Graduate Council Advisory Committee
Hill University Center 325
Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Members present: Puri Bangalore, Gregg Janowski, Jim Collawn, Kyle Grimes, Lynn Kirkland, Bryan Noe, Susan Rich, Jeff Engler, Cecelia Graham

Staff: Susan Banks, Cynthia Ballinger, Thomas Harris

Guest: Rakesh Patel

Agenda Items:

  1. Proposal for establishing a Graduate Level Certificate Program in Translational and Molecular Sciences. Guests: Dr. Rakesh Patel and Scott Austin.  Dr. Patel responded to questions and comments. The certificate proposal stems from the experience with the Howard Hughes Med to Grad program. The goal is to expose students to the concepts and practices of translational science.  Any student, irrespective of his/her discipline, who completes the proposed credits for the certificate would be awarded the translational science certificate. Advantages: The training would be formally recognized;  it would promote interaction among multiple schools and departments; and it would improve recruitment of high quality students as well as competiveness for training grants. The certificate curriculum will piggyback on existing courses that are considered translational. Initially there will be 16 course offerings, but any course that would be considered by the Med to Grad steering committee to have a significant emphasis in translational training can be added to the certificate program.  Any student who has finished his/her first year of graduate school, who is in good academic standing, has selected a lab, and upon approval from mentor/program director and provision of a statement of intent from the student, can be enrolled in the program. Once they have completed twelve credit hours from the approved course list, they can receive the certificate. There will be two to three core courses, an evaluation plan and steering committee who will evaluate the course content and courses offered on a yearly basis. New courses will be solicited semi-annually. There are three designated core courses; student will be required to take at least one of these three. Other courses will be developed in conjunction with the CTSA.  There are no other similar certificate programs in the state. Students will have to be degree seeking.  No non-degree students will be eligible. Both Masters and PhD level students will be eligible for the certificate program.  There is support from the School of Medicine, GBS, CTSA and program directors.  The HHMI also provided a letter of support for the certificate program. The committee members requested more background information on the HHMI grant. The HHMI grant expires in 2014 after which UAB will be required to provide the funding for the program.  The long range plan is to submit a training grant application within a few years.  The MD fellows have a similar masters program which is administered through the CTSA.  The primary goal is to recognize the specific training in translational science; providing the certificate is an appropriate way to accomplish this primary goal. Students have indicted a strong interest in having the certificate program available to them.   A motion was made to approve the certificate proposal with revisions. ADCOM voted unanimously to approve the proposal. 

  2. Development of a Tutorial/Handbook for New Program Directors. Listed below are the suggestions made to start a draft document that will be advisory to new program directors.
    • Role of Program Director in Recruitment
      • Engage all program faculty in the recruitment effort
      • Maintain an attractive and informative web site which includes information on faculty research areas, and student outcomes
      • Include average scores expected (or required) for GPA, GRE, MAT, and TOEFL / IELTS for internationals
      • Be aware that in some countries cheating on standardized tests, and falsification of official documents are common occurrences
      • Develop and maintain personal relationships with colleagues in foreign  countries from which your program recruits students
      • Use former students to recruit from within their home countries
      • Become familiar with visa requirements; develop working relationships with individuals in the international student services office (ISSS at UAB)
      • Ask program faculty who are traveling “home” to another country to interview prospective students while there; this is preferable to phone interviews
      • Become familiar with the best foreign schools; i.e. schools from which your program has accepted successful trainees previously
      • You and your faculty colleagues should distribute recruitment materials, brochures, etc. when attending professional meetings
      • Over time, evaluate what works and eliminate what doesn’t
      • Make sure the faculty list on your program web site provides an accurate representation to prospective students (i.e. possibly differentiate between faculty who can appropriately serve as the primary advisor to either Masters or Doctoral students, and faculty who primarily teach in courses)
      • Target feeder schools
      • Be familiar with and take advantage of all features of Apply Yourself including the automated response system
      • Develop a FAQ on your program website
      • Consider all aspects of students’ applications; review the whole application; specifying strict cutoffs for GRE or TOEFL scores, or GPAs is not advised
      • Review applications as soon as possible and send the CAR for each applicant, either acceptances or rejections, to the graduate school as soon as possible
      • In compliance with the Council of Graduate Schools recommendation (to which most schools in the country subscribe) programs cannot force students to reply to offers of admission before April 15
      • List any designated application deadlines on your web site
    • Apply Yourself training will be available on individual basis
      • ID and Password access to your program’s applicant information can be made available to all program faculty if desired
      • Only online applications are accepted by UAB graduate programs
      • Establishing an application review process and criteria for acceptances and declines is strictly the prerogative of each program
      • It is advisable to establish an admissions committee for each program; this provides assistance with application reviews, and sets the stage for collective decision making
      • Be clear on application deadlines, both on your program web site, and in the AY application
    • Managing Students
      • Develop communication procedures for incoming students which span the time between acceptance of your offers of admission and when students arrive
      • Make sure that all international students who have indicated that they will be enrolling are aware of the deadline for arrival and the required international student orientation (usually a few weeks before the start of their first semester).
      • Develop a comprehensive policy and procedure student handbook for your program; it should state clearly all program requirements and expectations for student performance.  Program requirements may exceed the minimal requirements established by the Graduate School if appropriate within the discipline.
      • Plan a new student orientation soon after your new students arrive, go over program requirements in detail, and make sure the students either have, or know where to get, copies of both the Grad School Student Handbook, and the program-specific student handbook. Introduce the department faculty and staff personnel
      • Devise a mechanism for the new students to verify that they have attended the orientation by having them sign a document to that effect
      • Ask the students to provide emergency contact information
      • Plan social gatherings during the students’ first week in the program and periodically thereafter
      • Follow up with all new students one month into their first semester to determine whether they have integrated satisfactorily into the program and design intervention and / or remedial steps on a case by case basis as necessary
      • The progress of all students in your program should be reviewed at least annually, or more often if desired.  This can be accomplished by meeting with the students individually yourself, or perhaps by having other members of the program Executive Committee assist with these reviews.
      • Be aware of and accommodate educational and/or cultural differences
      • Decide what’s important and emphasize that up front  and ease into the rest later
      • Consider assigning both a preliminary faculty advisor and peer mentor
      • At an appropriate time during or after the new students’ first year (this differs by discipline) have a program specific procedure for the student to seek and secure a primary advisor for his/her thesis or dissertation research.
      • Develop a policy/procedure for the timeline and process by which students and their primary advisor solicit and secure the participation of other faculty members to serve on the student’s thesis of dissertation committee
      • Graduate School policy is that students’ study committees should meet to review each student’s progress at least annually, and more often if desired.  Each program should have a policy that supports and enforces this requirement.
      • Develop a policy/procedure for student mentor and / or faculty advisor changes

The meeting adjourned at 5:30 p.m.