Student Handbook

X. PERIODIC EVALUATIONS OF PROGRESS

Evaluation of student progress is an essential feature of our graduate program. The fundamental purpose of evaluation is to ensure that students complete the program in the most rewarding way possible, and achieve the highest standards of excellence in their development as scholars. Periodic evaluation offers students substantive guidance about their projects and a reminder to be timely in the completion of their work. In short, the faculty is committed to periodic evaluation as a constructive process.

In some instances, the department will decide that a student may not continue in the program, either because of clear signs of lack of progress, or because the program is no longer serving the needs and interests of that student. However, this decision, consistent with all assessments, is made according to the guidelines for review set forth below and in as transparent a fashion as possible.

1. Annual Review and Individual Development Plans

The primary instrument for periodic evaluation is the Annual Review. To offer feedback in the timeliest way, all students are reviewed annually, including those in the advanced stages of dissertation work. Different cohorts are reviewed at different times of the year. Students are evaluated on the quality of their performance in class, on independent research projects including qualifying papers, and in their success in meeting the department’s expectations regarding the reasonable progress deadlines.

In the near future the department will be implementing a new system of Individual Development Plans, IDPs, as a way to enhance our mentoring activities.

a.    Criteria for Evaluation: The following specific criteria are used for evaluation:

  • Course grades. Attention is given to both the student’s distribution of grades and the overall GPA.
  • Progress on Qualifying Papers and on the Dissertation.  The department considers the quality of this aspect of the student’s work and the timeliness with which it is completed.
  • Incompletes. Carrying Incompletes, and/or a recurrent failure to complete coursework on time, is considered a cause for concern.  
  • Other factors.  The faculty may also consider additional factors, including for example, a student’s ability to respond thoughtfully to faculty feedback, originality and rigor of a student’s work, the breadth of a student’s course of study, and compliance with the university’s code of ethics.

b.    Timing of Reviews: First- and second-year students are reviewed in late March. Students in the third through seventh years are reviewed in the fall semester.

c.    Providing Feedback to Students: The Graduate Director sends a letter to each student within a month following the Annual Review, summarizing the faculty’s assessment of the student’s progress and offering constructive criticism and guidance moving forward.

2. Master’s Review

The Annual Review process is the single most important means of student evaluation in the department. But at the time that the student completes the Second-Year Paper and all coursework necessary for the Master’s degree, the faculty takes stock of the student’s overall progress. The student’s committee makes one of three recommendations: (a) to grant the Master’s degree as a stepping stone to the Ph.D.; (b) to grant a terminal Master’s degree signifying that the student may not continue in the program toward the Ph.D.; or (c) to deny the Master’s degree. Most students completing the Master’s degree fall into category (a).

3. Students under 3-6-9 Plan: Work Plans, Unsatisfactory Progress, and Discontinuation

If a student under the 3-6-9 plan fails to meet a guideline, the GPD will request a work plan from the student, with the full involvement of the student’s advisor and committee members.   The work plan will acknowledge key dates and activities to ensure continuation in the program by completing the necessary task before reaching program deadlines.  Note: Work plans may be required of any student, whether under the 3-6-9 plan or not, for missing important guidelines and issues related to time to degree.

If the student has not completed the required work by our current Annual Review Meetings, held each fall semester for years 3+, we will also assess the progress of students who have not completed their second-year paper. Spring semester review for years 1 and 2, will be conducted along with time devoted to assessing the progress of students in years 4, 5 and 6 regarding their Final Qualifying Paper and Dissertation Proposal Defense. With each review the student and the student’s advisor will receive an annual review letter noting satisfactory or unsatisfactory progress regarding their progress on these benchmarks in addition to other comments. The student will have until the deadline (see above) to complete the required work or face program discontinuation.

In summary – a Missed Guideline date will require the GPD in the Annual Review Letter (or special letter as necessary) to request a Work Plan approved by the student’s committee members and the GPD. A follow-up letter from the GPD will indicate either “Satisfactory or Unsatisfactory Progress on the student’s work plan”. The student has until the Deadline to complete the work or face discontinuation. If there are extenuating circumstances the student will be encourage to pursue Matriculation Continued or leave status.

4. ABD Yearly Update

The Graduate Program Committee now requires all ABD students to provide a yearly written update on their progress to their advisor, committee members, and the GPD. Each ABD student must fill out and submit a year ABD Update Form. This is to assure the student is making reasonable progress in completing the dissertation by the Y9 deadline. Note: the SGS expects all of its graduate students to complete their degree within 7 years. This review process will occur each spring semester during the annual review of cohorts 1 and 2. Failure to provide a yearly update or achieve its objectives will be noted in the student’s record, and will be considered at the Year 9 deadline.

5. Discontinuation for Other Reasons

Students could face discontinuation from the program for several other reasons in addition to missing essential program deadlines. These include (but not limited to): 

1.      Registration Lapses. Any unapproved lapse in registration will be considered a voluntary withdrawal from the program. In extenuating circumstances, students may request a formal leave of absence or register as Matriculation Continued (maximum 2 semesters) with the permission of the student’s advisor and Graduate Program Director.

a. Note: A student on MC or leave of absence may not bank their funding. In such cases, the student’s funding is lost for those semesters away.

2.      Ten Year Maximum. The SGS Graduate Student Handbook states: “All students are expected to complete their degrees within 10 years. In the event that a student has been enrolled for 10 years without completing the degree, and the student’s continuation beyond 10 years has not been approved under the foregoing process, the student will be informed that he or she has ninety days to show cause why he or she should not be dismissed from the School of Graduate Studies.” 

3.      Losing Contact: Any student, including ABDs, who is not in regular contact with their advisor(s) and committee members for a year (2 consecutive semesters) will be viewed as voluntarily withdrawing from the program.  We define regular contact as an in-person meeting, Skype or phone conversation with follow-up emails at least once each semester between the advisor and student.  It will be the student’s responsibility to stay in contact with their advisor and committee members and to respond to faculty inquiries. Faculty should keep emails and other records of contact with their advisees, in case a student contests discontinuation.

4.      Excessive Incompletes: Any student with more than 2 incompletes in any semester will face discontinuation from the program. SGS Graduate Handbook requires that a student with 2 or 1 incomplete(s) has only 1 semester to reduce the student’s incompletes to 1 or none respectively.  Any student who has not made-up their final incomplete within 1 year will face discontinuation from the program.

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