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Purpose

To describe when and how a Ph.D. student’s Ph.D. committee is formed and maintained through the course of their degree program of study.

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Academic Goal

To ensure that all research doctoral students benefit from the expert advice and assistance of multiple members of the Graduate Faculty.

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Scope

All students enrolled in programs of study leading to the Ph.D.

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Background

Policy Statement

  1. Each Ph.D. student shall have an appointed Ph.D. Committee to guide their research training.
  2. Ph.D. Committee Appointment: A student’s Ph.D. Committee shall be nominated to the Graduate School by the student’s major Graduate Program Head as soon as possible after the student has secured an adviser, but in no event later than one calendar year following the date of the student’s successful completion of the Qualifying Examination unless an alternative timing is approved through the Graduate Council’s curricular review process.
    1. The guiding principle for members of the Ph.D. Committee is the success of the student.
    2. While it is expected that the Graduate Program Head will consult with the student, the student’s adviser, and as appropriate the dual-title and/or minor Graduate Program Head, the Graduate Program Head is responsible for nominating members of the Ph.D. Committee to the Graduate School, designating Ph.D. Committee member roles, and ensuring appropriate Ph.D. Committee composition that is in the best interests of the student and the completion of their dissertation. Ph.D. Committees must be approved by the Dean of the Graduate School.
    3. The Dean of the Graduate School may appoint one or more members to the Ph.D. Committee in addition to those recommended by the Graduate Program Head.
  3. Minimum Ph.D. Committee Membership: A student’s Ph.D. Committee shall consist at minimum of four members of the Graduate Faculty, each of whom shall be in a position to contribute substantially to the student’s education. At least two of these four members shall be from the student's major graduate program.
  4. Ph.D. Committee Member Roles: Each Committee shall have a Ph.D. Committee Chair, Outside Field Member, Outside Unit Member, and include the student’s Dissertation Adviser. The Ph.D. Committee Chair and Dissertation Adviser may be one and the same. For students pursuing a graduate minor, the Ph.D. Committee shall include a Minor Field Program Member representing each graduate minor. Ph.D. Committees may also include other participants who are not members of the Graduate Faculty but are otherwise qualified and have particular expertise in the student’s research area. All Ph.D. Committee Members are expected to participate fully in the affairs of the Ph.D. Committee.
    1. Ph.D. Committee Chair: The Ph.D. Committee Chair shall be a member of the Graduate Faculty and the student’s major Graduate Program. The Ph.D. Committee Chair is responsible for arranging and conducting all Ph.D. Committee Meetings, ensuring that all Graduate Program, Graduate Council, and Graduate School standards and requirements relative to the doctoral degree are met, and that any conditions set by the Ph.D. Committee are fulfilled.
      1. For students pursuing dual-title degrees, either the Ph.D. Committee Chair or a co-Chair must be a Graduate Faculty member of the dual-title program.
    2. Dissertation Adviser: Each Committee shall include the student’s Dissertation Adviser. The Dissertation Adviser is responsible for the day-to-day guidance of the student’s dissertation research, and academic and professional development.
      1. Where day-to-day guidance is shared by two members of the Graduate Faculty, both may be appointed to the Ph.D. Committee as co-Advisers.
      2. Co-advisers are jointly and severally responsible for the day-to-day guidance of the student’s dissertation research, and academic and professional development.
      3. A Dissertation Advisor may also serve as the Ph.D. Committee Chair (or co-Chair).
    3. Outside Field Member: Each Ph.D. Committee shall have appointed at least one Outside Field Member. The Outside Field Member must have a disciplinary expertise different from the student’s primary field of study, and is responsible for broadening the disciplinary perspective available to the student and the Ph.D. Committee. The Outside Field Member may be from student’s graduate program, but may not also serve as a major program member. In cases where the candidate is also pursuing a dual-title program, any dual-title Graduate Faculty member of the Ph.D. Committee may serve as the Outside Field Member.
    4. Outside Unit Member(s): Each Ph.D. Committee shall have appointed at least one Outside Unit Member. The Outside Unit Member is responsible for bringing to the attention of the student and the Ph.D. Committee [non-academic] issues (including, for example, conflicts of interest) that may impact a student’s progress. Outside Unit Members must have their primary academic appointment in an administrative unit different than the Ph.D. Committee Chair(s) and Dissertation Adviser(s).
    5. Minor Program Member(s): Ph.D. Committees assigned to students pursuing graduate minors shall include at least one Minor Program Member for each graduate minor. Each graduate minor pursued by a student shall be represented by at least one Minor Program Member who is a member of the Graduate Faculty and a member of that minor graduate program. Minor Program Members are responsible for providing the student and the Ph.D. Committee with information, advice and perspective on student progress in fulfilling the graduate minor requirements in the graduate program they represent.
    6. Special Members: Ph.D. Committees may include Special Members who are not members of the Graduate Faculty but are otherwise qualified and have particular expertise in the student’s research area. Special Members do not have to be affiliated with Penn State.
  5. Annual Review of Ph.D. Committee Membership: It is crucial that all committee members remain actively engaged in the guidance of the student through the completion of their program. The Graduate Program Head of the student’s major program shall review annually each student’s Ph.D. Committee to ensure that all Ph.D. Committee members continue to qualify for service in their designated roles. The Graduate Program Head is responsible for promptly making any necessary changes and informing the Graduate School.
  6. When Ph.D. Committee Members Retire or Become Emeritus
    1. Ph.D. Committee Members who retire or become emeritus may continue to serve for the duration of the student’s program if they were appointed to the Ph.D. Committee in this role prior to retirement, and they have the continuing approval of the student’s Graduate Program Head and the Graduate School. (In the case of students pursuing a dual-title degree, the dual-title Graduate Program Head must also approve.)
    2. As specified in 5 (above) it is the responsibility of the Graduate Program Head to ensure that all Ph.D. Committee members continue to qualify for service in their designated roles. The Graduate Program Head will review the committee membership whenever any committee member retires to ensure that students receive expert faculty guidance through their dissertation project.
  7. When Ph.D. Committee Members Leave the University: Ph.D. Committee Members in any role who leave Penn State for reasons other than retiring or becoming emeritus may maintain their committee appointment for up to one year with the approval of the student's Graduate Program Head and the Dean of the Graduate School.
  8. Other Changes in Ph.D. Committee Membership: If the need for Ph.D. Committee membership change is required, whether at the time of an annual review or otherwise, the student’s major Graduate Program Head will promptly make the necessary changes and notify the director of Graduate Enrollment Services.

Procedures

Forms

Research Doctoral Committee Appointment

Revision History

Approved by Graduate Council, May 2, 2018. Effective date: Fall 2018 (8/13/2018).

  • This policy was revised extensively. Note that the name change from “Candidacy Examination” to “Qualifying Examination” was approved as part of this policy change.