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Expectations for Graduate Education Overview

Two graduate students on the Flint Michigan Water Study team in the lab

These webpages outline the expectations for graduate students, graduate program faculty, academic departments and programs, and the Graduate School at Virginia Tech across all the university's campuses. The Graduate School and all members of the university community share responsibility for ensuring that these expectations are upheld by all.

In the event that these expectations are not fulfilled in a manner befitting the high standards of graduate education at Virginia Tech, a complaint/appeals process, could be used to redress the concerns of the involved parties.

The expectations are grouped under six headings: progress toward degree, research and ethics, teaching and training, professional development, assistantships and financial support, and community. 

Graduate students are individuals seeking advanced degrees or certificates, either full- or part-time, at any of the campuses or programs of Virginia Tech. They are in the process of advancing from receiving knowledge to creating, enhancing, and taking ownership of new knowledge. Graduate students have various backgrounds, life experiences, and goals. Graduate students have diverse needs related to their multiple roles at Virginia Tech, such as student, researcher, educator, mentor, emerging and advancing professional, engaged scholar, and responsible citizen.

At Virginia Tech, graduate students work closely with faculty to acquire the skills of academic disciplines and to create and synthesize knowledge needed to address the complex issues of society through disciplinary and interdisciplinary research and scholarship. Graduate education is a critical component in the development of new knowledge, analysis of current research, creation of new ideas, and innovation, and dissemination of scholarship within and beyond the university.

To fulfill this mission, Virginia Tech seeks to instill in each student an understanding of and capacity for scholarship, independent critical judgment, academic rigor, and intellectual integrity. It is the joint responsibility of faculty and graduate students to work together to foster these ends through relationships that encourage freedom of inquiry, demonstrate personal and professional integrity, and foster mutual respect.

Building a graduate community for quality graduate education depends upon the professional and ethical conduct of both faculty and students. Each party in the graduate process—that is, the faculty, the graduate students, the graduate department or program, and the Graduate School—has particular responsibilities and expectations in ensuring the achievement of these primary goals.

Virginia Tech is committed to sustaining a positive workplace and learning environment that respects individual dignity and is free of coercion, harassment, intimidation, fear, and exploitation (see Principles of Community). Graduate students, therefore, have a reasonable expectation of civility from faculty and staff with whom they interact. Likewise, they are expected to extend that civility toward others in the Virginia Tech community.

To maintain a culture of civility at Virginia Tech, academic bullying is unacceptable. Academic bullying is belittling or intimidating behavior (verbal or non-verbal, intentional or unintentional) in a university setting that undermines, isolates, humiliates, or denigrates an individual in a manner that causes emotional distress and compromises a person’s self-esteem, health, feelings of safety, and productivity. It is one of a spectrum of behaviors (e.g., sexual harassment, discrimination, and workplace violence) that contributes to a hostile work environment.

We recognize that an academic culture, which is built upon academic freedom, individual accomplishment, and, increasingly, competition for funding, may be susceptible to behaviors characterized as uncivil or disrespectful and that these behaviors can be detrimental to both individuals and the institutional climate.

Disrespect and bullying can occur in many relationships: faculty-to-student, staff-to-student, administrator-to-faculty, faculty-to-faculty, student-to-student, student-to-staff, student-to-faculty, etc. Consequently, academic disrespect is an issue of concern for the entire Virginia Tech community. However, constituencies in subordinate positions, such as graduate students, are more likely to become recipients of academic incivility. Hence, the community should be alert to this possibility and serve to resolve situations to ensure that students or other subordinates are treated with dignity. Building allies is an effective strategy to counter disrespectful and bullying behavior and can aid the coping process. Speak to those you trust when you feel subjected to bullying behaviors. Preserving the Principles of Community depends on a culture that denounces occurrences of disrespectful behavior. Active bystanders that speak out against disrespectful and bullying behavior are instrumental in diminishing the power of a bully. If you experienced or witnessed academic disrespect, know the resources available to help. A full list of resources is available at the Disrupting Academic Bullying website. The following are some specific campus resources that are available to help navigate these concerns:

Ombudsperson for the Graduate School
Graduate Life Center, Suite 120
(540) 231-9573

Cook Counseling Center
McComas Hall, Room 240
(540) 231-6557, website:

The Women's Center
206 Washington St.
(540) 231-7806, website:

Links to the Graduate Expectations sections:

This document on the expectations for graduate education at Virginia Tech should be made available to all graduate students, faculty and administrators in all colleges, departments, and administrative units. 

Here's a link to a downloadable PDF file of the Expectations.