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Every graduate student must have an advisor from his/her area of emphasis. The advisor provides guidance regarding course selection and professional development. The advisor serves as mentor and as the student’s committee chair. Students should meet with advisors during orientation and work with their advisors to schedule regular meetings. An active student-advisor relationship is critical for making progress in the program.

Master’s Students

While the college-wide master’s program is administered centrally, concentrations and advising are school based. Students in the master’s program report initially to the director of the appropriate school or his/her designee. General course work for the concentration is defined and the first semester or two of course work is planned.

No later than the end of the second semester of full-time study, the student should establish an advisor to help the student prepare a program plan. The program plan should clearly show courses that a student will take to meet the degree requirements. The curriculum and planning procedures are sufficiently flexible to allow the student to plan a program of study suitable to his/her academic goals.

The master’s student and the advisor (program chair) identify two other faculty members to serve on the student’s committee, for a total of three members. This committee supervises the student’s thesis or project. Two members should be from the student’s school or area of emphasis, and all must hold the rank of assistant professor or higher. All committees and program plans must be approved by the associate dean for academic programs.

Program plans are due by April 1, in the first year of the M.S. program.

Doctoral Students

Students in the doctoral program go through three stages of advising: first-year studies, comprehensive exams, and dissertation. They have a faculty adviser at each of these stages – this may be the same or a different faculty member at each stage.

First-Year Advisor

Doctoral students are assigned a first-year advisor at the time that they are admitted to the program. This advisor is selected through consultation between school directors and the associate dean. The goal is to match the student’s stated research, teaching, and professional interests with the interests of a faculty member who can guide the student’s early coursework and research activities in the program. The core coursework that doctoral students take in the first year includes guidance in building a program plan. By the end of the first year, the doctoral student and first-year advisor develop a program plan that details coursework that the student will take to complete program requirements. The program plan is due by April 1 in the first year of the Ph.D. program. Each student’s program plan is reviewed by the associate dean for academic programs and is subject to final approval by the Graduate Committee.

Program Chair

At the end of the first year, the student and faculty should all have a better sense of the direction the student wishes to take in his/her career. The student should then identify a faculty member who will serve as program chair and who can help guide his/her pursuit of knowledge acquisition and creation. The student may stay with the first-year advisor or switch to another advisor in the second year of coursework. During this second year, the focus should be on helping the student start to identify a dissertation topic and consider the kind of individualized readings and research that, in addition to course work, will prepare the student for comprehensive exams that synthesize the doctoral program and focus on the dissertation area.

A comprehensive exam committee will be formed by the student and program chair and will be approved by the associate dean. It is the responsibility of the program chair to assure that the committee includes the diversity and expertise to properly judge the student’s examination. The committee must include a minimum of four faculty members that hold the rank of assistant professor or higher. Three of those must be from within the College of Communication & Information and one must hold a faculty position in another college of the University of Tennessee. Three of the four (including the program chair) must be authorized by the university to direct dissertations.

Dissertation Chair

After the comprehensive exams are completed, the student will form a dissertation committee. This may be the same or different from the committee that conducted the comprehensive exam. The requirements for the overall composition of the two committees are the same (minimum of four members, three from within the college, one from outside, three of the four – including the chair – authorized to direct dissertations). The dissertation chair supervises the writing of the dissertation and the final oral defense of the dissertation work.

Contact Information

Virginia Kupritz, PhD
Associate Dean for Academic Programs
Director of Graduate Studies

Margaret Taylor
Administrative Specialist for the Associate Dean for Academic Programs