Evaluation of student progress is an essential feature of our graduate program. The fundamental purpose of evaluation is to ensure that students complete the program in the most rewarding way possible, and achieve the highest standards of excellence in their development as scholars. Periodic evaluation offers students substantive guidance about their projects and a reminder to be timely in the completion of their work. In short, the faculty is committed to periodic evaluation as a constructive process.
In some instances, the department will decide that a student may not continue in the program, either because of clear signs of lack of progress, or because the program is no longer serving the needs and interests of that student. However, this decision, consistent with all assessments, is made according to the guidelines for review set forth below and in as transparent a fashion as possible.
1. Annual Review
The primary instrument for periodic evaluation is the Annual Review. To offer feedback in the timeliest way, all students are reviewed annually, including those in the advanced stages of dissertation work. Different cohorts are reviewed at different times of the year. Students are evaluated on the quality of their performance in class, on independent research projects including qualifying papers, and in their success in meeting the department’s expectations regarding the reasonable progress deadlines.
a. Criteria for Evaluation: The following specific criteria are used for evaluation:
- Course grades. Attention is given to both the student’s distribution of grades and the overall GPA.
- Progress on Qualifying Papers and on the Dissertation. The department considers the quality of this aspect of the student’s work and the timeliness with which it is completed.
- Incompletes. Carrying Incompletes, and/or a recurrent failure to complete coursework on time, is considered a cause for concern. [Department policy on Incompletes is set forth in section V.7.b.]
- Other factors. The faculty may also consider additional factors, including for example, a student’s ability to respond thoughtfully to faculty feedback, originality and rigor of a student’s work, the breadth of a student’s course of study, and compliance with the university’s code of ethics.
b. Timing of Reviews: First- and second-year students are reviewed in late March. Students in the third through seventh years are reviewed in the fall semester.
c. Providing Feedback to Students: The Graduate Director sends a letter to each student within a month following the Annual Review, summarizing the faculty’s assessment of the student’s progress and offering constructive criticism and guidance moving forward.
2. Master’s Review
The Annual Review process is the single most important means of student evaluation in the department. But at the time that the student completes the first QP and all coursework necessary for the Master’s degree, the faculty takes stock of the student’s overall progress. The student’s committee makes one of three recommendations: (a) to grant the Master’s degree as a stepping stone to the Ph.D.; (b) to grant a terminal Master’s degree signifying that the student may not continue in the program toward the Ph.D.; or (c) to deny the Master’s degree. Most students completing the Master’s degree fall into category (a).