Guidelines for Good Practice in Graduate Education
Faculty and Graduate Students
A primary purpose of graduate education at the University of Nebraska is to instill in each student an understanding of and capacity for scholarship, independent judgment, academic rigor, and intellectual honesty. It is the joint responsibility of faculty and graduate students to work together to foster these ends through relationships which encourage freedom of inquiry, demonstrate personal and professional integrity, and foster mutual respect.
Graduate student progress toward educational goals at the University of Nebraska is directed and evaluated by an adviser, the relevant graduate committee, and the student’s supervisory committee. The adviser and the individuals on the committee provide intellectual guidance in support of the scholarly/creative activities of graduate students. The adviser, the supervisory committee, and the graduate committee also are charged with the responsibility of evaluating a graduate student’s performance in scholarly/creative activities. The graduate student, the adviser, the supervisory committee, and the graduate committee comprise the basic unit of graduate education at an institution. It is the quality, breadth, and depth of interaction within this unit that largely determines the outcome of the graduate experience.
High quality graduate education depends upon the professional and ethical conduct of the participants. Faculty members and graduate students have complementary responsibilities in the maintenance of academic standards and the creation of high quality graduate programs. Excellence in graduate education is achieved when both faculty and students are highly motivated, possess the academic and professional backgrounds necessary to perform at the highest level, and are sincere in their desire to see each other succeed.
Graduate students must be viewed as early-stage professionals, not as students whose interest is guided by the desire to complete the degree. Graduate students have made a career choice and must be viewed and treated as the next generation of professionals.
To accomplish this, it is essential that graduate students:
- Conduct themselves in a mature, professional, ethical, and civil manner in all interactions with faculty and staff in accordance with the accepted standards of the discipline and University of Nebraska policies governing discrimination and harassment.
- Recognize that the faculty adviser provides the intellectual and instructional environment in which the student conducts research, and may, through access to teaching and research funds, also provide the student with financial support.
- Expect that their research results, with appropriate recognition, may be incorporated into progress reports, summary documents, applications for continuation of funding, and similar documents authored by the faculty adviser, to the extent that the student’s research is related to the faculty adviser’s research program and the grants which support that research.
- Recognize that faculty have broad discretion to allocate their own time and other resources in ways which are academically productive.
- Recognize that the faculty adviser is responsible for monitoring the accuracy, validity, and integrity of the student’s research. Careful, well conceived research reflects favorably on the student, the faculty adviser, and the University of Nebraska.
- Exercise the highest integrity in taking examinations and in collecting, analyzing, and presenting research data.
- Acknowledge the contributions of the faculty adviser and other members of the research team to the student’s work in all publications and conference presentations; acknowledgment may mean co-authorship when that is appropriate.
- Recognize that the faculty adviser, in nearly every case, will determine when a body of work is ready for publication and an acceptable venue, since the faculty adviser bears responsibility for overseeing the performance of the students and ensuring the validity of the research.
- Maintain the confidentiality of the faculty adviser’s professional activities and research prior to presentation or publication, in accordance with existing practices and policies of the discipline.
- Take primary responsibility to inform themselves of regulations and policies governing their graduate studies and the University of Nebraska.
- Recognize that faculty and staff have many professional responsibilities in addition to graduate education.
Correspondingly, it is imperative that faculty:
- Interact with students in a professional and civil manner in accordance with the accepted standards of the discipline and the University of Nebraska policies governing discrimination and harassment.
- Impartially evaluate student performance regardless of religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or other criteria that are not germane to academic evaluation.
- Serve on graduate student committees without regard to the religion, race, gender, sexual orientation, or nationality of the graduate student candidate.
- Prevent personal rivalries with colleagues from interfering with their duties as graduate advisers, committee members, or colleagues.
- Excuse themselves from serving as advisers, on graduate committees or supervising assistantship work when there is a familial or other relationship between the faculty member and the student that could result in a conflict of interest.
- Acknowledge student contributions to research presented at conferences, in professional publications, or in applications for copyrights and patents.
