office.  In addition, the committee will complete the student evaluation form to be used as part of the SACS accreditation process.  Please copy the DGS and Program Coordinator on e-mails related to committee meetings, including those that include the progress report, summary report, and student evaluation form.  These items will become part of the student’s permanent record.

Committee meetings will continue in this way throughout the student’s progress through the program.

Candidates for the Ph.D. in Chemical and Physical Biology are required to write an acceptable dissertation, according to the regulations of the Graduate School. The dissertation must add to or modify in a significant way what was previously known in area of research. Candidates will also be expected to have presented results from their dissertation work at national or international meetings and they must have completed a sufficient body of work to merit a Ph.D. degree, communicated in a minimum of one first authored publication in a peer reviewed scientific journal.

Before writing up the final version of the dissertation, there is typically a final committee meeting at which the committee determines that the student has performed a sufficient body of work so as to be eligible for the PhD degree.  This is often termed as “getting permission to write.”  The student, adviser, and committee should identify target dates for the defense, deposition of the thesis to the Graduate College, and graduation.  At this time, the student will complete the Intent to Graduate form, which is available from the Graduate School website. This form must be submitted to the Graduate School by a mid-semester deadline in order to have the degree conferred by semester’s end.  The student must also complete the Graduate School’s Request to Schedule Final Defense form at least two weeks in advance of the scheduled date. 

The student is the author of the thesis, with the input and review of the adviser.  Each adviser will have his or her own requirements for the format and content of the thesis and how far in advance he or she would like a full draft of the thesis for review.  It is required that the thesis be distributed to the committee at least two weeks in advance and that the document meet the Graduate College’s formatting guidelines.

The dissertation committee will be responsible for administering the final public thesis defense and for evaluating whether the student has written an acceptable thesis. The chair of the dissertation committee will provide written notification to the DGS of the results of the thesis defense. Provided that all other requirements have been satisfied, the DGS will notify the Dean of the Graduate School that the student has completed the requirements for the PhD degree.

There are several situations in which students may pursue the Master of Science (MS) degree in CPB. They may enter graduate school with the specific intention of earning the MS as a terminal degree.  More commonly, they may petition to change their status from PhD student to MS student.  In any of these cases, the following minimum requirements must be met:

Successful completion of at least 24 didactic hours, with a curriculum corresponding to one of the four programmatic tracks. Successful completion is defined as a minimum GPA of 3.0 and no grades below C in the courses contributing to the didactic requirement;

  • Completion of at least 6 research hours;
  • The presentation of a Master’s thesis that provides evidence of an original contribution to an area of scientific research.  The thesis must be approved by the research mentor and at least two other members of the graduate faculty and it must be in a format acceptable to the Graduate School; and
  • The presentation of a public research seminar describing the scientific work leading to the thesis.

The circumstances under which a student elects to change his/her status from PhD student to MS student are typically related to: 1) a change in career objectives or 2) failure to complete one or more programmatic requirements successfully.  The latter cases may include two failing grades in the QE; two grades of Unsatisfactory during the candidacy phase; or failing the final defense.  When these situations exist, the student and mentor should file a single written petition with the program that includes:

  • The reasons for the change in status;
  • The student’s CV and academic transcript;
  • An abstract of the research that will constitute the thesis; and
  • A list of two or more proposed readers of the thesis, one of whom may be the mentor. 

The petition will be reviewed by the DGS and Graduate Education Committee; they will communicate their recommendation to the Program Director; s/he will, in turn, communicate the program’s decision to the student and mentor.

Demonstrating Personal Initiative and Responsibility

As described above, there are many guidelines and expectations for students at each stage of the program.  Students are expected to act in a proactive and professional manner throughout their tenure in the program.  The faculty and staff administrators of the program are there to assist and support the students, but it should be recognized that the student is the one primarily responsible for his or her own education.  For example:

In the didactic phases, students are expected to be aware of the track requirements and to ensure that they will complete these requirements prior to the QE. 
When preparing for the QE, students are expected to be proactive in scheduling this and to be fully aware of the relevant policies and procedures. 
During the candidacy phase, students should schedule committee meetings in a timely manner and be aware of the relevant policies and procedures.

A major goal of graduate education is to develop into an independent scientist.  To promote this development, students at all stages of their training should work to become expert in the knowledge and skills needed to complete their project as well as areas related to their projects; to solve problems independently; develop and adhere to time schedules; and be responsive to feedback from their advisors and committees.

Responsible Conduct of Research (RCR)

Students must practice RCR in all of its forms. These areas include declaring and managing conflicts of interest; behaving ethically with regard to human and animal experimentation, authorship and publication, collaborative research, peer review, and data acquisition, analysis, and management; maintaining appropriate mentor/mentee relationships; and acting as responsible members of the society at large. Students who matriculate into the CPB will have already received basic RCR training.  Students are also required to maintain a regular schedule of ongoing RCR training and discussions throughout their training.

Attendance, Holidays, and Vacation

Students are training to work in a demanding field and so should adopt the work habits of successful professionals in that field.  This includes working beyond the 40 hour, Monday-Friday work week so that the student is committing enough time for making progress in the laboratory, reading the scientific literature, assisting with other laboratory projects, etc.  Graduate students are entitled to time off in a manner consistent with Vanderbilt’s policies.  Students should communicate with their advisor about absences due to illness and should obtain advance approval for time off for vacation, personal days, etc.

