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Washington State University Graduate School

Chapter 8B: Doctoral Degree Academic Policies

Doctoral Advisory Committee. The doctoral committee is nominated on the doctoral student’s Program of Study. Prior to the third semester of study, the chair of the major program should, in conjunction with the student, appoint an advisor to serve as chair of the student’s doctoral advisory committee until a permanent chair is obtained. Ultimately, it is the student’s responsibility to obtain and maintain a permanent chair and advisory committee members for the graduate program. For additional information on advisory committee requirements determined by a program’s bylaws, see Chapter 1.D. All programs are required to have bylaws. A major function of program bylaws is to define the eligibility of tenure-track and career-track faculty to be appointed as graduate faculty, and the allowed level of participation (e.g., serve on, co-chair or chair an advisory committee).

Doctoral advisory committee composition must meet the following minimum requirements:

  • All Ph.D. advisory committee members are normally expected to hold a Ph.D. All Ed.D. advisory committee members are normally expected to hold an Ed.D. or Ph.D. On a case-by-case basis, the dean of the Graduate School may approve research active faculty, with other doctoral or equivalent degrees, to serve on a Ph.D. or Ed.D. advisory committee.
  • Each doctoral advisory committee must include a minimum of three graduate faculty, with current appointments.
    • At least two of these advisory committee members must be tenured/tenure-track faculty and members of the graduate faculty in the student’s program.
    • Unless specified otherwise in the program’s bylaws, the chair of the advisory committee must be a tenured/tenure-track faculty.
    • The third committee member does not need to be tenured/tenure-track faculty, and can be graduate faculty in any WSU graduate program.
  • If a program is in the process of developing bylaws, the advisory committee chair and at least two other advisory committee members must be tenured/tenure-track WSU faculty in the program.
  • Advisory committees may have more than three members; however, all members must meet Graduate School policy and program bylaws. The majority of advisory committee members must be graduate faculty in the student’s program.
  • Individuals who are not WSU faculty may be considered as additional (beyond three) advisory committee members.
    • Such external advisory committee members must hold a degree comparable to that sought by the student and have special knowledge that is particularly important to the student’s proposed program.
    • Examples of such external advisory committee members would include faculty from another university or individuals from an appropriate government, business, or industry organization.
    • Such an individual must be nominated to serve on an advisory committee by the program chair to the dean of the Graduate School, who makes the final decision. A current curriculum vita must be included with the request.
  • If a minor is declared on the doctoral program, at least one member of the advisory committee must be a graduate faculty member of the minor program. If this representative is tenured/ tenure-track, this representative may fill the requirement of one of the WSU tenured/tenure-track faculty members on the advisory committee. If no minor is declared, there is no requirement for an advisory committee member external to the student’s major graduate program. However, when outside supporting work is included in the program, a member of the graduate faculty in the supporting program is recommended.

It is prudent to acknowledge, and when possible avoid, situations that may constitute or be construed as a conflict of interest when forming a graduate student’s advisory committee. Examples of potentially preceived or actual conflicts of interest include: 1) a new faculty member who was a WSU graduate student serving on the advisory committee of a former graduate peer; 2) a faculty member who is the employer/supervisor of a staff member pursuing a degree and serving on that staff member’s advisory committee; and 3) faculty members whose impartiality may be impacted because of close professional or personal relationships that are separate from their WSU faculty roles.

The student is responsible for establishing and maintaining an advisory committee. WSU faculty have the right to decline to serve on any specific student’s advisory committee. All advisory committee members and the major department chair/director must sign the Program of Study. Once the Program of Study has been filed with the Graduate School, changes may be made to the advisory committee composition by completing the Committee Change form.

The Graduate School dean has the final approval for all advisory committees. The dean also has the authority to remove a faculty member from a student’s advisory committee after consultation with the program/department chair, the dean of the college, and the provost, when it is in the best interest of the student and the program.