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Graduate Faculty Membership FAQs

This FAQ was developed to answer questions commonly asked about the Graduate Faculty Membership policy.


Who should be nominated to the Graduate Faculty?

Graduate Faculty membership is only intended for faculty members who will participate broadly in the training of graduate students on an ongoing basis.

All members of the Graduate Faculty must be nominated by the graduate program to which they will contribute, and must be current, full-time faculty members of the University holding an academic rank as defined in HR-21.

Faculty members who are intended to only teach graduate courses, or serve on the occasional doctoral committee should not be nominated to the Graduate Faculty; such individuals should seek permission to teach specific graduate courses, or be nominated to serve as Special Member of a doctoral committee.

Individuals holding adjunct, affiliate, visiting, and part-time appointments should not be nominated for membership in the Graduate Faculty. Finally, Graduate Faculty membership is not a way to recognize individuals who hold graduate degrees but do not participate broadly and on a continuing basis in graduate education.

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To which category of Graduate Faculty membership should an individual be nominated?

Membership in specific categories of the Graduate Faculty is predicated on how the faculty member will contribute to one or more graduate degree programs. If the nominee will contribute to a research degree program (Ph.D., M.A., or M.S.), they should be nominated to the R or the Q category, depending on the individual’s academic credentials. If the nominee will contribute to a professional doctorate or professional master’s degree program, they should be nominated to the P category. If the nominee will contribute to both a research and a professional degree program, they can be members of both categories.

If the graduate program only offers research degrees (Ph.D., M.A., or M.S.), faculty members can only be nominated to the R or the Q category. If the graduate program only offers professional degrees, faculty members can only be nominated to the P category. If the graduate program offers both research and professional degrees, the faculty member should be nominated to the R, Q, and/or P category depending on whether they are contributing to the research and/or professional degrees.

Members of the Graduate Faculty who are not sure which category of membership they were nominated for should contact the graduate program office.

The P Category is subdivided into a Professional Doctoral (P-D) Category and a Professional Master’s Degree Category (P-M).

Faculty members nominated to the P-D Category:

  • Must contribute to a professional doctorate graduate degree program under the Graduate School. Penn State offers the following professional doctorates at this time: D.Ed., D.M.A., D.N.P., and Dr.P.H.
  • Must be either a Tenure-Line, Full-time FT (FTM or FT-1), or Standing faculty member.
  • Must hold a doctorate (either a Ph.D. or a professional doctorate).
  • Must have professional experience appropriate to the professional graduate program field.

To nominate a faculty member to the P-D Category, submit the Nomination for Membership in the Graduate Faculty – Category P.

Faculty nominated to the P-M Category:

  • Must contribute to a professional master’s degree program offered by the Graduate School. Penn State offers the following professional master’s degrees at this time: M.Acc., M.Arch., M.A.S., M.B.A., M.BIOT., M.Ed., M.E.M., M.Eng., M.E.P.C., M.F.A., M.Fin., M.G.I.S., M.H.A., M.H.S., M.I.A., M.L.A., M.L.D., M.M.M., M.Mus., M.M.E., M.P.A., M.P.Acc., M.P.H., M.P.M., M.P.S., M.S.E., and M.S.N.
  • Must be either a Tenure-Line, Full-time FT (FT-1 or FTM), or Standing faculty member.
  • Must hold a master’s degree (either a research master’s (M.A. or M.S.) or a professional master’s).
  • Must have professional experience relevant to the professional master’s degree program field.

To nominate a faculty member to the P-M Category, submit the Nomination for Membership in the Graduate Faculty – Category P.

Faculty members nominated to the Q Category:

  • Must contribute to a research doctorate (Ph.D.) or research master’s (M.A. or M.S.) degree program offered by the Graduate School.
  • Must be a Tenure-Line faculty member.
  • Must hold either a terminal master’s degree with research training, or a terminal master’s degree and a record of research, in either case sufficient to contribute to research doctorate training
  • Must have an active program of research appropriate to the graduate program field.

To nominate a faculty member to the Q Category, submit the Nomination for Membership in the Graduate Faculty – Category Q.

Faculty members nominated to the R Category:

  • Must contribute to a research doctorate (Ph.D.) or research master’s (M.A. or M.S.) degree program offered by the Graduate School.
  • Must be either a Tenure-Line, Full-time FT (FT-1 or FTM), or Standing faculty member.
  • Must hold a doctorate (either a Ph.D. or a professional doctorate) and have a record of scholarly achievement and an active program of research/scholarship appropriate to the graduate program field.

