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Recommended Practices in Graduate Education

Fostering successful interactions among faculty, administrators, and graduate students

 

This document suggests examples of recommended practices in each of three core areas for all of the key participants in graduate student education. Programs are encouraged to use these suggestions as a starting point to develop a set of recommended practices that meets the needs of their students.

The six core Penn State Values form the fundamental principles underlying our institutional mission of teaching, research and service. These values are: Integrity, Respect, Responsibility, Discovery, Excellence and Community. All of our students, faculty and staff are expected to embody these values throughout their time at Penn State. The Graduate Council believes these core values are central components of effective advising and mentoring of graduate students across the University and that they contribute to ensuring the climate within all of our graduate programs is one of inclusion and respect. Successful and productive advising relationships with students require that both students and faculty promote and demonstrate the highest ethical and professional standards, while maintaining open communication and a shared sense of community and accountability.

The following statements are recommended practices for creating and sustaining important developmental relationships between faculty and students within our graduate programs. The Graduate Council strongly recommends every graduate degree program develop a set of similar statements outlining recommended practices that fit the needs of the program. The statement should be disseminated to all graduate students and faculty members at the start of each academic year to outline expectations for all student-faculty-administrator interactions, which include but are not limited to advising, mentoring, teaching, research, and training.


In each of the following areas, faculty members are expected to act in accordance with the practices described below:

Climate:

Practices that contribute to a respectful, stimulating, supportive climate include the following:

  1. Serve as a role model by demonstrating ethical, professional, and courteous behavior toward all students, staff, and faculty.
  2. Be supportive, equitable, accessible, and respectful.
  3. Promote an environment that is intellectually stimulating, collaborative, respectful, and collegial.
  4. Recognize and respect the diversity within our community consistent with Penn State's overall commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  5. Show sensitivity to the power imbalance in the faculty-student relationship.
  6. Take into consideration a student’s need to manage competing demands while maintaining timely progress towards their degree.
  7. Meet with students to discuss topics such as climate, collegial relations, etc. should the need arise.
  8. Refer students proactively to appropriate university resources to provide support (e.g. financial, physical/emotional health, career development).

Academic Issues:

Practices that promote students’ academic success include the following:

  1. Advise students on the selection of appropriate course work, thesis/dissertation committee and topic or capstone project, and completion of other benchmarks.
  2. Set clear expectations and goals for students regarding their academic performance and progress toward degree completion.
  3. Discuss policies and expectations for assistantship hours, responsibilities, and absences related to university closure, holidays, illness, etc.
  4. Develop an appropriate schedule to meet with students to provide feedback on scholarly activities and progress.
  5. Provide students with oversight, as appropriate, to the discipline in all relevant aspects of research, training and scholarship.
  6. Guide and recommend training, study, and other resources to develop or enhance students’ skills and competencies.
  7. Devise effective ways of providing students with guidance and supervision during a prolonged absence should the need arise.
  8. Provide and discuss clear criteria for authorship and acknowledgement of contributions at the beginning of all collaborative projects.

Career Development Issues:

Practices that promote the career development of students include the following:

  1. Encourage participation in professional meetings, associations, collaborations, and opportunities within and beyond the university. Assist students with identifying resources to fund such activities.
  2. Provide career advice, offer help with interview and application preparation, and write letters of recommendation in a timely manner.
  3. Ensure that students receive assistance with developing the skills needed for a successful career in their field/discipline, including oral and written communication, and grant preparation as appropriate.
  4. Recognize that students will pursue a variety of careers, including those outside of academia and/or their discipline, and assist them in achieving their chosen career goals.
  5. Schedule meetings to discuss topics such as professional development, career objectives, and opportunities, etc.
  6. Align assigned responsibilities and activities with students’ academic/professional career development as appropriate.

In each of the following areas, graduate students are expected to act in accordance with the practices below:

Climate Issues:

Practices that contribute to a respectful, stimulating, supportive climate include the following:

  1. Demonstrate ethical, professional, and courteous behavior toward other students, staff, and faculty.
  2. Recognize and respect the diversity within our community consistent with Penn State's overall commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  3. Be proactive about communicating needs, concerns, etc. with faculty and staff, understanding that communication is a two-way endeavor.
  4. Take into consideration, in interactions with faculty and staff, competing constraints on their time.
  5. Inform relevant faculty of potential and/or existing conflicts, and work toward their resolution. In the event that a solution cannot be reached, students should seek assistance from graduate program chairs, department heads, college administrators of graduate education, or the Graduate School.

