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Faculty and Staff

Section 8. Advisors, Major Professors And Committees

8.10 The Department Chair
8.20 The Temporary Advisor
8.30 The Major Professor
8.33 Responsibilities of Major Professor for Master's Degree Students
8.34 Responsibilities of Major Professor for Doctoral Degree Students
8.40 Graduate Student Committees
8.41 General
8.42 Committees for Master's Degree Students
8.43 Committees for Doctoral Degree Students
8.50 Changes in Committee Membership for Master's and Doctoral Students

8.10 The Department Chair

8.11. The department Chair has general and overall responsibilities for graduate programs within the department, including the maintenance of overall quality of graduate education and a degree of continuity among different programs. To ensure continuing quality, department Chairs should evaluate all documents submitted to them for acknowledgment.

8.12. The department Chair assigns each incoming graduate student an advisor, who may coincidentally be the department Chair. All documents relating to the status of each graduate student are submitted to the department Chair who will acknowledge each document prior to its submission to the Dean of the Graduate School. The department Chair will also make recommendations to the Dean of the Graduate School concerning the appointment of a major professor for each graduate student (see duties of major professor) and will acknowledge the recommendations for appointment of members of various committees as provided for elsewhere within the Graduate Manual. The department Chair should be kept informed of the progress of each student.

8.13. The department Chair is responsible for having written and oral master's examinations prepared and administered, or for delegating this responsibility to other members of the Graduate Faculty in the department in those degree programs where they are required. 8.14. The department Chair is also responsible for allocating resources including personnel, facilities, and equipment to assure adequate support of the various Programs of Study and thesis/dissertation proposals.

8.15. The department Chair may appoint a member of the Graduate Faculty in the department to assume some or all of the duties of the department Chair with regard to all aspects of the Department's graduate degree program(s). Such an individual, often the Graduate Program Director, will replace the department Chair for such duties.

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8.20 The Temporary Advisor

8.21. Upon admission, each entering graduate student will be assigned a temporary advisor by the department Chair or Graduate Program Director. The temporary advisor will be a member of the Graduate Faculty in the department, will assist the student in the selection of courses to be taken the first semester, and will assist the student in the selection of a major professor. It is recommended that a major professor be selected in a student's first or second semester of graduate work. The final responsibility for selecting a major professor who is willing to serve in this capacity rests with the student.

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8.30 The Major Professor

8.31. The major professor plays a fundamental role in the education of a graduate student. The major professor has overall responsibility for overseeing the student's training and for ensuring that Programs of Study, thesis/dissertation proposals, and other required documents are submitted by the student at the appropriate time. While students are ultimately responsible for all aspects of their progress toward a graduate degree, it is expected that the major professor will be an active partner in guiding the student through their degree program requirements.

8.32. All major professors must be members of the Graduate Faculty, and must be willing to serve in that capacity. Upon recommendation by the department Chair, major professors will be appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School to carry out the duties noted in the following paragraphs.

8.33. Responsibilities of Major Professor for Master's Degree Students

8.33.1: Where the department offers a choice between options with and without a thesis, the major professor will advise the student in making a choice.

8.33.2: The major professor will help the student plan a Program of Study (see Section 7.43), making certain that it meets all minimum core and special requirements. Instructions and forms for the Program of Study are available at the Graduate School. As soon as is practicable, but no later than the end of the second semester in which the student is enrolled in their degree program, four copies of a Program of Study will be submitted to the Dean of the Graduate School for approval. The Program of Study must be signed by the student, approved by the major professor, and acknowledged by the department Chair. Courses in the Program of Study listed to be taken without program credit must be so designated before they are taken; if they are not, grades in these courses will be included in the calculation of the student's Grade Point Average.

8.33.3: The major professor will supervise the student's progress in the Program of Study (including coursework, independent study, research, and, if applicable, thesis preparation) and arrange for the required examinations.

8.33.4: In thesis programs, the major professor will help the student select the thesis topic and other members of the thesis committee. In master's degree programs, the thesis committee must consist of at least three members of the Graduate Faculty, including the major professor who serves as chair of the committee. The second member will be in the same discipline and/or department as the major professor, or in a closely related one. The third member will be from an outside area unless specifically approved by the Dean of the Graduate School. The members of the thesis committee are chosen by the major professor in consultation with the student at the time the thesis proposal is prepared. They will also serve as members of the thesis defense committee. Recommendations for members of the thesis committee shall be acknowledged by the department Chair and approved by the Dean of the Graduate School.

