All entering students are required to attend the Department Orientation prior to the beginning of the semester, and to meet with the Graduate Adviser to discuss their program of study prior to registering for classes in the fall semester. Normally this will be in the penultimate (second to last) week of August. The Graduate Adviser will continue to advise the student until the student chooses a faculty Supervisor.
The Department and Graduate School assign great responsibility to the student’s Supervising Committee and its chair, the student’s Supervisor. Students should thus take great care in selecting their Supervisor and in making sure that this is an informed decision. The Supervisor must be a member of the Department’s GSC. Students may elect to also have a Co-Supervisor. Students are under no obligation to choose any faculty member as Supervisor even if the faculty member provided support for admission to the program.
In their first two semesters, students should meet with potential Supervisors and, if available, take courses from them. By early in the second long semester, students should choose a Supervisor and work with that person and the Graduate Adviser to put together a Supervising Committee. This committee is typically comprised of faculty members with whom the student will have completed at least one course by the completion of their program. The Graduate Adviser must approve the student's Committee, and has the right to appoint one of its members (this right is normally, but not always, delegated to the Supervisor).
The MA Supervising Committee should include three persons; two must be members of a Graduate Studies Committee at the University of Texas at Austin. One person is commonly from outside the Department.
Doctoral Supervising Committees include five or six committee members. At least three need to be members of the department's Graduate Studies Committee. At least one member should be outside the Department, preferably from the student's supporting (minor) field.
The student must petition the rGraduate Adviser for approval of the committee's composition by filing the Supervising Committee form. For any committee member who is not a member of a UT GSC, a curriculum vitae and a letter stating the member’s willingness to serve at no expense to the University must be sent to the Graduate School Degree Evaluators. Students should be aware that the Department will not pay the expenses of an off campus committee member to attend presentations or defenses.
Prior to submitting the Master’s Graduation Form or their doctoral Application for Candidacy, a student may change the composition of his/her Supervising Committee, including the Supervisor, by circulating a new Supervising Committee form and submitting it to the Graduate Adviser for approval. Students should inform faculty members who are being deleted from the committee, but do not need their approval. Faculty members also have the right to remove themselves from a student’s committee at any time and for any reason. They must, however, indicate their intention by signing in the appropriate place on the Departmental Supervising Committee form, and by notifying the student.
Once the Supervising Committee membership has been submitted to the Graduate School as part of the Master's Graduation Form or doctoral Application for Candidacy, changes may be made only by petitioning the Graduate Dean. The Graduate School’s Petition for Change must confirm that all former and proposed committee members agree to the change, and must be approved at least 30 days in advance of the dissertation defense, or two weeks in advance of the Master’s thesis or report deadline.
EXPECTATIONS FOR ALL STUDENTS: PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Students are expected, as part of their professional development, to attend Departmental Colloquia. These are typically scheduled every other week at 4 pm in CLA 0.128.
Attendance and presentation of research results at professional meetings is a vital and rewarding part of professional development, and is expected by both the Department and academic employers.
Students are expected to join and attend the annual meeting of the Association of American Geographers (AAG), and to present their research results at this meeting (or its equivalent) prior to graduation. The meeting is typically held in March or April. The Department and Graduate School provide financial aid for attendance at these meetings. The Department also organizes a reception. While at the meeting, students should attend sessions relevant to their specialty and strongly consider attending their Specialty Group business meeting. The Graduate Adviser, the student's Supervisor, and other faculty are happy to provide guidance for taking full advantage of the meeting's opportunities for professional growth.
Joining the AAG also provides the student with the Association's journals and newsletter, and allows access to the job data base on the Association website.
All incoming students are also expected to join and attend the annual meeting of the Southwest Association of American Geographers (SWAAG). SWAAG includes all AAG members located in the states of New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Attendance and (if possible) paper presentation at these meetings provides a valuable preparation for attendance at the national AAG meetings. SWAAG also publishes a professional journal, The Southwestern Geographer. The Department typically subsidizes some of the expenses associated with attendance at the SWAAG meeting.
Students should consult with their Supervisor about additional professional organizations and meetings that are relevant to their research trajectory.
Research Grant Proposals
Students should begin writing research grant proposals as soon as possible, in collaboration with their Supervisors. A wide variety of fellowships and grants are available, both within the University and at the national level. Deadlines for national grants are often in the fall semester, sometimes as early as October. Doctoral students interested in Fulbright grants, for example, should plan to attend the University’s Fulbright grant proposal writing workshop early in the fall. Many grants within the University have spring semester deadlines.