Publication

Disseminating knowledge is an important component of the research process.  When the student and advisor deem a research project to be complete, the work should be submitted for peer review and publication.  Students and advisors will share authorship on works that arose as a result of the student’s activities within the advisor’s research group. Students are expected to contribute to a timely publication of the work.

Service

For the CPB program to be successful, it requires service on the part of its students.  Graduate students may be asked to mentor undergraduate students or junior graduate students, provide service to the public or their scientific communities, provide leadership as a member or officer of the Graduate Students Association, assist in recruiting new students to the program, serve on committees at the program or university levels, or engage in other similar activities. Students may also have service responsibilities within their research groups.

Individualized Development Plans

In keeping with the recent NIH policy implementations, as well as the program’s commitment to the training and education of our students, all graduate students and their mentors are required to develop and complete an Individualized Development Plan (IDP) in April-May of each year. 

 In addition to being an NIH requirement, the IDP is intended as an important component to students’ education and training as scientists.  It is one mechanism through which graduate students and their mentors communicate about the student’s current abilities, career goals, and plans for the upcoming year.  The areas to be assessed, by both the student and the mentor, include: the student’s current set of strengths and areas for further development; his/her progress and accomplishments during the preceding year; his/her goals for the upcoming year; career aspirations; and plans for meeting these goals.  There is one IDP form for PhD students and a separate one for MSTP students; both are available from the program office.

Students and their mentors are required to complete the form in April of each year and to submit it to the DGS by the end of May. The DGS will review each student’s form and communicate any thoughts back to the student and mentor by the end of June. The form itself contains further instructions; students and mentors should read the entire form carefully before starting the process, and feel free to contact the DGS with questions.

CPB Annual Program Retreat

The program holds a retreat in May of each year.  The purposes of the retreat are to afford the Program’s students and faculty the opportunity to appreciate the breadth of research that is being conducted in the CPB Program; for students to gain experience in presenting scientific work in a scientifically critical but personally supportive setting; and to foster a sense of community within the Program. It is important to note that these objectives can only be met if there is full attendance on the part of the students; because we are not a large program, a small number of absences has a large relative impact on the success of the retreat.  Also, students should be aware that they are in training to become professionals; that the Program is fundamental to providing this training; and that it is sometimes necessary to make personal sacrifices in order to meet professional obligations. Therefore, students and their mentors should be aware of the following policies related to retreat attendance:

  • All students are expected to attend the retreat. The retreat has traditionally been held in May of each year and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.  Students and their mentors should take this schedule into account when planning other activities, be they professional or personal in nature. 
  • It is recognized that rarely, there are significant, unforeseeable events that occur at the last minute and that may coincide with the retreat.  Students should communicate the nature of these events to the program leadership as soon as possible and ask for an excused absence. 
  • Likewise, it is recognized that students nearing the completion of their dissertation (5th year or any student who has held their final pre-defense committee meeting) may need to travel for job interviews, conferences, or other bona fide academic reasons.  Students in this situation may request an excused absence from the retreat. Such request should be communicated well in advance to the program leadership and before travel plans or other financial commitments are made.
  • Under no circumstance should a student decide to miss the retreat without consulting the program leadership in advance.
  • Students who are absent from the retreat without prior permission or for a reason other than those stated above will be excluded from applying for Graduate College Dissertation Enhancement Grants or Travel Awards for the remainder of their graduate education.

It is recognized that there may exist scientific or other issues that interfere with the student’s progress or with the mentor-student relationship. The student may feel that his/her academic progress is being limited in some way or is being unfairly evaluated; that his/her intellectual contributions are not being fairly acknowledged; or that another type of interpersonal conflict exists.  Students have several avenues available to them to achieve resolution of such concerns. The following descriptions are considered the most advisable options:

  • Students in the Didactic Phase should address these issues initially with the DGS. 
  • Students who have already entered into Candidacy should discuss scientific concerns with the chair of his/her dissertation advising committee. Other concerns may be brought directly to the DGS.

In addition, students are always free to discuss concerns with the Program Director, the counseling personnel in the BRET office or the Psychological and Counseling Center, and/or other trusted members of the faculty. Students should communicate any such concerns with the appropriate persons while the problems are still in their early stages. If confidentiality is required, the student is advised to consult with the counseling personnel in the BRET office or the Psychological and Counseling Center.

Changes in mentorship are a significant occurrence. While they may be deemed necessary on some occasions, they should not be undertaken without full consideration of all possible consequences, both positive and negative. Such changes should only occur after extended attempts at conflict resolution have occurred.  In the case of a Ph.D. candidate, the QE does not need to be repeated; but the committee will reform and the new committee will need to review and approve the student’s proposal for the completion of his/her thesis.  When determining the scope of work required for completion of the degree, they should consider the student’s full body of work.

Students are encouraged to bring forward issues of sexual harassment or discrimination of any kind to the attention of the mentor, program leadership, or counseling staff.  When brought to the attention of the program leadership or faculty, they will refer the student to the Psychological and Counseling Center.