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Graduate Student Handbook

CIS Graduate Student Handbook


This handbook provides supplemental and program-specific information for CIS graduate students in several areas. More general information and regulations about the CIS Master program can be found in the UMass graduate catalog and on the CIS department website.


Contact Information


You may contact the CIS office to obtain information and get help. Please give at least one week's lead time to process any request/paperwork. For immigration-related issues, contact the International Student & Scholar Center


Financial Support Policy


The school will allocate a limited number of graduate assistantships each year. The following guidelines will be used to determine the recipients of this support.

  1. All financial support will be based on merit. Criteria used to determine merit will be the applicant's GRE scores, letters of recommendation, and Statement of Purpose.
  2. The department's service needs (e.g., teaching assistants) will determine who will receive department financial support (i.e., from the general College fund). All graduate students on College support will be assigned appropriate teaching-related duties. International students must pass the SPEAK test with a minimum score of 55 to be eligible for College teaching assistantships.
  3. Assignments in teaching and research for incoming students will be predicated on the student's indicated area of specialization.
  4. The principal investigator, from whose funds the student will be paid, will decide who will receive support from research grants and contracts.
  5. Students making satisfactory progress, subject to the availability of funds, are eligible to receive a maximum of four semesters of College support as MS candidates and six semesters of College support as PhD candidates. Students pursuing non-thesis MS degrees are not eligible for College support.  Students on academic probation or new provisionally admitted students are not eligible for College support.
  6. In general, no financial support from the university sources is provided to part-time students unless their services in either teaching or research represent a critical need for the university/program or students no longer need a full-time load of coursework during their last semester/year.
  7. Students on academic probation, i.e., students who have GPAs below 3.0 or have completed 6 credits for Thesis Research or 12 credits of Dissertation Research without submitting and successfully defending a research proposal, are not eligible for financial support as TAs.
  8. Graduate students in “program continuation” status are not eligible for TAs, Teaching Fellowships, Graduate Fellowships, or tuition and CSF waivers.


Course Load Guidelines

A course load of 9 credits per semester is considered the minimum for full-time status in the Graduate School at UMass Dartmouth.  An international student must register as full-time and stay registered full-time for the whole semester. Dropping a course, even at the end of the semester, causes the student to fall below full-time, which is an unauthorized reduction of course load, and a student is considered out of status. There are only three exceptions to the full-time registration: 1) the first semester due to adjustment issues, 2) the end of the study because the student needs less than full time to complete the degree program, or 3) a documented medical reason. In such exceptional situations, the student must file a reduced course load form and get approval first in order to maintain his/her full-time student status.


Academic Probation and Dismissal of Graduate Students


A student who has been admitted to a graduate program of study in the CIS department, either on a regular or on a provisional basis, must maintain a 3.00 or higher grade-point average in all work taken for graduate credit as well as an overall 3.00 GPA in all studies at UMass Dartmouth.


A student will be placed on academic warning if his/her cumulative GPA is less than 3.00 after having attempted nine (9) or more credits in courses that are eligible to count toward the degree or certificate. 


A student will be placed on academic probation if his/her cumulative GPA is less than 2.67 after having attempted nine (9) or more credits in courses that are eligible to count toward the degree or certificate.


A student will be subject to dismissal from the graduate program if:

  • His/her cumulative GPA is less than 2.00 after having attempted nine (9) or more credits in courses that are eligible to count toward the degree or certificate.
  • His/her GPA is less than 3.00 after completion of half of the required number of credits in courses that are eligible to count toward the degree or certificate.
  • He/she earns three (3) course grades below B minus (B-) in courses that are eligible to count toward the degree or certificate.
  • Where a thesis/dissertation /project is required, a thesis/dissertation/project which is graded F shall be grounds for dismissal.
  • The student fails to meet any other conditions imposed as a part of the probation.


A student may appeal any action concerning academic probation and dismissal by petitioning the graduate committee within the department. However, if a student has a record of Academic dishonesty, the CIS department will NOT support their appeal request.


Academic Ethical Standards


All CIS graduate students are expected to maintain high academic ethical standards. Please check the university catalog and student handbook for more details. You should also check the course syllabus for any additional academic ethical standards you need to follow and the consequences of violating them. The CIS department maintains a record of all academic ethical offenses. The penalty for a second-time dishonest academic conduct by the student is a grade of F in the course in which the second offense took place. The CIS department will NOT support the re-admission request of any student with a record of academic dishonesty.

