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Academic Reviews

Effective academic year 2012-13 graduate units must begin to conduct annual academic progress reviews for all graduate students enrolled in degree-seeking programs at least once every academic year. A written copy of the review must be given to the student and be placed in the student’s academic file.

 

Reviews of Graduate Students take many forms. From the examples below, units should be able to craft a system that will work for their program and that is in line with the Graduate College Policy on Annual Academic Progress Reviews. Additional resources for annual academic progress reviews from the Graduate College are available online.

 

Animal Sciences: The formal yearly review which is signed by the Mentor and student has been our most effective best practice.

 

Civil & Environmental Engineering: We believe we have an effective process for Annual Review of Ph.D. student progress that works well for a large department. We have a concise two-page form that includes assessment of progress toward milestones, past accomplishments, future plans and any weaknesses to address. The student first completes the form and then meets with the research advisor who must check off each category and add written comments. The advisor rates overall progress at the end of the form. Both the student and advisor sign the form, and the student must turn the completed form in to the DGS each April. Finally, the DGS examines each form and approves the student for continuation. On some occasions, the DGS will meet with the student and advisor when there is a poor review.

 

Computer Science: PhD Annual Evaluation - Every research group in the department evaluates the progress of every student working in that area every year. Students complete a self-evaluation, which is reviewed (and commented on) by the faculty of the research area and the student’s own thesis advisor. A web-based portal is used to track and update each student’s evaluation. The department has established norms and expectation for satisfactory progress, and students experiencing problems are quickly diagnosed so the department can work with them to sort through their difficulties and get them back on track.

 

East Asian Languages and Cultures: Finally, we would like to emphasize the importance of our annual review, which by means of use of a clear written form and the added weight of a retreat in which we discuss as an entire faculty the case of each individual student’s record and judged abilities for further progress in research.

 

French: At our last faculty meeting of the year, faculty advisers prepare reports on their advisees. These are submitted in hard copy to the department head and discussed during the meeting. A second source of information on the students' progress is the annual report form that each student submits in April. The faculty discusses each individual student in the graduate program, bringing up achievements but also problems, and identifying the goal for the student in the coming academic year. This way all the faculty hear about all the students and may be able to contribute insights into a particular student's situation. This procedure, though lengthy, also helps the department follow similar procedures in dealing with individual cases. After the meeting, the DGS composes a letter to each student conveying the faculty's comments, both positive and critical. Included in the first paragraph is a mention of when the student entered the program and how many years of aid the student has drawn plus a notation of the student's current GPA. The second paragraph sets out the objective that the faculty has identified for the student for the near and longer term (e.g., complete coursework by X, take prelim by X, schedule defense by X, be in a position to apply for a particular fellowship by X date). A copy of the letter is emailed to the student, with hard copy on letterhead, signed by the Head, in the student's box. A copy also goes to the DGS and to the faculty adviser. In addition, at the beginning of each AY, the DGS meets with each student individually to talk about the goals for the year and learn more about the student's progress over the summer or developing interests (depending on where the student is in his or her career). This is not strictly a review but a good practice to set the expectations for the new year. We think the students appreciate it.

 

Geology: Another activity we recommend is the annual report for graduate students. It’s a good format for students to document their progress and a base for department to review and make financial support recommendations.

 

Graduate School of Library and Information Science: The annual review process, details at www.lis.illinois.edu/academics/degrees/phd/advising/annual-review, ensures that all students receive feedback on their progress at least annually and that GSLIS can maintain consistent and complete records of student progress.

 

Human and Community Development: Doctoral students who have not yet defended their dissertation proposal should provide their advisers with a current CV by December 31st of each year, using our template. This format is similar to what is expected in a job search. Advisers will review this document prior to our annual mid-January review of graduate students, and then present their student to the faculty for review. After this all-faculty review, advisers will fill out the annual review form for their student.  Students will schedule a meeting with their adviser. The purpose of this meeting is to discuss and sign the annual review form. Advisers will then send the signed annual review form to the Director of Graduate Studies, who will review the form. This form is due February 15th. The Graduate Secretary will send a copy to the student, and place the original in the student’s department file. Doctoral students who have successfully defended their dissertation proposals are not reviewed.

 

Law: One of the best practices of the College is its regular and systematic review of progress involving the student, responsible faculty, and the Office of Graduate and International Legal Studies. The review places the College, the advisor, and the JSD student in a position to identify potential problems and to remedy them as needed. This partnership has resulted in timelier completion of dissertations and more active involvement by the JSD students in the intellectual life of the College of Law.

 

Mathematics: The Graduate Review Committee solved an internal problem with our program. Previously, the DGS was a student’s “first advisor” but also the judge to determine if a student was to continue with funding. The dual roll made it difficult for students to approach the DGS for fear that their problems might later affect their reappointment decision. By creating a separate committee, where the role of the DGS is to be the student’s advocate, the duties of the DGS remained consistent while difficult decisions are shared among a collective. Several peer institutions are now exploring a similar model based upon our success.