To nominate a faculty member to the R Category, submit the Nomination for Membership in the Graduate Faculty – Category R.

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What are the duties and privileges of a P Category Graduate Faculty member?

All P Category Graduate Faculty members may:

  • Teach 800-level courses
  • Academically advise professional master’s degree students
  • Supervise the culminating experience in a professional master’s degree program
  • Serve on professional master’s committees
  • Chair professional master’s committees
  • Serve as the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or Professor-in-Charge (PIC) of a professional master’s graduate program.

Category P-D Graduate Faculty members may also:

  • Academically advise professional doctoral degree students
  • Supervise the culminating experience in a professional doctoral degree program
  • Serve on professional doctoral committees
  • Chair professional doctoral committees
  • Serve as the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or Professor-in-Charge (PIC) of a professional doctoral graduate program.

Tenure-Line P Category Graduate Faculty members may also:

  • Teach 500-level courses
  • Serve as a Special Member of research doctorate (Ph.D.) committees
  • Serve as Head of a professional graduate degree program.

Tenure-Line and Standing P Category Graduate Faculty members may also:

  • Serve on Graduate Council and its committees and subcommittees, and vote on matters submitted to the Graduate Faculty for vote.

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What are duties and privileges of a Q Category Graduate Faculty member?

All Q Category Graduate Faculty members may:

  • Academically advise master's degree students
  • Teach 500-, 600-, and 800-level courses
  • Supervise research master’s (M.A. and M.S.) research
  • Supervise the culminating experience in a professional master’s degree program
  • Serve on master’s degree committees
  • Co-advise research doctorate (Ph.D.) students students with an R Category member of the Graduate Faculty
  • Co-supervise research doctorate (Ph.D.) dissertation research with an R Category member of the Graduate Faculty
  • Serve on Ph.D. committees as a regular member, including as Major Field Member, Outside Field Member, Outside Unit Member, and/or Minor Field Member. May not serve as Chair.

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What are duties and privileges of an R Category Graduate Faculty member?

All R Category Graduate Faculty members may:

  • Academically advise graduate students
  • Teach 500-, 600-, and 800-level courses
  • Supervise research master’s (M.A. and M.S.) research
  • Supervise research doctorate (Ph.D.) dissertation research
  • Serve on research doctorate (Ph.D.) and research master’s (M.A. and M.S.) committees
  • Chair research doctorate (Ph.D.) and research master’s (M.A. and M.S.) committees
  • Serve as the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or Professor-in-Charge (PIC) of a graduate program
  • Serve on Graduate Council and its committees and subcommittees, and vote on matters submitted to the Graduate Faculty for vote
  • Advise and supervise the culminating experience of students in a professional doctorate or professional master’s program.

Additionally, Tenure-line R Category Graduate Faculty members may:

  • Serve as the Head of a graduate program.

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Who can teach 500-level courses?

R Category, Q Category, and tenure-line P Category members of the Graduate Faculty can teach 500-level courses.

Non-tenure-line P Category members of the Graduate Faculty can receive approval to teach 500-level courses by submitting a Recommendation for Approval to Teach 500- or 800-level Courses form. For initial requests to teach a course, Approval to Teach will be granted for up to two semesters. After that, individuals can reapply for an extension of up to three years. The application for an extension must include satisfactory student evaluations (SRTEs) and peer evaluations. There is no limit on the number of three year extensions that may be granted.

Individuals who are not members of the Graduate Faculty but who have appropriate qualifications can teach graduate-level courses (500 and 800 level) by submitting the Recommendation for Approval to Teach 500- or 800-level Courses form. For initial requests to teach a course, Approval to Teach will be granted for up to two semesters. After that, individuals can reapply for an extension of up to three years. The application for an extension must include satisfactory student evaluations (SRTEs) and peer evaluations. There is no limit on the number of three year extensions that may be granted.

Exceptions to the requirement for a doctoral degree to teach 500-level courses will be considered on a case-by-case basis for non-tenure-line P Category members of the Graduate Faculty or for individuals who are not members of the Graduate Faculty. Such individuals must have a terminal master’s degree that is accepted for tenure-line appointments in the field at Penn State (as documented by existing tenure line appointments of faculty members with the same terminal degree in the department making the request), and must be engaged in scholarship in a field relevant to the course for which permission is sought.

