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Policies for Graduate Program Administration

Policy Number ACA-015
Effective Date January 01, 2006
Responsible Office/Person Academic Affairs
Related Policies
Additional History
Additional References

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth

Academic Affairs Division

Policies for Graduate Program Administration 

 

The Provost and Academic Deans have endorsed the following policies for the administration of graduate programs (Fall 2005).

1.   Purpose and Principles

Good administrative procedures ensure fairness and accountability in the administration of graduate programs. Recommendations for admission and teaching assistantships, and graduate program director appointments, will be based on the following principles:

  • Criteria and requirements will be stated in writing and made readily available;
  • A faculty committee will review each candidate’s qualifications and document the  reasons for the recommended actions;
  • Recommendations are based on the individual’s qualifications and ability to do the work in relation to the stated criteria and requirements;
  • The committee’s recommendation will be acted on by persons charged with administrative responsibility (such as the officer serving in the graduate program director role, the dean, and the AVCAA/GS);
  • Candidates or applicants will receive a written notification of the action or decision;
  • Processes will be conducted and actions will be recommended and taken in accordance with university policy, principles, and codes.

Similar principles for accountability – that is, basis in criteria and qualifications, document-tation, and recommendation or application of criteria by a committee – also apply to other significant actions taken concerning a student, such as award of scholarships or fellowships, appointment to internships, or dismissal from a program.

These general principles are applied in the specific policies stated below.

2.   Administrative organization

In the case of graduate programs contained within a single academic department, an individual serves as Graduate Program Director (two individuals may serve as co-directors), and selected program faculty serve as a graduate program committee. The department chairperson may serve in the graduate program director role in a small department or a department that offers primarily or only graduate instruction. Similarly, an administrative appointment such as an Associate Dean may perform the graduate program director role.

Graduate programs offered across departments within a college or school, or across colleges, must also have an individual identified as serving in the graduate program director role (or co-directors) and a graduate program committee representing the program’s active faculty. An administrative appointment such as an Associate Dean may perform the graduate program director role. Such programs will specifically identify their participating faculty in the graduate catalogue.

Presented here are general characteristics and criteria. Each program, department, college, or school will realize these in specific ways, with specific duties, criteria for participation or committee membership (for example, whether to include student members and requirements for seniority or tenure status), nomination processes, lengths of term of office, and so forth. Additional positions can be identified and other committees or sub-committees utilized.

The person in the graduate program director role has responsibility for administration of the graduate program, including the following duties and functions (in person and/or through designees):

  • the timely and accountable processing of applications for admission and award of teaching assistantships;
  • representing the needs of the program when resources are allocated and teaching assignments are made;
  • effective and accurate communication of program characteristics and requirements;
  • interactions with prospective students to help recruit them and encourage them to matriculate;
  • academic advising of graduate students;
  • monitoring student progress, communicating with students in difficulty or otherwise in need of assistance; and initiating corrective actions or dismissal;
  • transactions and communications with the administration regarding graduate students (for example, verifications of full-time status for international students);
  • coverage of duties during summers and intersessions;
  • membership on the Graduate Council.

Composition of the Graduate Program Committee:

  • The graduate program committee represents the program’s active faculty;
  • A graduate program committee must have at least three faculty members, including a member or members from a different unit if there are not enough immediate program faculty to meet this minimum number;
  • The composition of the graduate program committee may be limited, for example, to those with tenure and/or a certain seniority, and a length of term may be set;
  • The committee is selected by governance processes determined for the department, college, or school and endorsed by the dean (and a dean may require to approve the committee’s membership);
  • The committee may include students, either advisory or voting;
  • The committee may include administrators, either ex officio or voting.

Functions of the Graduate Program Committee:

  • Recommend to department, college, and/or school officials the criteria for admission; duties and qualifications of teaching assistantships; requirements for academic progression; requirements for comprehensive examinations, projects, theses, and dissertations; and program goals, objectives, and assessment;
  • Review and make recommendations on applications for admission (either all applicants or those with exceptional features or in borderline situations);
  • Review and make recommendations on all teaching assistantship appointments;
  • Review and make recommendations on other awards, honors, or recognitions associated with the graduate program;
  • Review and make recommendations on appointment of the graduate program director;
  • Review and make recommendations on student dismissals and other issues involving students’ status and progression.

3.   Admission to a graduate program

General and program-specific criteria are to be stated officially, for example, in the graduate catalogue. Students apply for admission using a UMass Dartmouth application form and submit official and other documents, statements, and materials in support of their applications; interviews may be required.

The graduate program committee will review applications according to stated criteria and make formal recommendation of an action in each case. Rather than acting on every application, the committee can determine a set of minimum criteria and then allow a staff member or administrator such as the graduate program director to apply those criteria, referring exceptional or borderline cases to the committee. The recommended action will be based on the stated criteria and the applicant’s qualifications and materials submitted. The recommended action will be documented sufficiently that program representatives can later explain the specific basis for the recommendation if needed. Using a form provided by the Office of Graduate Studies, the committee’s recommendation goes to the graduate program director and then the dean for their subsequent recommendations, and then to the AVCAA/GS for decision and official action. Applicants have a right to be informed of the reasons for the recommendation made on their case, such as a denial of admission (but not to actual documents, unless by subpoena or court order).

