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Graduate Program Best Management Practices

  1. Mentoring Meetings: Departments should assure that each student meets with his/her advisor at least once per semester (at advanced stages of the degree, many students meet with their advisor weekly) and that the student is informed of his/her progress toward the degree.
  2. Multiple Mentors: In addition to the research advisor, each student may be assigned an "academic" advisor who would meet with the student once a semester and be responsible for monitoring the student's progress, serve on the student's doctoral committee, and provide advice from a different point of view. This faculty member could also act as mediator in the case of conflict between the student and research advisor.
  3. Progress Review: Each department should formally review the progress of each graduate student at least once a year, and preferably every semester. Departments should devise a way to monitor and reward academic progress.
  4. Departmental Orientation: Each department should hold an orientation program for new graduate students.
  5. Admission Letters: Each student should receive a letter upon admission indicating the requirements for the degree and the conditions of financial support, if any.
  6. Early Research Experience: Each graduate student in a research-oriented program should have a substantive research experience during the first two years of study. Some programs require a master's thesis, which would meet this requirement. In other programs, a student could write a survey article or a tutorial article, perhaps as part of an individual study course.
  7. Association of Graduate Students: Every department should have an organized means for graduate students to meet and participate in the life (and perhaps governance) of the department.
  8. Professional TA Behavior: Every semester, every professor who supervises teaching assistants should emphasize the importance of professional behavior in their relationships with students and emphasize proper ethical conduct. Teaching assistants should immediately disclose possible conflicts of interest with students in their sections, even if their relationships are consensual. Although TAs receive information about the campus policy on sexual harassment at the TA orientation, they should be reminded each semester (see University of Illinois Sexual Harassment Policy).
  9. Study Groups: The graduate students in a department should be encouraged to organize a study group for the qualifying examination each semester. Students specializing in each area could help each other. The study group could be an activity of a department's graduate student association.
  10. Student Suggestions: Departments should provide a place for students to submit suggestions on an anonymous basis.
  11. Mailboxes: Every graduate student should have a mailbox to receive departmental notices, the Inside Illinois newspaper, and other campus mailings.
  12. Exit Interviews: An exit interview should be conducted by the department head or chair, or designee, with each student completing a doctoral program.

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