8.33.5: In thesis programs, the major professor will assist the student in the preparation of their thesis proposal. Instructions for the preparation of this proposal are available at the Graduate School web site. The thesis proposal must be signed by the members of the thesis committee and acknowledged by the department Chair. The thesis proposal must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School. If human subjects are involved, the proposed research must satisfy University policy (see Appendix D) and the proposal must be approved by the Institutional Review Board before being submitted to the Graduate School. If the research involves live animals, the proposal must also satisfy the policy and procedures of the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (see Appendix E).

8.33.6: In thesis programs, the major professor will arrange with the student, the thesis committee, and the Graduate School for the submission of the completed thesis that will be used in the defense and for the scheduling of the thesis defense (see Section 11.22).

8.34. Responsibility of Major Professors for Doctoral Degree Students

8.34.1: The major professor shall serve as the chair of the student's doctoral committee, and in consultation with the student, recommend appointment of two or more additional members of the doctoral committee. The second member will be in the same discipline and/or department as the major professor or in one closely related to it, and the third member will be from another area unless specifically approved by the Dean of the Graduate School. The nominations for the doctoral committee shall be acknowledged by the department Chair and approved by the Dean of the Graduate School .

8.34.2: The major professor and the dissertation committee will help the student plan a Program of Study, making certain that it meets all minimum core and special requirements. Instructions and forms for the Program of Study are available at the Graduate School web site. Four copies of a Program of Study will be submitted to the Dean of the Graduate School for approval as soon as is practicable, but no later than the end of the second semester in which the student is enrolled in a degree program. The Program of Study must be signed by the student, approved by the major professor and entire dissertation committee, and acknowledged by the department Chair. Courses in the Program of Study listed to be taken without program credit must be so designated before they are taken. If they are not, grades in these courses will be included in the calculation of the student's Grade Point Average.

8.34.3: The major professor supervises the student's progress in their Program of Study (including coursework, independent study, research, other scholarly activities, preparation of the dissertation proposal and the thesis itself) and examinations. Research involving human subjects must satisfy University policy (see Appendix D), as must that involving live animals (see Appendix E).

8.34.4: The major professor determines in accordance with departmental policy, the means by which the student shall satisfy any language or research tool requirements.

8.34.5: The major professor, in conjunction with other members of the doctoral committee, is responsible for the organization, preparation and administration of the student's written comprehensive examination and acts as chair of the student's written and oral comprehensive examination committee.

8.34.6: The major professor has the responsibility for notifying the student and the Dean of the Graduate School of the results of the written and oral portions of the comprehensive exam. Notification to the Dean of the Graduate School must first be acknowledged by the department Chair (Section 7.70). If a second examination is recommended by the Comprehensive Examination Committee and approved by the Graduate School, the major professor is responsible for supervising the student's completion of any additional requirements specified before the second examination is to be taken. The major professor is also responsible for ensuring that the re-examination is taken within the required time limits, and for arranging with the student, the doctoral committee, and Dean of the Graduate School for scheduling of the examination.

8.34.7: The major professor arranges with the student, the doctoral committee, and the Graduate School for submission of the completed dissertation and the scheduling of the dissertation defense. Further, the major professor assists the student in making any changes in the dissertation as stipulated by the dissertation defense committee.

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8.40 Graduate Student Committees

8.41. The quality of a graduate student's education depends substantially upon the major professor along with other members of the Graduate Faculty and their collaboration with the student. These faculty serve on the committees that monitor the various steps leading to an advanced degree. The responsibilities of the major professor are described in Section 8.30. The members of different committees and the sequence to be followed in selecting them are described here. Members of the committees are usually appointed from among qualified individuals recommended by the major professor in consultation with the student. A committee member external to the University may be appointed specifically to serve as an additional member of the thesis/dissertation or defense committee for a specific, named graduate student. Such an external committee member does not serve as a replacement for any of the required committee members, but is an additional member of the committee. Appointment of the members of the various committees is made by the Dean of the Graduate School.

8.42. Committees for Master's Degree Students

8.42.1. Program of Study Committee: There is no Program of Study committee for students taking a master's degree. For this degree, whether with or without a thesis, the major professor and the student have the responsibility for planning the Program of Study.

8.42.2. Thesis Committee: Each student enrolled in a master's degree program that requires a thesis must have a thesis committee. This committee is usually composed of at least three members of the Graduate Faculty. The major professor serves as chair. The second member of the thesis committee will be in the same discipline and/or department as the major professor, or from a closely related department. The third member of the committee is from an outside area unless specifically approved by the Dean of the Graduate School.

Responsibilities: The thesis committee is responsible for planning and directing the work required for the thesis. This includes advising the student during preparation of the thesis proposal, ensuring that it meets the standards of the University of Rhode Island concerning the protection of human subjects (see Appendix D) or live animals (see Appendix E), and ensuring that the entire degree program can be accomplished within the time and facilities available. The thesis committee also ensures that the student is adequately prepared to do the required work, supervises preparation of the thesis, and certifies that the thesis is ready for the oral defense prior to formally scheduling the thesis defense. The Graduate School must approve and schedule the defense.