- Not impede a graduate student’s progress and completion of his/her degree in order to benefit from the student’s proficiency as a teaching or research assistant.
- Create in the classroom, lab, or studio, supervisory relations with students that stimulate and encourage students to learn creatively and independently.
- Have a clear understanding with graduate students about their specific research responsibilities, including time lines for completion of research and the thesis or dissertation.
- Provide oral or written comments and evaluation of student’s work in a timely manner.
- Discuss laboratory and/or departmental authorship policy with graduate students in advance of entering into collaborative projects.
- Ensure an absence of coercion with regard to the participation of graduate students as human research subjects in their faculty adviser’s research.
- Refrain from requesting students to do personal work (mowing lawns, baby-sitting, typing papers, etc.) with or without appropriate compensation.
- Familiarize themselves with policies that affect their graduate students.
Graduate education is structured around the transmission of knowledge at the highest level. In many cases, graduate students depend on faculty advisers to assist them in identifying and gaining access to financial and/or intellectual resources which support their graduate programs. In addition, faculty advisers, program chairs, etc. must apprise students of the “job market” so that students can develop realistic expectations for the outcomes of their studies.
In some academic units, the student’s specific adviser may change during the course of the student’s program, either because of faculty or student wishes. The role of advising may also change and become a mentoring relationship.
The reward of finding a faculty adviser implies that the student has achieved a level of excellence and sophistication in the field, or exhibits sufficient promise to merit the more intensive interest, instruction, and counsel of faculty:
To this end, it is important that graduate students:
- Devote an appropriate amount of time and energy toward achieving academic excellence and earning the advanced degree.
- Be aware of time constraints and other demands imposed on faculty members and program staff.
- Take the initiative in asking questions that promote understanding of the academic subjects and advances in the field.
- Communicate regularly with faculty advisers, especially in matters related to research and progress within the graduate program.
Correspondingly, faculty advisers should:
- Provide clear maps of the requirements each student must meet, including course work, languages, research tools, examinations, and thesis or dissertation, and delineating the amount of time expected to complete each step.
- Evaluate student progress and performance in regular and informative ways consistent with the practice of the field.
- Help students develop interpretive, writing, oral, and quantitative skills, in accordance with the expectations of the discipline.
- Assist graduate students in the development of grant writing skills, where appropriate.
- Take reasonable measures to ensure that graduate students who initiate thesis or dissertation research/creative activity do so in a timely fashion, regardless of the overall demands of the laboratory/studio.
- When appropriate, encourage graduate students to participate in professional meetings or display their work in public forums and exhibitions.
- Stimulate in each graduate student an appreciation of teaching, and promote the acquisition of teaching skills where appropriate.
- Create an ethos of collegiality so that learning takes place within a community of scholars.
- 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, as appropriate.
- Create an environment of the highest ethical standards and insist that the student behave ethically in all their professional activities.
In academic units, faculty advisers support the academic promise of graduate students in their program. In some cases, academic advisers are assigned to entering graduate students to assist them in academic advising and other matters. In other cases, students select faculty advisers in accordance with the disciplinary interest or research expertise. Advising is variant in its scope and breadth and may be accomplished in many ways.
A student’s academic performance and a faculty member’s scholarly interest may coincide during the course of instruction and research/creative activity/performance. As the faculty-graduate student relationship matures and intensifies, direct collaborations may involve the sharing of authorship or rights to intellectual property developed in research or other creative activity. Such collaborations are encouraged and are a desired outcome of the mentoring process.
This document was approved for distribution on September 16, 1997 by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Graduate Council. It was revised from the document entitled “University of Nebraska Medical Center Guidelines for Good Practice in Graduate Education” which was approved by their Graduate Council on July 18, 1996. Materials are used by permission.
The University of Nebraska Medical Center document benefited from the work of the Graduate Council at the University of Oregon; the Graduate School at the University of California-Davis; the Graduate College and Graduate Council at the University of Arizona (“Mentoring: The Faculty-Graduate Student Relationship,” Cusanovich and Gilliland, 1991); the Office of Graduate Studies at the University of Southern California; and the Graduate School at North Carolina State University.