 

Microbiology: Our advisory/qualifier/6 month meeting format works well and has been adopted by other units. Each year the student will meet with the thesis committee to discuss the student’s progress and future research directions.  One week prior to the meeting, the student should submit a 1-2 page outline of previous research, both successful and unsuccessful.  The student should also lay out a clear plan for future potential publications. A copy should also be given to our administrative assistant for the student’s file.  Ideally this meeting should occur within two weeks following completion of the student’s annual departmental seminar so the student’s presentation at the meeting can be brief.  The meeting can take place immediately after the seminar, but it should be a distinct meeting and not simply a chat in the front of the auditorium.  The meeting should focus on the student’s progress and future plans for satisfying the degree requirements including course requirements, teaching, and research publications. Each student who is within a year of graduating is responsible for scheduling the pre-defense or "6-month" meeting with the committee. Our administrative aid should then be informed of the date of the pre-defense meeting. The final defense cannot be scheduled until the student has the approval of the Thesis Committee. Each student should meet with the committee that includes the three permanent members but excludes the research advisor, approximately 6 months before the planned thesis defense. A week prior to the six month meeting, the student must provide the committee with the following:
 

  • An outline of the thesis, (indicating sections that have been completed and any experiments that have not yet been completed)
  • A final version of the introductory chapter
  • Proof of the acceptance of one first-author manuscript in a peer-reviewed journal
  • A manuscript in the pre-submission stages

This meeting provides an opportunity for the committee to evaluate the student's progress, to suggest any additional experiments that may be necessary before completion of the thesis, and to determine if the expected time-frame for completion of the thesis is reasonable.  In particular, the meeting will allow the committee to appraise whether the student will meet all the Ph.D. degree requirements including the publication requirement. Upon the successful passing of the pre-defense meeting, the student's advisor becomes a member of the student's final (defense) committee.

 

Natural Resources & Environmental Sciences: The one of the practices that stands out as particularly strong in our department is the annual review of graduate students. This is a linchpin in the department’s efforts to provide excellent professional development training and improve student retention in the program. At the start of the fall semester of each academic year graduate students in NRES are required to complete an annual progress review. The annual review is designed to assist students in maintaining progress toward completing their degree requirements. This information will also be used to report on departmental activities and as a resource to identity students for scholarships, awards, and other recognitions. A key component of the review progress involves the communication between faculty advisers and their graduate students to address previous progress and future expectations in their graduate career. The process is as follows: The NRES Student Services Center emails instructions for the annual review to all graduate students at the beginning of the fall semester. Students complete the student section of the form. After faculty members receive the student‘s self-evaluation, they provide an evaluation of their students’ progress using the last page of the form for each NRES graduate student in their program. It is recommended that advisers review this document with their students before submitting them. Advisers then forward the complete review form back to the NRES Student Services Center. The Graduate Coordinator will review these documents and return copies including the adviser‘s evaluation to each student. Copies of these forms will be included in each student‘s graduate file in the NRES Student Services Center. If students have any questions or concerns regarding the adviser‘s comments, they are encouraged to discuss these with their adviser.

 

Nutritional Sciences: Our rigorous annual review process is part of our best practices. Students must meet with their advisory committee every spring and complete a written self-review. The committee also submits a written review on the student’s academic and research progress. Reports are submitted to our Annual Reviews Committee, who sends constructive written guidance to each student regarding their progress. If a student is having problems or is not making adequate progress these letters become a more formal letter of expectation type document.

 

Program in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation Biology: Beyond our first semester orientation course, the director meets with the students each semester. These meetings, the annual review process allows for continued feedback both to and from students.

 

Political Science: We pay close attention to advising and tracking student progress. Students undergo several evaluations at different points in the Ph.D. program: the second-year review, qualifying examinations, the defense of the dissertation proposal, and the final defense of the dissertation. They also require advice and counseling on curricular, research, and professional matters throughout their graduate careers. These functions are performed by a set of committees that operate at different points in the program. Committee membership is solely dependent on the consent of the individual faculty members. These committees are automatically dissolved at the completion of their duties advising the student or making recommendations about the student’s progress at a particular stage in the program.

In the formal second year review for each student, they submit materials which are reviewed by a faculty committee of the area chairs from the major subfields, a recommendation is made about continuation, and then they meet with a three member committee of faculty in their area to discuss their progress to date and future plans. A copy of the summary report from this meeting is then placed in their files. In addition, every summer the DGS writes a letter to each student, cc’d to his or her advisor, which summarizes his or her progress on coursework (e.g., any Incompletes that need to be addressed and the semester/course they correspond to, whether the student still has coursework requirements remaining); milestones (summarizing progress on qualifying exams, dissertation prospectus, and the like); and funding status (the years left in the funding guarantee). The student also receives a copy of the degree progress checklist. When a student defends his or her dissertation prospectus, they fill out a worksheet indicating how they have met all requirements, and this is signed by their advisor and by the DGS. This insures that students enter ABD status with no question about any remaining requirements. Full details are on the web in our graduate program handbook.

 

Psychology: We have found linking graduate admissions to the completion of graduate student evaluations to be especially helpful in getting faculty to do their evaluations. If they can’t be bothered to formally evaluate their current students, then they can’t admit anyone new. It has improved evaluation completion rates enormously.