8.42.3. Thesis Defense Committee: For master's degree students, the thesis defense committee is composed of the thesis committee and an additional fourth member appointed by the Graduate School to be chair of the committee and to represent the Graduate Faculty. The fourth member of the thesis defense committee must be a member of the Graduate Faculty and from a department other than that in which the student is enrolled.

Responsibilities: The thesis defense committee is responsible for conducting the oral defense of the thesis. The committee determines whether the thesis is properly written, whether the student completed the research independently, whether the thesis meets all of the requirements of the University, and whether the student has demonstrated sufficient command of the subject material to pass the examination successfully. Unanimous approval of the committee is required for passing. The committee must also specify any changes in the thesis that must be made before it can be approved, and the date by which those changes must be completed. The chair of the committee is responsible for ensuring that the form reporting the results of the defense includes all required signatures, including the acknowledgement of the department Chair.

If the student does not pass the first defense, the committee must decide if a second examination is justified and so recommend to the Dean of the Graduate School for approval. After the student has fulfilled any stipulated deficiencies, the major professor requests permission from the Dean of the Graduate School to schedule the second examination. If any additional work is required before the second examination, this should be stipulated in the recommendation to the Dean as well as the time the second examination should be given. If the second examination is approved by the Dean of the Graduate School, the committee has the responsibility of giving the examination after the major professor has made the necessary arrangements with the Graduate School for scheduling and notifying all members of the committee. If the second examination is not given within a year of the first examination, no further opportunity to take the examination will be allowed unless exceptional circumstances justify that an extension of time be granted by the Dean of the Graduate School.

The final duty of the thesis defense committee is to sign the thesis approval sheet after making certain that all necessary changes and corrections have been made. The chair of the thesis defense committee, or any members(s) of the defense committee so designated by the defense committee chair, is/are responsible for verifying that the stipulated changes have been made.

8.43. Committees for Doctoral Students

8.43.1. Qualifying Examination Committee: Since the qualifying examination is the responsibility of the department, the procedure for conducting the examination is entirely within the jurisdiction of the department. The department Chair, in conjunction with a departmental committee designated for this purpose, or with the major professor, has the responsibility for preparing and administering the examination, and for reporting the results to the Dean of the Graduate School. The examination procedures shall be included in the descriptions of departmental procedures given to each new graduate student and filed with the Dean of the Graduate School.

8.43.2. Doctoral Committee: The doctoral committee guides and supervises a student's progress in the Program of Study from the time the major professor is selected until the dissertation is defended. Additional members are added for the oral comprehensive examination and for the dissertation defense, but the doctoral committee has the major responsibility throughout the student's training and should be selected to provide the best possible support for the student in their particular area of research. The doctoral committee is composed of the major professor as chair and two additional members of the Graduate Faculty. The second member of the committee is usually a member of the same department, in the same discipline, or in one closely related to it. The third member is from an outside area unless specifically approved otherwise by the Dean of the Graduate School. Potential members of this committee are selected by the major professor in consultation with the student, and after acknowledgment by the department Chair the recommendations are sent to the Dean of the Graduate School for approval.

Responsibilities: The doctoral committee is responsible for helping to plan the student's Program of Study. It is also responsible for preparing and evaluating the written comprehensive examination that is administered by the major professor, for approving the dissertation problem, the dissertation research, and the dissertation. The doctoral committee must ensure that the Program of Study is fully discussed with the student so that it represents the student's individual needs. It must also satisfy degree requirements, prepare the student for taking both the qualifying (if necessary) and comprehensive examinations, and for beginning the dissertation research. The doctoral committee is a major component of the larger oral comprehensive committee and takes part in the oral comprehensive examination. In addition, it provides overall guidance in selecting a dissertation proposal that is well-defined and can be completed with the facilities available in a reasonable length of time and which will satisfy University policy concerning human subjects (see Appendix D) or live animals (see Appendix E). It provides guidance in carrying out the literature search, in gathering data and other aspects of the research, and in the general procedure of writing the dissertation so that it meets all requirements in content and form, and certifies that the dissertation is ready for the oral defense prior to scheduling the defense with the Graduate School. In addition to being part of the oral comprehensive examination committee, the doctoral committee is also a major component of the dissertation defense committee, and as such participates in the oral defense of the dissertation, and in ensuring that all stipulated changes are made in the final copies of the dissertation. The doctoral committee shall meet with the student at least once each year to review their progress. It is the responsibility of the major professor to schedule this annual review. It is the responsibility of the department Chair or Graduate Program Director to submit these reviews to the Graduate School by the end of each academic year.