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Who can serve on doctoral committees?

All P-D Category members can:

  • Supervise the culminating experience in a professional doctoral degree program
  • Serve on professional doctoral committees
  • Chair professional doctoral committees.

All Q Category members can:

  • Co-advise research doctorate (Ph.D.) students with an R Category member of the Graduate Faculty
  • Co-supervise research doctorate (Ph.D.) dissertation research with an R Category member of the Graduate Faculty
  • Serve on Ph.D. committees as a regular member, including as Major Field Member, Outside Field Member, Outside Unit Member, and/or Minor Field Member. May not serve as Chair.

All R Category members can:

  • Supervise research doctorate (Ph.D.) dissertation research
  • Serve on research doctorate (Ph.D.) and research master’s (M.A. and M.S.) committees
  • Chair research doctorate (Ph.D.) and research master’s (M.A. and M.S.) committees
  • Advise and supervise the culminating experience in a professional master’s or doctoral degree program.

Any member of the Graduate Faculty and individuals with appropriate qualifications who are not members of the Graduate Faculty can serve as a Special Member of research (Ph.D.) and professional doctoral committees. A Special Member is expected to fully participate in the functions of the doctoral committee. The Special Member serves in addition to the required four or more members of the Graduate Faculty on research doctorate (Ph.D.) committees, three of whom must be Category R and one may be Category Q. Refer to the Graduate Council policy on Doctoral Committees.

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Who can serve on master’s committees?

All P Category members can:

  • Supervise the culminating experience in a professional master’s degree program

All Q Category members can:

  • Supervise research master’s (M.A. and M.S.) research
  • Supervise the culminating experience in a professional master’s degree program
  • Serve on master’s degree committees

All R Category members can:

  • Supervise research master’s (M.A. and M.S.) research
  • Serve on research master’s (M.A. and M.S.) committees
  • Chair research master’s (M.A. and M.S.) committees
  • Advise and supervise the culminating experience in a professional master’s degree program.

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Tenure-Line P Category Graduate Faculty members can serve as Head of a professional graduate degree program.

Tenure-line R Category Graduate Faculty members can serve as the Head of any graduate program.

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Who can be a Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or a Professor-in-Charge (PIC) of a graduate program?

Any P Category Graduate Faculty member can serve as the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or Professor-in-Charge (PIC) of a professional graduate program.

Any R Category Graduate Faculty member can serve as the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) or Professor-in-Charge (PIC) of any graduate program.

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How can an existing member of the Graduate Faculty be added to the Graduate Faculty of another graduate program?

If the Graduate Faculty member has already been approved for the appropriate category (R, Q, or P) of the program to which they will join, it is not necessary to obtain additional approval or submit an additional form. The Head of the graduate program that wants to add the Graduate Faculty member to his/her program simply notifies the Graduate School by sending an email request to the Dean’s office to update the program’s Graduate Faculty listing.

If the Graduate Faculty member needs to be approved for an additional category, a new nomination form for the appropriate category must be submitted. For example, a nomination form for Category R membership must be submitted if an approved P Category member of the Graduate Faculty is being nominated to contribute to a research degree program (Ph.D., M.A., or M.S.).

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How can individuals who are not eligible to be members of the Graduate Faculty contribute to graduate education at Penn State?

As noted above in the Who can teach 500-level courses? section, individuals with appropriate qualifications can teach graduate-level courses (500 and 800 level) by submitting the Recommendation for Approval to Teach 500- or 800-level Courses form. For initial requests to teach a course, Approval to Teach will be granted for up to two semesters. After that, individuals can reapply for an extension of up to three years. The application for an extension must include satisfactory student evaluations (SRTEs) and peer evaluations. There is no limit on the number of three year extensions that may be granted.

Individuals with appropriate qualifications can also serve as Special Members of research (Ph.D.) and professional doctoral committees. A Special Member is expected to fully participate in the functions of the doctoral committee. The Special Member serves in addition to the required four or more members of the Graduate Faculty on research doctorate (Ph.D.) committees, three of whom must be Category R and one may be Category Q. Refer to the Graduate Council policy on Doctoral Committees.

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