Each applicant will receive from the Office of Graduate Studies official, written notification of the decision of the AVCAA/GS, be it acceptance, denial, deferral, or other action. Until that occurs, admissions recommendations made by  program faculty and school or college administrators are only recommendations and must be so described in any communications that precede the official action of the AVCAA/GS.

4.   Award of assistantships to graduate students

Only active students matriculated in a graduate degree program in good academic standing and who have degree requirements remaining to be completed may be awarded assistantships.

Programs offering teaching assistantships will state the main duties of those appointments and the qualifications required. These should be made available to anyone interested, for example, on a program web site. Teaching assistants may have sole responsibility for teaching a course section or laboratory, or may assist the instructor(s) of record in teaching and instructional support duties.

Availability of teaching assistantships is announced, and candidates shall have the opportunity to apply (however, a program may limit availability of positions to a certain group, e.g., to prospective students only). Those to be considered for award of an assistantship constitute a pool of candidates for the award, although assistantships may also be awarded on a rolling basis or may be awarded by invitation. Appointment to any teaching assistantships requires the recommendation of a committee as well as of program administrators.

Students may apply to be considered for a teaching assistantship using a UMass Dartmouth application form and may be required to submit other materials, documents, and information to present their qualifications, or to participate in an interview. Other relevant materials, documents, and information may also be considered, such as a prospective student’s application packet and the academic record of current students. By campus policy, the English/communication skills of teaching assistants must be verified prior to appointment.

The graduate program committee will review teaching assistantship candidates and make formal recommendation of an action in each case. The recommended action will be based on the stated duties and qualifications and the evidence of the candidate’s qualifications, and it will be documented sufficiently that program representatives can later explain the specific bases for the recommendation. Using a form provided by the Office of Graduate Studies, the committee’s recommendation goes to the graduate program director and then the dean for their subsequent recommendations, and then to the AVCAA/GS for a final decision and action. (This form also documents details of the appointment and funding of the assistantship.) Applicants have a right to be informed of the reasons for the recommendation made on their case, such as non-award of an assistantship, upon request (but not to actual documents, unless by subpoena or court order).

Research assistantships are a special case permitting a grant’s principal investigator to select a student research assistant without a committee; but research assistantship appointments are reviewed by the dean and require approval of the AVCAA/GS. Graduate assistantship appointments by a second party – e.g., the Academic Resources Center of CITS – should be made after an interview by staff members of that unit and also require clearance from officials of the student’s program; and second-party assistantship appointments must receive approval of the AVCAA/GS.

All assistantship appointments are made through an official, written letter of appointment from the Office of Graduate Studies, based on the decision of the AVCAA/GS. Until that occurs, the assistantship recommendations of faculty and school or college administrators are only recommendations and must be so described in any communications that precede the official action of the AVCAA/GS. Every applicant for a teaching assistantship will receive notification of award or non-award from the Office of Graduate Studies.

The official letter of appointment will state the terms of the appointment (duration, hours per week, stipend, and waivers or other benefits) and conditions for cancellation (poor performance of duties, inadequate academic performance or progress, loss of funding, or there being no continuing need for services). The letter also identifies a contact person who is committed to be available to give specific information to the student.

Communicating the specific duties and such matters as teaching assignments, schedules, and participation in trainings or orientation is the responsibility of the program officials, although the Office of Graduate Studies is pleased to enclose packets of information along with assistantship award letters.

In order to best serve both prospective and current students, decisions on award of assistantships should be made as early as possible. It is desirable for prospective students to receive notification of admission and award of an assistantship at the same time; the Office of Graduate Studies works to facilitate these concurrent notifications.

5.   Appointment of the Graduate Program Director

Graduate Program Directors (GPDs) – whether or so named or in another administrative position and serving in that function – have important responsibilities and should be capable of performing them. They need to serve their students and program well and be available in summers and other peak times to act on admissions recommendations, do advising, monitor students’ progress, etc.

Stated here are criteria for selecting an individual from within a department or from among the faculty active in an interdepartmental graduate program when that program is organized so as to have a specifically appointed Graduate Program Director.

  • When a department has a GPD vacancy to fill, the graduate program committee will recommend a name to the department chairperson, who will forward a recommendation to the Dean along with the individual’s qualifications and a description of how the appointment will serve students and will help fulfill the goals of the graduate program. In the case of interdepartmental programs within a college or school, the recommendation goes to the Dean. Our one across-colleges program involves co-directors, one from each college; for this program the recommendation of a co-director goes to the dean of the college of the co-director, who will consult the dean of the other college as well as the AVCAA/GS (see below) before making a decision.
  • Before making the appointment, the dean will consult the Associate Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs/Graduate Studies on the individual being considered.
  • The dean will make the appointment formally. The appointment will be recorded in the Office of the Provost, AVCAA, and Human Resources.
  • Appointments shall be for a stated length of term and renewable, and subject to recall. The performance of incumbents in the graduate program director role is subject to evaluation. These matters are determined by the dean, in accordance with governance processes in the college or school.

Individuals in an administrative position such as an Associate Dean who serve in the GPD role are appointed by processes customary for those positions. The graduate program committee(s) for the program(s) concerned will participate in recommending qualifications and reviewing candidates.

 

This policy is effective January 1, 2006.

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