Graduate Catalog
2018-2019
 
Policies, Procedures, Academic Programs
Graduate School Policies
Graduate Advisory Committees

Committee Functions

The student's advisory committee works with the student to design a Plan of Study, approves the Plan of Study, provides advice, conducts required examinations and regularly assesses the student's progress and accomplishments. Advisory committee members are appointed by the Graduate School on recommendation of the Department Head or Graduate Program Director via submission of a Plan of Study listing the proposed committee members.

Committee Composition and Size

Advisory committees will be composed principally of Virginia Tech-associated Graduate Program faculty members, who have the primary responsibility for the operation and integrity of graduate education programs in their departments, schools, and programs (“academic units”). These individuals are recommended by their academic units to serve as Graduate Program faculty members on the basis of having earned the appropriate terminal degree (or having gained equivalent professional experience), maintaining a record of scholarly productivity, and showing evidence of successful involvement with graduate education within the previous five years. 

Virginia Tech faculty members who meet the three criteria above can serve as Chairs (within their home degree-granting academic units), Co-Chairs, or Members of graduate student advisory committees.  Eligible faculty categories include the Tenured/Tenure-track, Clinical, Extension, Collegiate, Research, and Professor of Practice ranks as defined in the Virginia Tech Faculty Handbook. Virginia Tech faculty members who meet the first two criteria but have not previously had the opportunity to advise or supervise graduate students can, if paired with or mentored by an experienced Virginia Tech faculty member, qualify as Graduate Program faculty and serve as Chair, Co-Chair, or Member on graduate student advisory committees. 

Department Heads/Chairs or Graduate Program Directors may nominate faculty members in their academic units for Graduate Program Faculty status by submitting the form at http://graduateschool.vt.edu/content/dam/graduateschool_vt_edu/GAAPforms/graduate-committee-service-approval-form.pdf.

A student pursuing a Master’s degree must have an advisory committee of at least three faculty members with the appropriate terminal degree (i.e., Master's degree or higher). In some instances, it is appropriate to have fewer (minimum of 1) faculty members serving on the advisory committee when students are pursuing a coursework-only degree (e.g., MBA). Departments offering coursework-only degrees can petition the Commission on Graduate and Professional Studies and Policies for approval to reduce the size of the committee.  Doctoral candidates must have an advisory committee of at least four faculty members with the appropriate terminal doctoral degree or the equivalent in professional experience. The student should also refer to the departmental policies and procedures document for any guidelines for graduate advisory committee service or composition specific to their department or program.

In addition to members of the Graduate Program faculty, other individuals can be appointed to serve as Members, or under certain circumstances as Co-Chairs, on graduate student advisory committees.  This category includes retired or Emeritus Virginia Tech faculty members, Virginia Tech employees (e.g., Research Scientists, Administrative/Professional Faculty, Instructors, Adjunct Faculty), and non-Virginia Tech-employed individuals, who are qualified by terminal degree/professional experience and scholarly productivity and who, by inclusion, can provide specific expertise to enrich the student’s program.  Recommendation that such an individual be appointed to serve on a graduate student’s advisory committee must be made by the student’s home academic unit (using the form identified above) and approved by the Graduate School.

Identification of Committee Members

Selection of an individual student’s advisory committee membership, drawn from the Virginia Tech Graduate Program faculty and, if desired, approved non-Graduate Program faculty individuals, is performed jointly by the student and his/her advisory committee Chair and approved by the Graduate Program Director of the student’s home academic unit.  Graduate Program faculty members must constitute at least two-thirds of the minimum committee membership (e.g., at least two of the three members for master’s degrees and at least three of the four members for doctoral degrees).

Once the minimum committee membership total has been satisfied as described, individuals not meeting the criteria of degree/experience credentials, scholarly achievement, and graduate education experience may be added as additional Members of a student’s committee if, in the view of the student’s home academic unit, that individual can provide specific expertise to enrich the student’s program.  Approval of these individuals for service is likewise recommended via the form identified above.

In selecting members of their advisory committees, students and their committee Chair should take pains to avoid situations that might create conflicts of interest for the student or be impacted by coercive relationships among the committee members or between the student and committee members.  It is of paramount importance that all committee members be free to evaluate the student’s work based on its academic merit alone.

Composition of the student’s advisory committee is communicated by the Graduate Program Director to the Graduate School in the form of the student’s Plan of Study, on which all committee members are signatories. 

Additional considerations

Faculty members are not permitted to serve as Advisor or committee member for family members (spouse or dependent immediate family member), nor for individuals with whom they have a close personal relationship, such as partner or extended family member, or a close professional relationship such as business associate or supervisor.  A faculty member with a significant financial interest may not serve as sole advisor of a dissertation or thesis committee for a student who is funded through a university sponsored project supported by the advisor's company, or for a student who is employed directly by the faculty member's company. The faculty member with the conflict may serve as co-chair or committee member. If another co-chair is appointed, that faculty member must be of equal or greater rank, must not be involved with the sponsoring company, and must not be subject to undue influence by the faculty-owner. See Policy 13010 for a complete description of the disclosures and protections required in such instances.

Graduate students (including those Virginia Tech employees who are pursuing graduate degrees) may not serve on a graduate Advisory and/or Examining Committee.  Post-doctoral scholars or other advanced degree holders who have earned their graduate degrees at Virginia Tech will not be approved for service on advisory committees of students with whom they overlapped as students.

See also Eligibility of Faculty/Staff for Graduate Degrees.

Changes in a Student's Advisory Committee

Changes in a student's advisory committee will be granted only on approval of all committee members (new and old) and on recommendation by the Department Head or Graduate Program (http://graduateschool.vt.edu/content/dam/graduateschool_vt_edu/GAAPforms/Change_of_Committee-Advisor.pdf).  In the case that one or more members does not approve the change in the membership of the Advisory Committee, an appeal may be made by either the student or a faculty member to the Department Head.  If the Department Head considers the appeal to have merit, he/she may then ask the Graduate School for an exception to all members signing the form.

If the Chair of an Advisory Committee leaves the university or retires during the student's degree program, the department should consult with the Dean's Office in the Graduate School to determine the most appropriate continuing committee composition for advising of the student to degree completion.