Communicating expectations to students is a very important part of graduate education, both in terms of program and degree requirements as well as informal expectations of publishing and presenting. Here is how some units on campus do it.
Animal Biology: To keep students on track we produced a student handbook, with an annual checklist covering benchmarks to help students maintain adequate progress, coupled with an annual departmental faculty review (comprised of all faculty members) to evaluate each students progress. This appears to have resolved problems with student/faculty delays in having annual progress evaluations conducted by graduate committees. We have also instituted formal feedback to each student following this meeting to resolve any issues.
Bioengineering: One best practices activity is the explicit expectations of a successful graduate student are provided to them regularly.
Cell & Developmental Biology: Our introduction of annual meetings between the department head and the CDB graduate students and our recent formal survey of our graduate curriculum with our current students, in particular the more senior graduate students, have been particularly useful.
Civil & Environmental Engineering: We believe that our graduate student blog at http://uiuccee.typepad.com/gradblog/ has been a great success. This is an effective way to communicate with graduate students about a variety of important matters, including new course offerings, seminars, fellowship and award opportunities, job postings, Ph.D. Final Examinations, deadlines, etc. The blog is also a portal to an array of useful web sites on career advice, research ethics, mentoring, etc., including appropriate links to the Graduate College.
Communications & Media: We make policies and governance transparent and empower students in governance.
Materials Science & Engineering: Our program provides the students with a clear set of expectations for the PhD program and when they are expected. The DGS communicates these expectations to the students during the fall orientation and during the PhD program information session in the spring semester annually to the first year graduate students. A written version of these expectations in the form of a 5-year PhD program timeline is also available on the department website.
Pathobiology: For applicants, by March 1st, letters of acceptance will be sent to the selected applicants. The letters must state the commitment to financial support (TA or RA position, % time and guaranteed length of support). Committee members believe that guaranteeing support to a student throughout his/her graduate program is important for recruitment of top students. The letter should state that acceptance of the offer in required by April 15, after which the offer expires. If acceptance letters are sent by E-mail, prompt acknowledgement of receipt is required. A letter should also be sent to each student on the waiting list indicating that they are accepted into the program without financial support and providing their ranking on the waiting list. A letter should also be sent to each student who is denied admission to the graduate program. Students who decline an offer of admission will be asked to identify the graduate program they have selected and the reasons for selecting that program. This information will be valuable for recruitment efforts in subsequent years.
More information can be found in the online resource Improving Your Communication with Graduate Students.