IMPORTANT: Early in the proposal writing process, the student, in collaboration with the Supervisor, should contact the Proposal Development Specialist at the College of Liberal Arts. The Proposal Development Specialist can help identify funding agencies, help with proposal preparation, help with electronic grant submission, and assist with the Office of Sponsored Projects requirements.
Getting Permission for Sensitive Human Subjects Research
Certain kinds of sensitive research involving human subjects require permission from the University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB). Failure to obtain this permission well in advance of sensitive research may result in delay or prevention of graduation from the graduate program.
During the proposal writing process, the student, in collaboration with the Supervisor, should contact the Program Coordinator assigned to our Department at the University’s Office of Research Support and Compliance (Beth Guyton as of August 2009). The Program Coordinator will determine if the proposed research needs to go through review, and can suggest ways that sensitive parts of the research can be restructured to not require review.
Most research in the Department does not require institutional review. However, some does, especially if it involves collecting private, potentially damaging information that informants would normally be reluctant to have others know about. Such research requires approval from the IRB, and applications for approval and questions should be directed to the Departmental Review Committee Chair.
In addition to presenting their research results at professional meetings, students should publish their research results. Students should work closely with their Supervisors to select appropriate journals or other professional venues.
It is especially important for doctoral students to publish in refereed journals, as this is often taken into consideration in hiring decisions. Manuscripts need to be submitted well in advance of anticipated graduation, since there is often a considerable lag time between submission and publication.
The Department recognizes student research and publication achievement with its annual Achievement Award.
Students are admitted to the program in part on the basis of potential of excellence in teaching or other forms of public communication. The Department is committed to the highest standards of teaching excellence both in its faculty and in its graduate students. Most graduate students have the opportunity to teach during their program in the department, usually as a Teaching Assistant (TA) and sometimes as an Assistant Instructor (AI). Some TAs are assigned as lab assistants, but many are in charge of discussion sections in large classes.
TAs are mentored and trained by the faculty member in charge of teaching the main lecture section of their course. In addition, the University offers many resources to help graduate students develop teaching skills. Students should familiarize themselves with the University's Center for Teaching Effectiveness webpage, and the services they provide for improving teaching.
All TAs in charge of discussion sections, and all AIs, are required to conduct appropriate Department-approved Course-Instructor Surveys conducted by Instructional Assessment and Evaluation. Survey results are made available to the Chair and Graduate Adviser, and are used to provide helpful feedback to students.
The Department recognizes the importance of teaching with its annual graduate student Teaching Award.
Students must receive at least a C on all courses offered towards their program of work. (The grade must be at least a B on 390K and 390L). At most, 20 per cent of the course hours in the program of work can be taken on a CR/NC basis.
Students with more than one permanent incomplete cannot be appointed to TA positions.
Students must maintain a graduate GPA of at least 3.0 to graduate (beginning in fall 2008, upper division undergraduate courses are also included in calculating the graduate GPA). Beginning in fall 2008, students must also have a GPA of at least 3.0 in their Program of Work.
Students are invited and expected to be citizens of the Department and University, and of the broader community.
Within the Department, graduate students participate in part through their graduate organization (GAGS, Graduate Association of Geography Students). GAGS elects a President and other officers, including a representative to attend faculty meetings.
Many faculty committees include a graduate student representative, including most faculty recruitment committees. Graduate students participate in major departmental self-examinations and external reviews. The Department Chair and Graduate Adviser welcome graduate student input and are available to address concerns at any time. No student will be penalized for bringing a concern to the table.
Many students also have provided service to the broader community, in Austin or in their research locations.
The Department recognizes the importance of service with its annual graduate student Leadership Award.
ANNUAL REPORT ON PROGRESS AND UPDATING OF FILES
All graduate students are required to annually submit a Report on Progress. The forms (different for Master’s and doctoral students) are available online or from the Department’s Graduate Coordinator. The form must be signed by the Supervisor and one other member the Supervising Committee. Also, this form is to be used to indicate interest in being considered for a Teaching Assistantship or other financial aid for the next academic year.
All graduate students, including students who are not in residence, are required to provide updates to their files to the Graduate Coordinator by October 1. All paper work should be current and complete, including all relevant forms. Students should provide any published papers, abstracts of research presentations, and proposals submitted for funding during the past year, and must provide photocopies of Course Instructor Surveys for the previous year if a Teaching Assistantship was held.