February 9, 2011: ADCOM Minutes

Graduate Council Advisory Committee
SHELBY 318
Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Members present: Puri Bangalore, Gregg Janowski, Melissa Galvin, Douglas Ayers, Jim Collawn, Bryan Noe, Susan Rich, Jeff Engler, Cecelia Graham, David Macrina, Erica Pryor, Rosalyn Weller

Staff: Susan Banks, Cynthia Ballinger, Thomas Harris

Guest: Michael Howell-Moroney

Agenda Items:

    1. The first agenda item was the review and discussion of a proposal submitted by Dr. Howell-Moroney to eliminate the GRE as an entrance requirement for the Master of Public Administration program. The MPA program has a rolling admission policy; the largest number of applicants applies for fall semester enrollment.  Currently, evaluation of applicants includes calculation of a composite score which consists of multiplying the applicant’s undergraduate GPA times 100, added to the verbal plus quantitative GRE raw scores combined divided by two. There is no interview process currently. The request to eliminate the GRE as an admission requirement is part of a larger effort to try to develop a more holistic application review process. An analysis of student success rates revealed that undergraduate GPA and GRE scores are both very poor predictors of success.  Two types of students apply to the MPS program; students having just earned their undergraduate degree, and professionals who have been in the work force for many years.  For the latter group, the GRE requirement is a stumbling block.  For these students, the potential for success in the MPA program can be predicted by using criteria other than results from the GRE.  For this reason, and the fact that the GRE results do not appear to be a valid predictor of success for any of the students who have enrolled in the past, irrespective of whether they have had work experience, the program requests elimination of the GRE requirement for all students who apply to the program.  To substitute, the admissions committee will still scrutinize the undergraduate GPA, and carefully review applicant essays.  Candidates for whom a decision cannot be made easily, will be interviewed. The undergraduate GPA threshold will be 3.5 higher for admission, 3.5 – 3.0 for conditional admission, and 3.0 – 2.75 would be contingent admission.  There is no one metric that can adequately predict how a student will perform in the program. There is no particular major or course work favored over another considering that the MPA is a somewhat generalized degree. Graduates often enter government related jobs as well as assuming positions in the non-profit sector.  The admission ration of mid-professionals and undergraduates is 60-40 in the advantage of the mid-professionals.  After discussion, a motion to eliminate the GRE as a requirement for entry into the MPA program was made.  The motion was passed unanimously.
    2. The second agenda item, to discuss setting a mandate (rather than the current ADCOM recommendation) for frequency of thesis and dissertation committee meetings, was a follow-up from the December meeting.  During the December meeting ADCOM members where asked to poll their colleagues to determine if a mandate were to be approved, whether it would cause any insurmountable problems.  Committee members reported the following:  The Cell Biology  program already has a requirement that each student must have one meeting a year and after year four they must have two dissertation committee meetings every year.  Non compliance results in students being prevented from registering in the following term.  The Microbiology program has a similar policy with the additional stipulation that stipend support ends after seven years. In the College of Arts and Sciences, some programs require a report that the student submits at the end of each semester to his/her advisor detailing their work for the term; others require one committee meeting each year which includes the completion of an annual review checklist that is submitted to the program director. Programs use these evaluations as a means to determine the students progress toward meeting degree requirements.  If these evaluations are not completed and submitted, students can lose their stipend but are still allowed to register.  The Psychology program requires annual evaluations where the students complete the evaluation form prior to meeting with their committee. Nursing PhD students are required to complete annual reports that are sent to the SON Steering Committee.  If a student does not submit an annual report, the students are not allowed to register.  Programs in the Education School do not have a formal reporting or monitoring procedure.  These reports and other informal polling by ADCOM members confirmed that faculty and program directors would be supportive of a mandate for frequency of graduate student study committee meetings from the Graduate School.  The consensus of the group was also that, if a mandate were to be passed as policy, the programs which already have an acceptable approach to monitoring student progress would have the flexibility to continue any practice which has been successful for them in the past.  Prior to making a formal recommendation, templates of evaluation forms already being used will be collected for review.  These examples will be used by Dr. Noe to draft a proposed policy that will be discussed and acted upon at the next ADCOM meeting. 
    3. The final agenda item was the discussion of grading research credits.  Before the 1990s, essentially all research credits 698 or 699 (Masters research credits) and 798 or 799  (doctoral research credits) were assigned pass/no pass (P/NP) grades.  More recently, some programs have reverted to assigning letter grades for research credits.  There have been examples of students whose performance in core course work was marginal, even placing some on academic probation for not maintaining a 3.0 GPA.  Often these students pulled themselves out of academic probation because of receiving A or B grades for their research credits.   The question posed to the committee was whether, because of this issue and others, a move should be made to revert back to the P/NP system of grading research credits.  After discussion, the committee members came to the consensus view that graduate students’ GPAs should be based on core and elective course work only.  A motion to eliminate the possibility of assigning letter grades for all 698, 699, 798, and 799 research credits was made.  In the future “grading” of research credits will exclusively be P for credit, and NP for no credit.  A student will be required to have as many P hours as NP “grades.”  After discussion the motion was passed unanimously.  The new policy will take effect in Fall semester 2011.  Banner will be set up to accept only P or NP assignments to any graduate research credits.

Information Items:

    1.  Ireland Award competition (Engler). The Ireland competition consists of two separate competitions: one is for a tuition scholarship for Masters students who will commit to a Plan I master’s thesis.  The scholarship will pay tuition for three semesters.  The research travel award is for both master’s and doctoral students; it will pay up to a $1000 for students to get data, access to research methodologies or instrumentation, to or have a research experience at another institution or location.  The travel must be justified in terms of its value to the students thesis or dissertation work.
    2. 2011 Graduate Student Research Days update (Engler). The presentations and competition will be held on February 23 – 25. 131 total student abstracts have been submitted.  On March 4 the luncheon to announce the award recipients will be held.
    3. Falsification of applicant information (Noe). During the February meeting of the Alabama Council of Graduate Deans, information was presented regarding an observed increase in falsified application materials. A web site called phonydiploma.com will generate fake diplomas and transcripts for almost every institution in the world. A student can pay a fee of $160 for a complete set of phony documents. An email will be sent to all program directors to alert them to be aware that they should scrutinize all application documents carefully.  Student Clearing House is a place provides a service which can verify an applicant’s enrollment and graduation information.
    4. IRB review of Graduate Student research proposals. A problem with a delay of IRB approval of student proposals was addressed with the President and Provost by the Deans with a conclusion to establish a separate IRB for student proposals. ADCOM members recommended that students continue to have a separate IRB, or have the mentor amend his/her IRB approved projects to include his/her students.  The VP for Research Office, to which the IRB staff report, is also considering establishing “office hours” for graduate students.  If implemented, students will be able to schedule a time to meet with an IRB staff member to receive assistance with completing their IRB applications.

(The ADCOM web site is http://www.uab.edu/graduate/graduate-council-information)

The meeting adjourned at 5:30 p.m.