Satisfactory Academic Progress

Satisfactory progress is indicated by:

  1. Maintaining a grade point average above 3.0 on a 4.0 scale as computed from their program of study.
  2. Having received no more than two grades below "B"; and
  3. Staying registered for normal course loads or project/thesis/dissertation continuation.


Unsatisfactory academic progress results from failure to meet the above requirements and/or failure to complete program requirements at the appropriate point in the program.  Such requirements are: (1) filing a project or thesis proposal; (2) scheduling the project or thesis presentation; (3) producing final copies of the thesis or dissertation.  Students who do not maintain satisfactory progress in their degree program risk having their appointments reduced or being dismissed from the program.


Please note that course credits have a longevity of 6 years from the time a course is completed.  Only graduate courses in which the student receives a grade of C or better, or 400-level courses in which the student receives a grade of B or better, may be applied towards fulfilling degree requirements.  All grades are averaged into the student's record.  Required courses in which a student received a grade of C minus or less must be repeated in order for the student to graduate.


Course Selections, Registration, and Continuation


Course from another department (maximum of three credits): A course from another department may be counted towards the CIS MS degree only when it is pre-approved based on the following criteria:

  • The course content and quality must be suitable for the CIS curriculum, and
  • The student’s MS Project/Thesis advisor requests the course, or the CIS department does not offer technical electives that the student has not previously taken.


Refer to the pre-approval process for a course from another department on the FAQs page.


400-level technical elective course (maximum of three credits): A CIS 400-level technical elective may be counted toward the CIS MS degree only when it is pre-approved based on the following criteria:

  • Such course (or courses with similar coverage) has not been taken by this student previously.
  • The graduate-level (500 and above) course on the same topic has not been taken yet.
  • The grade earned in that course must be B (not B minus) or better.


The process to earn MS credits for a 400-level technical elective course:

  • Get approval from the Graduate Program Co-Director before taking the course. Refer to the pre-approval process for a 400-level course on the FAQs page.
  • Share the approval email with the class instructor to complete your course registration.
  • Save the approval email as a record so you can apply for counting the course towards your MS degree.
  • Only after earning a grade of B or better, you can request to count the credits toward your MS degree. To do so, forward the approval email to the graduate program director with your name and ID, course number and title, the semester this course was taken, and the grade you earned. Please attach a copy of your latest transcript. The graduate program director will proceed to count the course towards your MS degree.


Internship course (EGR 500) (maximum of three credits): EGR 500 is a 3-credit course with a pass/fail grade. It is counted into program credits but not counted in the GPA.

  • To qualify and earn EGR 500 credits, an internship must:
    • Require the skills of at least junior or senior CS students.
    • Take place on-site so the student gains industry experience.
    • Be paid at a reasonable rate.
  • In order to register for EGR 500 course, a student needs to:
    • Obtain a support letter from the industry sponsor that describes the work responsibility and proves the merit of the internship.
    • Prepare a proposal that describes the project objective and outcome.
    • Fill EGR 500 Internship Registration Form.
    • Find one faculty sponsor and get their approval.
    • Submit the form and the proposal to the CIS department office (
  • To complete the EGR 500 course, the student needs to:
    • Submit a report to the faculty sponsor no later than 1 month after the course ends.
    • Give a presentation that summarizes their work experience to the graduate committee.
  • Note: If you need Curricular Practical Training (CPT) work permission for an internship job, you are required to register for the EGR 500 course. CPT information is available from the International Student & Scholar Center website.


Online course (maximum of six credits): Students in the CIS on-site MS program may take no more than two UMass Dartmouth CIS graduate-level (500 and above) online courses in their entire MS program duration with pre-approval, with additional provisions:

  • A student cannot take an online version of a course in a semester when the same course is offered on-site.
  • International students enrolled in the on-site program are subject to additional Department of Homeland Security regulations.
  • Please refer to the pre-approval process for the online courses on the FAQs page.


Course Combination Policy 


Students in the CIS on-site MS program must complete a minimum of 21 credits using CIS graduate courses (including MS Project) offered on campus. With appropriate prior approval, the remaining credits (maximum of 9 credits) can be completed by the following:

  • Computer science undergraduate technical elective course(s) not taken as part of student’s undergraduate degree (maximum of 3 credits, grade B or better)
  • EGR 500 Graduate Internship (maximum of 3 credits)
  • Computer science graduate online course(s) offered by the CIS Department (maximum of 6 credits, grade C or better)
  • Graduate course(s) taken in another department at UMD (maximum of 3 credits, grade C or better)
  • Transfer of a graduate course(s) from another accredited institution of higher learning (maximum of 6 credits, grade B- or better)


Registration for courses: Graduate students (except the 1st semester for new students) must register for courses for the next semester within the current registration period; the bill will arrive when the next semester begins.  Anyone who fails to do so may receive a letter of disenrollment and need to pay a certain fee for readmission. MS project must also be registered during the regular registration period; project continuation can wait until the semester begins.