Academic Issues:

Practices that promote students’ academic success include the following:

  1. Recognize that while faculty and staff are there to assist and guide students, the student bears the primary responsibility for the successful completion of their degree.
  2. Discuss expectations and goals regarding academic performance and progress toward degree completion with advisors, committees, and other relevant faculty members.
  3. Maintain the highest ethical standards and academic integrity in all aspects of scholarship, teaching, research, and other responsibilities.
  4. Be familiar with program and Graduate Council policies governing graduate education and adhere to all program, Graduate Council, and Graduate School policies and deadlines.
  5. Act proactively to improve research and scholarship skills (e.g. writing, presenting, teaching, etc.).

Career Development Issues:

Practices that promote the career development of students include the following:

  1. Take an active role in identifying and pursuing professional development opportunities.
  2. Communicate with faculty members regarding career goals.
  3. Seek mentoring and support/resources beyond faculty advisor (e.g. other faculty members, peers, and organizations).

In each of the following areas, representatives of academic departments and graduate programs are expected to act in accordance with the practices below:

Climate Issues:

Practices that contribute to a respectful, stimulating, supportive climate include the following:

  1. Maintain an open, inclusive, and respectful environment that is free from harassment and discrimination, in accordance with university policies and initiatives.
  2. Recognize and respect the diversity within our community consistent with Penn State's overall commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  3. Refer students proactively to appropriate university resources to address potential issues (e.g. financial, physical/emotional health, career development).
  4. Provide students with contacts and resources for potential conflict resolution (e.g. graduate program chairs, department heads, college administrators of graduate education, the Graduate School, Office of Sexual Misconduct, Prevention and Response, Affirmative Action Office, Office of Ethics and Compliance, Diversity and Inclusion/Multicultural Affairs Office, etc.).

Academic Issues:

Practices that promote students’ academic success include the following:

  1. Provide students with up-to-date information that includes policies, practices, degree requirements, and resources.
  2. Assist students with selection of their advisor as needed. Monitor and document graduate student progress toward their degrees and professional development, including committee meetings, exam completion, and other benchmarks appropriate to their discipline.
  3. Provide and monitor training in academic integrity and the ethical conduct of research.
  4. Provide infrastructure, as appropriate, to allow students to complete their education and research/scholarship in a timely and productive manner.
  5. Establish, communicate, and adhere to policies for absences, emergencies, and unplanned situations that may disrupt the work of students and/or faculty.
  6. Ensure that university policies related to graduate assistantships (e.g. assistantship hours, responsibilities, and absences related to university closure, holidays, illness, etc.) are followed.
  7. Incorporate these guidelines and recommendations in readily accessible departmental policies or handbooks and actively promote their observance.

Career Development Issues:

Practices that promote the career development of students include the following:

  1. Encourage participation in professional meetings, associations, collaborations, and opportunities within and beyond the university. Assist students with identifying resources to fund such activities.
  2. Ensure that students receive assistance with developing the skills needed for a successful career in their field/discipline, including oral and written communication and grant preparation as appropriate.
  3. Recognize that students will pursue a variety of careers; including those outside of academia and/or their discipline, and assist them in achieving their chosen career goals (e.g. provide and/or refer students to appropriate professional development activities/resources).
  4. Provide students with access to pedagogical training and regular assessment of their teaching and other assistantship activities.
  5. Partner with students and their advisors to align assigned responsibilities and activities with students’ academic/professional career development goals as appropriate.

In each of the following areas, representatives of the Graduate School are expected to act in accordance with the practices below:

Climate Issues:

Practices that contribute to a respectful, stimulating, supportive climate include the following:

  1. Maintain an open, inclusive, and respectful environment that is free from harassment and discrimination, in accordance with university policies and initiatives.
  2. Recognize and respect the diversity within our community consistent with Penn State's overall commitment to diversity and inclusion.
  3. Collaborate with academic programs, university offices/committees, and student organizations to address issues and concerns related to the well-being of graduate students.
  4. Refer students proactively to appropriate university resources to address potential issues (e.g. financial, physical/emotional health, career development).
  5. Provide students with contacts and resources for potential conflict resolution (e.g. graduate program chairs, department heads, college administrators of graduate education, the Graduate School, Office of Sexual Misconduct, Prevention and Response, Affirmative Action Office, Office of Ethics and Compliance, Diversity and Inclusion/Multicultural Affairs Office, etc.).

Academic Issues:

Practices that promote students’ academic success include the following:

  1. Provide students, faculty, and staff with up-to-date information regarding graduate education that includes policies, practices, degree requirements, and resources.
  2. Monitor and document graduate student progress towards their degrees and professional development, including exam completions and other formal benchmarks.
  3. Provide resources to support the development or enhancement of students’ skills and competencies.

Career Development Issues:

Practices that promote the career development of students include the following:

  1. Provide and/or refer students to a broad range of professional development activities/resources to prepare them for careers upon degree completion.
  2. Connect students with the Graduate School alumni network to facilitate the establishment of mentoring relationships and career development opportunities.

Approved by Graduate Council, February 14, 2018.

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