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Culminating Experience Committee Composition - Professional Doctoral Degrees

Professional Doctoral Degree Requirements Policy GCAC-700-B

Purpose: to define the composition of the Culminating Experience Committee in guiding the professional doctoral student in scholarly work toward their degree.

Academic Goal: to ensure that all professional doctoral students receive timely and comprehensive guidance from members of the Graduate Faculty that facilitates progress toward their degree, including meeting the Graduate Council’s Scholarly and Professional Goals for All Graduate Degree Students.

Scope: all students enrolled in any program of study leading to a professional doctoral degree.

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 Definitions

Professional Doctoral Degree Program: an integrated program of study combined with understanding of research literature to support application of knowledge to practice at the highest level, culminating in a project, portfolio, or performance that demonstrates expertise in professional practice. Students successfully completing a professional doctoral degree program are awarded the appropriate doctoral degree; professional doctoral degrees at Penn State include D.Ed., D.M.A., D.N.P., and Dr.P.H.

Research Doctoral Degree Program: an integrated program of study combined with investigation of a significant problem, question, or issue in the discipline, culminating in the completion of an original scholarly contribution (in the form of a dissertation) that expands the frontiers of knowledge. Students successfully completing a research doctoral degree program are awarded Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree.

Policy Statement

  1. General guidance of a professional doctoral candidate is the responsibility of a culminating experience committee consisting of four or more active members of the Graduate Faculty (other than for the DNP in Nursing; see section 6 below), which includes at least two faculty members in the major field.
    1. The culminating project/performance adviser must be a member of the culminating experience committee. The culminating project/performance adviser may serve as chair, but this is not required.
    2. If the candidate is also pursuing a dual-title field of study, a co-chair representing the dual-title field must be appointed. In most cases, the same individual (e.g., dissertation/performance adviser) is a member of the Graduate Faculty in both the major and dual-title fields, and in such cases may serve as sole chair.
    3. For culminating experience committees, one member of the committee may be a Category Q member of the Graduate Faculty and serve in the roles specified under Expected Duties of Category Q members.
  2. The chair or at least one co-chair must be a member of the graduate faculty of the doctoral program in which the candidate is enrolled.
    1. A retired or emeritus faculty member may chair a culminating experience committee if he/she was officially appointed and began chairing the committee prior to retirement and has the approvals noted above.
    2. The primary duties of the chair are to:
      1. maintain the academic standards of the doctoral program, Graduate Council, and the Graduate School and assure that all procedures are carried out fairly,
      2. ensure that the comprehensive examination and final oral examination/final performance are conducted in a timely fashion,
      3. arrange and conduct all meetings,
      4. ensure that requirements set forth by the committee are implemented in the final version of the culminating project/final performance.
  3. At least one regular member of the culminating experience committee must represent a field outside the candidate’s major field of study in order to provide a broader range of disciplinary perspectives and expertise. This committee member is referred to as the “Outside Field Member.”
    1. In cases where the candidate is also pursuing a dual-title field of study, the dual-title representative to the committee may serve as the Outside Field Member.
  4. Additionally, to avoid potential conflicts of interest, the primary appointment of at least one regular member of the culminating experience committee must be in an administrative unit that is outside the unit in which the dissertation/performance adviser's primary appointment is held (i.e., the adviser's administrative home; in the case of tenure-line faculty, this is the individual's tenure home). This committee member is referred to as the “Outside Unit Member.”
    1. In the case of co-advisers, the Outside Unit Member must be from outside the administrative home(s) of both co-advisers.
    2. In some cases, an individual may have a primary appointment outside the administrative home of the student’s dissertation/performance adviser and also represent a field outside the student’s major field of study; in such cases, the same individual may serve as both the Outside Field Member and the Outside Unit Member.
  5. If the candidate has a minor, that field must be represented on the committee by a “Minor Field Member.”
  6. The culminating experience committee for a D.N.P. student will consist of the student’s academic adviser, the capstone course (NURS 835) instructor, and a third member of the graduate faculty, all from the graduate program in nursing. The academic adviser will be the chair of the committee.
  7. The culminating experience committee is appointed by the director of Graduate Enrollment Services, upon recommendation of the head of the major program, soon after the student is admitted to candidacy. The dean of the Graduate School may, on occasion, appoint one or more members of the committee in addition to those recommended by the head of the program.
  8. A person who is not a member of the Graduate Faculty (and may not be affiliated with Penn State) who is otherwise qualified and has particular expertise in the candidate's research area may be added as a “Special Member,” upon recommendation by the head of the program and approval of the director of Graduate Enrollment Services). A Special Member is expected to participate fully in the functions of the culminating experience committee.
    1. If the Special Member is asked only to read and approve the culminating project or to evaluate the final performance, that person is designated a Special Signatory. Occasionally, Special Signatories may be drawn from within the Penn State faculty.
  9. Graduate Faculty members officially appointed by the Graduate School to a culminating experience committee who then leave Penn State may maintain that committee appointment for up to one year if the student's graduate program and the dean of the Graduate School, through the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services, approve the request for this exception.
  10. A retired or emeritus faculty member may serve as a culminating experience committee chair if, and only if, he/she was officially appointed and began chairing the committee prior to retirement and has the continuing approval of the program head and the dean of the Graduate School, through the Office of Graduate Enrollment Services. Requests must be sent by the program head to the director of Graduate Enrollment Services. Otherwise, the committee must be revised to either remove the faculty member from the committee or change the individual's appointment to a Special Member.
  11. The membership of culminating experience committees should be reviewed periodically by the chair or head of the program to ensure that all members continue to qualify for service on the committee in their designated roles. For example, if type of appointments, employment at the University, etc., have changed since initial appointment to the committee, changes to the committee membership may be necessary. If changes are warranted, they must be made as soon as possible to prevent future problems that may delay academic progress for the student (e.g., ability to conduct the comprehensive examination or final oral examination/final performance).

Revision History

Adapted from the Graduate Bulletin: June 2018

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