Registration for MS project (CIS 600): To register for the MS project, students must contact CIS faculty members to identify a project advisor. Once a project advisor agrees to work with a student on the MS project, the advisor will create a CIS 600 section in COIN for the student to register. Students who plan to take CIS 600 in a given semester must identify a project advisor at least 2-3 months in advance. Last-minute requests may result in not having a suitable project advisor to guide your project.


MS project signatures and approval: After completing the MS project, the project report must be reviewed by the project advisor and two other CIS faculty members who serve as project readers. For details, refer to the CIS 600 report-approval process on the FAQs page.


MS project continuation: To get the first continuation of the MS project, the student needs the approval of the faculty adviser and must submit a support letter stating the reason for the continuation request. The second continuation is not allowed except in extremely difficult situations such as accidents or serious family matters (need documents of proof). In such exceptions, approvals from all levels are required.


Additional Degree Requirement: All full-time onsite students must pass the course CIS 599 graduate seminars for two semesters. In order to pass the course, at least 80% attendance rate is required. In addition, a one-page report, which describes at least two seminars attended, must be submitted by the end of each academic semester.


Thesis/Project Presentation Schedule 

  • The thesis defense should be scheduled for 1 hour, including 50 minutes of presentation time and 10 minutes for questions and answering (Q&A). Master's project presentation should be scheduled for 25-30 minutes.
  • Thesis and project presentations should be scheduled in the CIS 599 seminar time
  • The thesis presentation needs to be publicly announced via UMD Announce (and possibly other targeted lists) at least two weeks before the defense date. Notice of title, abstract, faculty supervisor, and committee member names should be emailed to the CIS office ( and copied to the faculty supervisor) with a minimum of three (3) weeks for development and posting of the announcement prior to a thesis presentation.
  • Project presentation is optional but can be required by the faculty advisor. It does NOT need to go to UMD Announcement. The project advisor will coordinate and schedule the presentation. The readers are not required to attend the presentation.


Continuous Registration Requirements

To maintain status as an MS degree candidate, it is necessary to be enrolled continuously (exclusive of summers) or receive an approved Leave of Absence (see below).  If you continue to work on a thesis or project after completing formal course requirements, you must remain in "Continuation" enrollment status for every semester until the thesis/project/dissertation is completed, including the semester in which final approvals are given.  You must register for Thesis/Project Continuation at the Registrar's office and pay a nominal fee in lieu of tuition and regular fees for each semester you are in that status.  If you must interrupt progress towards your degree, you need to seek a formal Leave of Absence.


Interruption or Termination of Studies

A request for a leave of absence (LOA) for one semester or one year may be made when serious illness, injury, or other major event prevents the student from participating in his/her program of study for an extended period of time.  A Leave of Absence from graduate studies can be requested by submitting a completed form (available from the Office of Graduate Studies) to the CIS Graduate Program Director.  The form should include the reason for the request and the anticipated date for returning.  A Leave of Absence involves no fees and does not require a re-admission procedure provided the student returns by the anticipated date or makes other arrangements.  A Leave of Absence differs from Graduate Program Continuation in that the latter involves fees and implies that the student is still participating in the program.  Students who fail to return from LOA after one year are dismissed from the program and must reapply to continue in their program of study.


Withdrawal from the University permanently removes the student from the program, which is a serious procedure.  Any student considering withdrawal should consult with their advisor.  If the student subsequently decides to withdraw from the University, s/he should do so formally through the normal University procedure.  Withdrawing students who hold University appointments should also submit a letter of resignation to the CIS Graduate Program Director.  Students who do not register for courses or continuing studies or do not request a Leave of Absence will be automatically withdrawn from the University.


Students who have withdrawn from the University and wish to return must apply for re-admission.  Application for re-admission is made by written request to the Office of Graduate Studies.  Re-admission is granted subject to the approval of the CIS Graduate Committee, the CIS Department Chairperson, and the Dean of the College of Engineering.


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