The Graduate School has prepared this information sheet of frequently asked questions about graduate students advisory committees to clarify existing procedures and introduce a new form, Department Graduate Program Faculty and Graduate Advisory Committee Members, which replaces the form called Registration of Committee Members Other Than Virginia Tech Program Faculty. No policy has been created or changed. Please see the policies section of the Graduate Catalog for complete details, and contact the Graduate School if you have additional questions (540/231-5645).

1. Why did the graduate school send us a list of people; what will they do with it? Who is responsible for evaluating the list?

The Graduate School is developing an on-line list of persons who are not teaching/research faculty at Virginia Tech but are approved for Graduate Program Faculty status or for service as additional members of graduate advisory committees. This list will be searchable so departments can determine whether a potential advisory committee member from outside the program has already been approved, which will save time and effort for departments and the Graduate School (See Q. 3 and 6-10).

We have a long list of names on file that were submitted by departments in the past but we do not know whether all the people on the list are currently recommended by departments for service on their students' committees. Therefore, we request your help in updating the form and we will notify you when the on-line list is activated.

2. Who are Graduate Program Faculty?

These are teaching/research faculty members who have ongoing responsibility for the graduate program. They can include:

  • full-time tenured or tenure-track faculty from any department at Virginia Tech (automatically part of this designation, no further action is required for them)
  • departments can recommend Graduate Program Faculty status for other individuals who have graduate degrees and relevant expertise (e.g., Emeritus faculty, Research scientists, Adjunct faculty). Upon approval by the Graduate School, they can serve as chairs, co-chairs, or members of graduate advisory committees in that department and will be counted as equivalent to the tenured and tenure-track faculty members (i.e., they are not part of the 1/3 maximum of additional committee members who are not Graduate Program Faculty (See Q. 5).

3. How does a department recommend individuals for the Graduate Program Faculty list in the Graduate School?

Departments should determine the process and criteria they will use to evaluate individuals for consideration as Graduate Program Faculty. Candidates must hold appropriate graduate degrees. Departments list individuals meeting departmental criteria on the Department Graduate Program Faculty and Graduate Advisory Committee Members form, Part 1, which is submitted to the Graduate School along with a current CV for each person. Upon approval, the Graduate School will add these individuals to the list of those eligible to chair or co-chair graduate advisory committees. They will be counted as equivalent to tenured and tenure-track faculty on graduate advisory committees. Persons who are not already in the system must be recommended and approved before they can be assigned to a student's committee on the plan of study.

4. Who can chair graduate advisory committees?

Chairs and co-chairs of graduate student advisory committees must be teaching/research faculty (i.e., full time, tenured or tenure-track faculty) at Virginia Tech in the graduate program in which the student is enrolled, or those who have been recommended by departments and approved by the Graduate School as Graduate Program Faculty (see Q. 2-3). Other persons who do not meet the criteria for Graduate Program Faculty status can serve as additional members of advisory committees but cannot chair or co-chair them (see Q. 6 and 8-10).

5. What is the required size and composition of graduate advisory committees?

  • Master's: at least three individuals with master's degrees or higher; at least 2/3 must be Graduate Program Faculty; no more than 1/3 of the minimum committee membership can be additional committee members (See Q. 8-10).
  • Doctoral: at least four individuals with doctoral degrees; at least 2/3 must be Graduate Program Faculty; no more than 1/3 of the minimum committee membership can be additional committee members (See Q. 8-10). In most cases, this translates to one additional committee member. However, if a doctoral advisory committee has 5 members, 1 or 2 of them could be additional committee members.

6. Can someone who is not a full-time tenure-track faculty member at VT serve on a VT graduate student's advisory committee?

Yes. Appointment of someone who is not a full-time tenure-track or tenured faculty member to a graduate advisory committee can be approved if:

  • The person is on the list of approved Graduate Program Faculty for the department. If the person is not on the list (Part 1), the department can submit a Department Graduate Program Faculty and Graduate Advisory Committee Members form along with a current CV. These persons will be counted the same as full time, tenure-track or tenured faculty on advisory committees. They can chair, co-chair, or serve as members.

