Forming a Committee

Preliminary Committee

Students should work to determine the faculty member most appropriate to serve as the Chair of the student’s preliminary committee. Ideally, this decision will be made by the end of the first quarter, but certainly no later than the middle of the second quarter. At least two additional members must serve on the student’s committee. For this committee, as well as the other committees described on this page, both the Chair and one other committee member must be on the Department of Geography's Graduate Faculty. Please click the link above for definition.

The preliminary committee is responsible for helping the student identify necessary and beneficial courses, and helping to isolate a possible topic for dissertation research. The committee also oversees the Preliminary Review.

The Doctoral Supervisory Committee

The Doctoral Supervisory Committee is recognized by the Graduate School, and must be constituted prior to the General Examination.  Rules regarding the makeup of this committee are specified in Graduate School Memorandum 13. The Doctoral Supervisory Committee consists of a minimum of 4 members, at least 3 of whom, including the Chair and the Graduate School Representative (GSR), must be members of the Graduate Faculty with an endorsement to chair doctoral committees. A majority of the members must be members of the Graduate Faculty. The remaining members must be identified by the student’s appointing department or program as productive scholars in the student’s major field and/or sub-fields. The Chair of a committee must be able and willing to assume primary responsibility for advising the student. In addition, the Chair should have adequate time available for this work and should be accessible to the student. Emeritus faculty may serve as a Chair if the above conditions are met. Co-Chairs may be appointed when both serve with equal importance on a student’s supervisory committee and equally share the responsibility for the student’s progress.

The GSR must be a productive scholar in their own research area that may differ from that of the student’s dissertation project. The GSR represents the broad concerns of the Graduate School with respect to high standards of scholarly performance, ensuring that the student’s mastery of the subject matter is broad and comprehensive. The GSR is a voting member of the committee and must attest to the validity of examinations, indicate approval of the process by which examinations are conducted, ensure that the student is treated in an unbiased manner, and represent the Graduate School in ensuring university-wide standards of scholarly performance. The GSR must sign the warrant. As a full voting member of the dissertation supervisory committee, the GSR provides an important service function to the Graduate School and the University.

It is vital that the appearance of conflict of interest in the selection of the GSR be avoided. Examples of possible conflicts of interest include: budgetary relationships, personal relationships, or research and/or publication relationships between the GSR and either the student or the committee chair. The GSR is responsible for ensuring that no such conflicts of interest, or appearance of conflicts of interest, exist, and must attest to this upon request.

When the Doctoral Supervisory Committee members have been agreed upon, the student should provide the list of names to the Director of Academic Services, who will then submit the committee to the Graduation School via MyGrad.

Reading Committee

As students near completion of their dissertations, and before scheduling the Final Examination, a Reading Committee is selected to read, report on, and determine whether to approve the dissertation. At least one of the members of the Reading Committee must hold an endorsement to chair doctoral committees. Generally, the GSR is not a member of the Reading Committee. After consultation, either the committee chair or the student should inform the Director of Academic Services of the 3 to 4 members from the Doctoral Supervisory Committee who will serve as the Reading Committee. The Director of Academic Services will transmit the information to the Graduate School via MyGrad.

It is the responsibility of a Reading Committee to:

  • Ensure that the dissertation is a significant contribution to knowledge and is an acceptable piece of scholarly writing;
  • Determine the appropriateness of a candidate’s dissertation as a basis for issuing a warrant for a Final Examination;
  • Approve a candidate’s dissertation and;
  • Sign two original Signature Pages that are placed within a dissertation after all revisions are completed.
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