8.43.3. Oral Comprehensive Examination Committee: The written comprehensive examination is prepared and administered by the doctoral committee under the direction of the major professor. The oral comprehensive examination is given by a larger committee composed of the doctoral committee and two additional members of the Graduate Faculty appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School. One additional member will be from the same department as the student, the other will be from a different department, but one that is allied to the student's area of study. The major professor will serve as chair of the oral comprehensive examination committee. A unanimous vote of all members of the committee is required for passing.

Responsibilities: This committee is responsible for conducting the oral comprehensive examination after the student has passed the written comprehensive examination and the major professor has received permission from the Dean of the Graduate School to hold the oral examination. The permission to hold the oral examination will include the date of the examination, which normally is within four weeks of the successful completion of the written examination. In giving the examination, the committee has the responsibility of evaluating the student's scholarly development and determining whether the student is qualified to perform the independent scholarly research required to complete the requirements for a doctoral degree.

8.43.4. Dissertation Defense Committee: The dissertation defense committee for doctoral students consists of the doctoral committee plus two additional members appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School. The fourth member is appointed chair of the defense committee and is the representative of the Graduate Faculty. This member is from a department other than the one in which the student is enrolled and may be from an unrelated area. The fifth member of the committee is usually a member of the same department as the student. Unanimous approval of all members of the committee is required for passing the oral dissertation defense.

Responsibilities: The dissertation defense committee is responsible for conducting the oral defense of the dissertation. The committee determines whether the dissertation is properly written, whether the student completed the research independently, whether the dissertation meets all of the requirements of the University, and whether the student has demonstrated sufficient command of the subject material to pass the examination successfully. Unanimous approval of the committee is required for passing. The committee must also specify any changes in the dissertation that must be made before it can be approved, and the date by which those changes must be completed. The chair of the committee is responsible for ensuring that the form reporting the results of the defense includes all required signatures, including the acknowledgement of the department Chair.

If the student does not pass the first defense, the committee must decide if a second examination is justified and so recommend to the Dean of the Graduate School for approval. After the student has fulfilled any stipulated deficiencies, the major professor requests permission from the Dean of the Graduate School to schedule the second examination. If any additional work is required before the second examination, this should be stipulated in the recommendation to the Dean as well as the time the second examination should be given. If the second examination is approved by the Dean of the Graduate School, the committee has the responsibility of giving the examination after the major professor has made the necessary arrangements with the Graduate School for scheduling and notifying all members of the committee. If the second examination is not given within a year of the first examination, no further opportunity to take the examination will be allowed unless exceptional circumstances justify that an extension of time be granted by the Dean of the Graduate School.

The final duty of the dissertation defense committee is to sign the dissertation approval sheet after making certain that all necessary changes and corrections have been made. The chair of the dissertation defense committee, or any members(s) of the defense committee so designated by the defense committee chair, is/are responsible for verifying that the stipulated changes have been made.

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8.50 Changes in Committee Membership for Master's and Doctoral Students

8.51. It should be clear that flexibility is provided in the program of master's and doctoral students. Committee membership (even the major professor) may be changed when this is in the best interest of the student. A student may change their major professor with the approval of the department Chair and the Dean of the Graduate School. In this event the department Chair is responsible for notifying the original major professor of the change and for determining the circumstances requiring the change. If a student has a committee, a change in major professor will automatically dissolve the committee, which will be reconstituted in the manner outlined above. A change in the committee members other than the major professor shall be made with the concurrence of the student, the major professor, and the Dean of the Graduate School. Changes in committee membership shall be acknowledged by the department Chair.

8.52. In cases in which a major professor becomes unable or unwilling to fulfill their responsibilities, the department Chair will immediately notify the Dean of the Graduate School and will assist the affected graduate student in choosing a new major professor and re-constituting a committee in the manner outlined above. The student may also enlist the aid of the Dean of the Graduate School. However, as outlined above, it is not the department's obligation to provide a major professor, but it is the student's responsibility to select one who is qualified and willing to serve.

8.53. In the event that a new major professor is not found, the student has the right to proceed to non-binding deliberation with the department Chair and other relevant faculty, under the auspices of the University Ombudsman or the Committee on Academic Standards and Appeals, any time after ten academic weeks have passed. It is expected that, with this and the many other safeguards and procedures for assistance provided above, every student will successfully and expeditiously select a major professor. However, if a satisfactory match is not found, students have little alternative but to withdraw from their program, as their subsequent lack of progress will inevitably lead to dismissal.

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