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Expectations for Graduate Education, Faculty

Grad students with a professor in the lab

Members of the graduate program faculty and others who have supervisory relationships with graduate students serve a variety of critical roles as model teachers and researchers, as well as graduate-student advisors, committee members, and mentors. Graduate program faculty provide intellectual guidance and support for graduate students’ scholarly and pedagogical efforts and are responsible for the ongoing evaluation of graduate students’ performance in academic, research, and scholarly activities.

As mentors and advisors, faculty are responsible for helping graduate students discover and participate in appropriate channels of scholarly, professional, and disciplinary exchange.  In addition, faculty are responsible for helping graduate students develop the professional research, teaching, and networking skills required for a variety of career options, both within and outside academia. More information and guidance about mentoring is provided here.

Progress Toward Degree

It is expected that faculty will:

  • Support the academic progress of graduate students in their program.  In some cases, faculty advisors are assigned to entering graduate students to assist them in academic advising and other matters. In other cases, students select faculty advisors in accordance with the disciplinary interest or research expertise.
  • Establish a meeting schedule that has been mutually agreed upon with their graduate students and that is adequate to fulfill all expectations in this document, including effective frequency of communication.
  • Take reasonable measures to ensure that graduate students who carry out thesis or dissertation research do so in a timely fashion.
  • Communicate their expectations of graduate students by providing clear descriptions of the requirements each student must meet, including course work, research tools, examinations, and thesis or dissertation.
  • Support and respect graduate students’ work–personal life balance. Allow students to take some scheduled time off and discuss the timing and length in advance.
  • Conduct annual evaluations of each graduate student, which should be factual, specific, and based on criteria that are understood by both the faculty advisor and the student (see Presidential Policy Memos 152229), the results of which should be shared with the student so as to enhance performance.
  • Recognize that the international student immigration form specifies the normal length of the academic program (2 years for master’s degree, 5 years for Ph.D.). Extensions to the immigration form may be requested based on academic reasons; consult with IGSS staff for more information.


Research and Ethics

It is expected that faculty will:

  • Provide intellectual guidance on and promote rigor in students’ educational programs and specific research projects.
  • Provide students with knowledge of the current frontiers and opportunities in disciplinary and inter‐or cross‐disciplinary research.
  • Provide appropriate guidelines for completion of research projects.
  • Create an environment of the highest ethical standards and act as role models for ethical behavior in all professional activities.
  • Treat all students fairly and assess their work in meaningful ways, consistent with the discipline. Assessment of work should be judged by academic scholarly merit alone. 
  • Avoid situations that might create conflict of interest for graduate students. This includes supporting the student selection of a committee that avoids conflicts of interest or coercive relationships among the committee members as well as between the student and committee members.
  • Recognize graduate student participation in supervised research, and ensure that ethical standards of attribution and acknowledgment in collaborative settings are followed.
  • Work with graduate students to agree prior to submission of scholarly contributions (e.g., papers, abstracts of presentations) upon authorship positions and acknowledgments commensurate with levels of contributions to the work.
  • Work with students to understand and follow Office of Research Compliance guidelines, when appropriate.
  • Mentor and monitor students’ compliance with the Graduate Honor Code, including avoiding plagiarism and other violations of academic integrity.

Teaching and Training

It is expected that faculty will:

  • Encourage and assist students in developing teaching and presentation skills that meet the needs of diverse learners and populations.
  • Help students develop interpretive, writing, oral, and quantitative skills, in accordance with the expectations of the discipline.
  • Assist graduate students in developing grant-writing skills, where appropriate.
  • Provide training for any equipment, instruments, laboratory procedures, or field skills that are necessary for the student’s research and teaching program.
  • With graduate students, model and create a culture of safety in the research environment that includes proper training, planning, always wearing personal protective appropriate to the activity and environment, and following the principle that if an experiment is not and cannot be made safe, it should not be carried out. The faculty member should create an environment where no students or faculty will tolerate unsafe acts by others.
  • Model and mentor ethical practices in teaching and training.

Professional Development

It is expected that faculty will:

  • Encourage graduate students to participate in professional meetings or to display their work in public forums and exhibitions.
  • Model and mentor ethical professional behavior, and engage in discussions about managing situations that would be considered as unethical.
  • Encourage graduate students to pursue professional training programs, seminars, and courses that will enhance their professional and personal growth and development.
  • Prepare students to be competitive for employment, which includes portraying a realistic view of the field and the job market and making use of professional contacts for the benefit of their students. See the Graduate School website on Professional Development.

Assistantships and Financial Support

It is expected that faculty will:

  • Avoid assigning tasks to graduate assistants that are not related to or are in excess of their contractual obligations.
  • Recognize that students on graduate assistantships (GAs, GRAs, and GTAs) should not be expected to work on assistantship responsibilities, on average over the course of a semester, in excess of the hours for which they are being paid (e.g., average of 20 hours/week for students on full-time assistantship) (for details on definitions of graduate assistantships in terms of hours of effort, see Section 8 of the Faculty Handbook). Absences (whether for illness or personal reasons) should be accommodated when possible, and the work schedule adjusted to enable graduate students to complete their academic and assistantship work commitments. Graduate students are generally not required to work when the university is closed, unless they are designated as essential personnel.
  • Recognize that the employment of international students in F-1 and J-1 visa status is strictly limited by immigration regulations and assist international students to stay within these limitations. Consult immigration advisors at Cranwell International Center if questions about the status of an international student arise.


It is expected that faculty will:

  • Demonstrate and encourage collegiality with students, faculty, and staff.
  • Act fairly, impartially, professionally, and in the student’s best interest in all dealings with graduate students, in accordance with university policies governing non-discrimination and harassment of all sorts, as outlined in university policy 1025.
  • Behave consistently with the VT Principles of Community, as a community member who respects and celebrates diversity.
  • Follow FERPA guidelines, which mandate a student’s right to reasonable privacy and confidentiality in all communications among students, professors, staff, and administrators.