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Graduate Program Director

  1. Introduction

    The primary role of the graduate program director is to ensure the academic integrity of graduate degree programs in their academic program area. First and foremost a graduate program director is charged with determining that policies and procedures outlined in the Graduate Catalog are followed by all program area faculty and students. Second, but of equal import, a graduate program director facilitates faculty engagement around critical program functions such as recruitment, admission, and retention practices and procedures.

  2. Appointment

    Many graduate programs are implemented and administered within a single department, while others are multidisciplinary in nature and involve the cooperative efforts of several individual departments or colleges on a shared basis. Because of these variations, some graduate program directors report directly to a particular departmental chair, while others report directly to an individual academic dean. The delineation of administrative authority should be established at the time a program director is appointed and clearly understood by all parties involved. At the time of appointment, graduate program directors and their supervisors should develop a plan for regular consultation and a written position description that provides a clear understanding of the expectations for both parties about their duties and the attendant compensations, along with criteria for the annual evaluation.

               The graduate program director should be tenured faculty from the program or department in which the program is located, if applicable, who is certified for graduate instruction at levels I or II (see the policy for Certification of Faculty for Graduate Instruction). The appointment of non-tenured faculty should be made only in exceptional circumstances that are approved by the dean or designee and the provost or designee.

               In the case of programs located within a single department, the graduate program director will be appointed by the department chair, after consultation with those faculty certified for graduate instruction in the program and with the approval of the academic dean in whose college the program is offered. The department chair or school director is the administrative supervisor for the graduate program director.

               In the case of interdisciplinary programs within a college, the graduate program director will be appointed by the dean after consultation with the chairs of participating departments and faculty certified for graduate instruction in the program, and deans of other colleges, if necessary. The dean is the administrative supervisor for the graduate program director.

               In the case of interdisciplinary programs located within standalone schools residing outside of a college, the graduate program director will be appointed by the school director, after consultation with the chairs/directors of participating departments/schools and faculty certified for graduate instruction in the program, and deans of other colleges, if necessary. The school director is the administrative supervisor for the graduate program director.

               A graduate program director shall serve at the pleasure of the administrative supervisor and shall ordinarily be appointed to a term of three years with the possibility of renewal. A graduate program director may ordinarily serve no more than two consecutive terms; however, the administrative supervisor may reappoint the individual for one additional term subject to the approval of the dean or the provost or designee if the dean is the administrative supervisor. An appointment exceeding three consecutive terms may be made only in extraordinary circumstances with the additional approval of the provost or designee. The Office of Academic Affairs will be provided with a copy of the appointment letter or memorandum, after approval by the dean and, if appropriate, the provost or designee for review and record purposes.

  3. Duties and Responsibilities

    The duties of a graduate program director depend upon a number of factors: program level (master's, education specialist, or doctoral), particular discipline, size of the program, and degree of staff support being some of the most important. While the ultimate responsibility for a graduate program rests with its graduate faculty, who may serve on specific committees or who may otherwise assist in various capacities, managing the following areas of responsibility will be considered the baseline duties for the graduate program director. Decisions made by graduate program directors in executing these responsibilities or duties may be overturned by their administrative supervisor in exceptional circumstances (e.g., to settle an unresolved disagreement between the director and graduate faculty over an action). If the graduate program director objects to the administrative supervisor's ruling, the matter shall be adjudicated by the program dean or designee. If the program dean or designee is the administrative supervisor, the provost or designee shall adjudicate the matter.

               Program Marketing and Recruitment – work with the Graduate School and the Office of Graduate Admissions to plan, initiate and maintain contact with prospective students, prepare the content of promotional materials and maintain program website.

               Admission to Program – work with the Office of Graduate Admissions and the program admissions committee to coordinate application review, oversee admissions decisions, maintain communication with admitted students, determine financial aid offers to candidates, establish program capacity, manage enrollment, and conduct student orientation.

               Advising and Problem Resolution – mentor and advise students, establish student plans of study, coordinate thesis and dissertation schedules, handle student requests for exemptions and waivers, and coordinate graduate assistant evaluations.

               Thesis and Dissertation Coordination – approve the appointment of faculty to serve on and/or chair thesis and dissertation committees. Such appointments must also be approved by the appropriate dean or designee.

               Continuance – work with the administrative supervisor and the Graduate School to monitor students’ academic progress, and work with the program faculty to coordinate the administration of candidacy examinations.

               Certifying Students for Graduation – certify students for graduation, including making course substitutions and other exceptions to Graduate Catalog requirements, in coordination with the Office of the University Registrar.

               Program Policies and Manual – maintain the program manual and disseminate student guidelines.

               Scheduling and Curriculum Review – advise the administrative supervisor on course demands and scheduling each semester and work with the Graduate School to revise and update the Graduate Catalog content, including all curricular changes, new course proposals, and old course deactivations.

               Program Assessment – work with the administrative supervisor, the Graduate School, and the Office of Institutional Effectiveness and Assessment to collect graduate student productivity data, survey student needs and satisfaction, complete annual assessment reports, conduct periodic external reviews, and interact with accrediting bodies and the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia (SCHEV). Additional responsibilities may be assigned by the administrative supervisor, dean, or provost with appropriate levels of support.

               Regular Training – attend regular graduate policy and procedure trainings offered by the Graduate School to stay current with University practice; regularly review the Graduate Catalog; participate in college-level meetings of directors convened by the dean’s office.

  4. Release Time and Remuneration

    During the academic year, all graduate program directors will receive some release time and/or remuneration. The amount of release time and/or remuneration will be determined according to guidelines or criteria established by Academic Affairs and in consultation with the chair, dean, and the provost or designee. Release time and/or remuneration may vary with the size, scope, and complexity of the program and the duties established for the particular position as discussed in section C (above). Remuneration will be offered in the summer as guided by criteria established by Academic Affairs and determined in consultation with the chair, dean, and the provost or designee.

  5. Evaluation of Performance

    The primary person responsible for evaluating the performance of the graduate program director will be the administrative supervisor as indicated in section A (above). It is expected that a portion of the annual faculty evaluation of the graduate program director will be devoted to the performance in that capacity. The person responsible for the evaluation should seek as much input as appropriate to assist in the evaluation and should consult with the graduate faculty and academic dean, particularly when a new appointment is contemplated.

- Approved by the vice president for academic affairs
December 5, 1978
Revised August 8, 1995
Revised and approved by the president
December 16, 1997
Revised August 22, 2003
Revised July 24, 2006
Revised November 5, 2010
Revised December 11, 2017
Revised May 1, 2020
Revised March 30, 2023

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