As research synergies grow on campus, we find faculty with overlapping research foci housed in different academic programs across campus. The current practice of accepting students to single disciplinary units makes it difficult for these faculty research groups to collaborate in recruiting the best students. As an example, this campus has a strong group of faculty working in “reproductive biology”. These scholars are spread through at least three graduate programs: Molecular and Integrative Physiology (in Molecular and Cellular Biology), Animal Science (in ACES), and Comparative Biosciences (in Veterinary Medicine). Thus, they cannot easily offer students the benefits of their combined expertise at the time of student consideration of admissions, and as a group, they cannot yet effectively recruit graduate students.
To create a procedure that allows students interested in a research area defined by multiple graduate programs to apply and be admitted to the Graduate College, to spend their first semester in a core curriculum but with the ability to develop relationships with all the faculty in the particular research area, and at the end of the first semester to be admitted to the most appropriate program for the student and faculty members alike. This dramatically increases opportunities for incoming students as they are not limited by the historical and artificial barriers between programs. The process would open opportunities for faculty to work with a diverse group of students entering the university, to thereby enlarge the pool of students and information on those students who they will wish to consider for admission to their program, and through tighter interdisciplinary ties continue to have the advantage of working with the students admitted to interdisciplinary fields even as they progress.
The model we are using is currently in use by the School of Molecular and Cellular Biology. The faculty recruit students jointly, and the students enter as MCB students. After rotating and choosing a lab, they formally join one of the four graduate programs: Microbiology, Biochemistry, Cell & Developmental Biology, or Molecular & Integrative Physiology.
Faculty groups will be composed of at least two members taking part in research in one identifiable area who are located in more than two graduate programs across campus. We propose to allow these groups of faculty to come together and develop guidelines for admitting students to an interdisciplinary or cross-program field, according to a set of requirements they develop (below). These faculty will then be approved by the Graduate College to start recruiting and admitting to that area, using NONE codes created for this process. After one semester of study and discussion with faculty members of the group, students will petition to join the selected major advisor’s program.
Faculty must develop a proposal to the Graduate College that addresses the following:
- Research area description
- A brief description of the research area
- Listing of participating campus units, and including enough faculty to ensure a robust program
- Procedures for how and when a faculty member could leave or be added to the group
- Admission criteria and process
- Criteria should exceed the minimum admission requirements of each of the participating programs and only admit highly qualified students
- Identify faculty representative who will serve as the advisor and authorized signatory for the students admitted
- A process (with timeline) for participating faculty to review each of the applicants to the program and agree on those that will be admitted. Graduate College will provide online access to the faculty group.
- The source of funding for the first semester for students admitted to the area. All admitted students must be funded. If it is a pool of funds contributed by participating units, please identify the unit responsible for fund collection, distribution and record keeping.
- First semester plans
- List of courses. These courses must meet requirements in all the participating graduate programs and students will choose from this list.
- Rotation mechanism. Students should have an experience with a minimum of three faculty members of the area, such that an informed placement of the student is possible. Briefly describe the activities expected of the students during the rotation. (It is expected that the rotations will take place in different programs/fields.)
- Student placement. The process and timing for student placement including process for program selection by students and faculty consideration of students.
- Contingency plans for students who might not be admitted to a specific program after the initial semester.
- Departmental approval is needed from departments taking part in the group
Each spring semester a report specifying the outcome for each student accepted into the field initially and the number of new admits will be delivered to the Graduate College. At the end of the third year, the Graduate College will review the ICRA process and recommend adjustments or revisions.