A recent change in WSU policy will make faculty involvement in graduate education more efficient and more responsive to the needs of students.

The former status of “graduate faculty” — which most faculty attained permanently after years of scholarly creative work and involvement in graduate education — has been replaced by a policy that allows all tenure-track faculty to work with graduate students as they continue to meet qualifications determined at the discretion of their department and chair. Department or program faculty and chairs are in the best position to determine who is qualified to mentor graduate students, agreed the Graduate School, Graduate Studies Committee, Council of Deans and Faculty Senate after working on the policy change for more than a year.

“It will make the process more efficient,” said Graduate School Dean Howard Grimes. Previously, graduate faculty nominees went through a lengthy review and voting process that included scrutiny and approval from the Graduate School.

But his office is not the best judge of which individual faculty should work with graduate students, Grimes said. Rather, immediate departmental colleagues and supervisors should make those decisions. Departments are expected to establish criteria for participation in graduate education, he said, and that participation will be monitored and re-evaluated as part of each faculty employee’s annual review.

Fellows replace representatives

Also included in the new policy is elimination of the “graduate representative,” a faculty member previously required to be present at preliminary exams and dissertation defenses. Instead, an independent observer from the Graduate School will be present if requested by the student, faculty or department.

This observer will come from a select trained cadre of faculty called “graduate mentor fellows.” One of these fellows also will preside over a second exam in cases of failure of the first. The Graduate School is in the process of inviting and training these fellows.

Since exam/dissertation problems and failure are extremely rare, Grimes said, routinely sending a representative is not necessary. But in the rare cases when observers are needed, those people must be well trained by the Graduate School to handle the academic and legal issues involved. That’s what the graduate mentor fellows will be trained for, he said.

Adjunct faculty included

Finally, the new policy recognizes the contribution adjunct faculty can make to graduate education by allowing them, as determined by their departments, to co-direct master’s theses and be members of graduate committees.

“Especially on the urban campuses, where they tend to have more adjunct faculty, graduate students have requested more contact with these experienced, professional people,” Grimes said. “This evolution of our graduate mentoring policy allows that.”

For more information on this policy, go to http://www.gradsch.wsu.edu/announcements.htm.