OR

  • The person is on the list of approved Graduate Advisory Committee Additional Members for the department. If the person is not on the list (Part 2), the department can submit a Department Graduate Program Faculty and Graduate Advisory Committee Members form along with a current CV or resume. Such persons cannot make up more than 1/3 of the minimum committee membership (see Q. 8-10)

7. Can graduate students serve on advisory committees of other students (e.g., can a doctoral student serve on a master's student's committee)?

No. Graduate students, including Virginia Tech employees who are simultaneously pursuing graduate degrees, cannot serve on graduate advisory committees.

8. Can a department recommend someone who is not eligible for Graduate Program Faculty status for service on graduate advisory committees?

Yes. Persons who are additional committee members can make up only 1/3 of the minimum graduate advisory committee membership. See Q 9.

9. How does a department recommend individuals for service on graduate advisory committees as additional members?

Departments should determine the process and criteria they will use to evaluate individuals for consideration as advisory committee members. Candidates must hold graduate degrees and have expertise relevant to the discipline. Individuals meeting departmental criteria are listed on Part 2 of the Department Graduate Program Faculty and Graduate Advisory Committee Members form, which is submitted to the Graduate School along with a current CV for each person. The Graduate School will add these individuals to the list of those approved to serve as additional members of graduate advisory committees. Such persons can make up no more than 1/3 of the minimum advisory committee membership. Note that occasionally individuals will be approved for one time only advisory committee membership if they have expertise specific to a student's thesis or dissertation but are not appropriate for approval as ongoing members of advisory committees. Persons who are not already in the system must be recommended and approved before they can be assigned to a student's committee on the plan of study.

10. How many of these additional committee members can serve on a graduate committee?

No more than 1/3 of the minimum required graduate advisory committee membership can be made up of persons who are additional committee members (i.e., not Graduate Program Faculty). This generally translates to one member of the advisory committee unless the total size of the committee is expanded.

11. Can a faculty member continue to chair an advisory committee after retirement or relocation to a position outside Virginia Tech?

It depends on the stage of the student in the degree program, the preference of the retired or relocated faculty member, and the recommendation of the department.

  • If the student's plan of study is approved, the preliminary exam is completed, the thesis or dissertation research is under way, and the retired or relocated faculty member agrees to continue in the chair role, the department may request Graduate Program Faculty status for that faculty member, who could then continue to serve as the advisory committee chair.
  • If the student is near the start of the degree program or the steps listed above have not been completed, and the department recommends that the retired or relocated faculty member continue as chair, the department should request the advisor to be approved for Graduate Program Faculty status on the Department Graduate Program Faculty and Graduate Advisory Committee Members form. Alternatively, the department could identify a new advisory committee chair or a VT faculty member to serve as co-chair along with the retired or relocated faculty member.

12. What if that retired faculty member is not the chair but just wants to serve on committees?

Departments can recommend approval for retired individuals to continue service as additional committee members (restricted to 1/3 of the minimum graduate advisory committee membership). Follow the procedure described in Q. 9. Again, the form only needs to be submitted once. Such persons can serve on future students'advisory committees as long as they continue to meet the department's criteria.

13. Does a department have to resubmit the CV and update the Department form each time someone is requested for service on additional committees?

No. Usually if a person is approved once, that person will be acceptable for future committee service unless the department advises the Graduate School to remove the person from the approved list. The Graduate School will remind departments to review and update their lists and submit current CVs for those who are not full-time tenured and tenure-track VT faculty periodically.

14. How do we know if someone has already been approved as a Graduate Program Faculty member or an additional member of graduate advisory committees?

Currently there is not a good system for you to check this. Often departments are spending extra time to obtain and resubmit CVs and approval forms to Graduate School. We are developing an on-line list that departments can examine to see if the proposed committee member has already been approved. We also want to establish a consistent process to ask departments to update their lists. This is necessary in that some previously-approved individuals may no longer be appropriate as Graduate Program Faculty or as advisory committee members.