November/December 2007

Commencement is a very special time for our graduates and their families and I hope you will join your colleagues in recognizing our graduates and celebrating their accomplishments.  I invite you to attend Graduate Commencement on Friday, December 14, 2007.  Michael Hochela will be the commencement speaker this year.  The Graduate School ceremony is Friday, December 14 at 3pm in Cassell Coliseum.

Commencement Information
Master’s candidates who are eligible to participate in Commencement should report to the practice gym (Room 213) located on the ground floor at the back of Cassell Coliseum. Enter on the Spring Road side of the building.
Doctoral candidates who have met all requirements for graduation by December 7, 2007, are eligible to participate in Commencement. Doctoral candidates should report to the practice gym (Room 220) on the ground level of Cassell Coliseum. Enter on the Spring Road side of the building.
Faculty who will be participating in the hooding ceremony should arrive at the practice gym (Room 220) at Cassell Coliseum between 1:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Check in upon arrival so that your name may be read during the ceremony.
Check-in will begin at 1:30 p.m. and end at 2:30 p.m.  Academic regalia is required.

Announcements & Deadlines:
Faculty Workshop
The Graduate School will hold a workshop for faculty (graduate program directors, department heads and other faculty members) to discuss new developments and policies for graduate education.   The gathering will be held January 10 , 2:30 – 4:30 PM, in Room F, Graduate Life Center.

Graduation Deadlines
Doctoral candidates who have indicated their intention to participate in the Fall Commencement ceremonies must meet all requirements by December 7, 2007.  If a student has indicated that they wish to walk, but now is unable to participate, please have them contact Janice Austin at

All students should be reminded that in order to be considered a Fall 2007 graduate, they must defend their Master’s thesis or Doctoral Dissertation by December 5, 2007.  In addition, all degree completion requirements must be met by January 18, 2008.  Any student defending between December 6th and February 4th will be considered a spring 2008 graduate and automatically be enrolled for Defending Student Status of 1 credit.

Application and Decision Deadlines
Applications for spring 2008 will be available online until Saturday, December 15, 2007.
We will no longer be accepting regular applications for spring admittance after this date.
Students who wish to enroll for spring after this time will need to submit the Expedited Admissions application which is only available in paper format through academic departments or the Graduate School.  The Expedited Admissions application will be accepted from January 2nd through Wednesday, January 16, 2008.

All decisions for spring 2008 applications must be submitted to the Graduate School by Friday, December 28, 2007.  If a department would like to have an application considered for a future term because they are unable to make a final decision now, the department should confirm with the student of their intention and obtain their interest in future consideration.  Once confirmation is received from the student, the department should notify the Graduate School and the student’s application term will be changed.  This communication should be done via email and not as a comment on the Online Admissions Analysis form.   

Call for Nominations for 2007-08 Graduate Student Awards
The Graduate School is requesting nominations for the following graduate student awards:
*          Outstanding Dissertation in (a) sciences and engineering (b) social sciences
*          Graduate Student Service Excellence
*          Graduate Student Teaching Excellence
*          Graduate Man and Woman of the Year
*          Outstanding Graduate Student by college at the (a) master’s and (b) doctoral level

Eligibility and nomination requirements vary for each award; please see attached table for details. Nominations must be submitted by February 1, 2008, unless otherwise stated. Award winners will be notified by letter. All awards include a monetary prize and a plaque or certificate. Winners and their advisors will be recognized at the awards banquet during Graduate Education Week in March 2008.

Graduate Preview Weekend
            Graduate Preview Weekend nominations are being accepted at The nominated individual should have submitted an application for graduate study and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident residing in the United States. Graduate Preview Weekend is February 21-24 2008. For more information, contact Marilyn Kershaw, Director of Graduate Student Recruiting at 1-2494 or at

Fellowships & Scholarships

Graduate Congressional Scholarship (Spring 2007)
 The Graduate School is pleased to announce the availability of a one semester Graduate Congressional Scholarship for students currently enrolled at Virginia Tech. The scholar will be able to participate in the everyday work of Congressman Boucher’s office. While specific duties will depend on the scholar’s experience and interests, as well as the needs of Congressman Boucher’s office, duties will likely include constituent services, special studies, and support of on-going office activities such telecommunications, science and technology, social issues, labor and education.

The scholarship is open to master’s and doctoral students in all fields. Applicants must be currently enrolled in a graduate program at Virginia Tech and have completed at least 18 credits of graduate coursework. The ideal candidate should possess excellent writing skills. The successful applicant will receive a one semester stipend and tuition scholarship up to $16,000.

Applicants should submit a 250 word statement of career goals, a current resume, and two letters of support, at least one of which must be from a Virginia Tech faculty member in the student’s graduate degree program. Please submit applications or nominations by December 15, 2007 to Dr. Karen P. DePauw, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate School, Mail Code 0325, Blacksburg, VA 24061.

David W. Francis and Lillian Francis Scholarship (Fall 2008)
The David W. Francis and Lillian Francis Scholarship was established to provide graduate fellowships in research emphasizing longer, safer and healthier lives.  The disciplines designated in the endowment include agriculture, engineering, bioinformatics, plant pathology, wood science and forest products, veterinary medicine and biotechnology.  The Francis Research Fellowship includes a stipend of $18,000 plus tuition for one academic year.  One research fellowship will be awarded each academic year.  PhD students whose research emphasize “longer, safer and healthier lives” and are in their final year of research are eligible for the Francis Research Fellowship.   Doctoral students should be nominated by their department.  The nomination packet should include a letter of support from the academic unit, a letter from the faculty advisor(s), a description of the student’s academic work, and a synopsis of the student’s research and its relevance to promoting “longer, safer and healthier lives”.  Nominations are due by February 1 2008 and should be submitted to Dr. Karen P. DePauw, Ph.D., Vice Provost for Graduate Studies and Dean of the Graduate School, Mail Code 0325, Blacksburg, VA 24061…  (

Policies & Procedures Reminders

Annual progress review
            The proportion of departments who conducted individual reviews of their graduate students’ progress increased considerably in 2006-07 over the previous academic year. Those student reviews, submitted to the Graduate School, are being reviewed to compile a list of practices that seem to be most successful in using reviews to facilitate graduate progress toward degrees.  We will schedule a meeting of departmental Graduate Program Directors early in spring semester to present these ideas and facilitate discussion of how reviews can be used productively by the departments to aid quality in their programs. For more information about the Presidential Policy Memoranda about graduate reviews, see Academics, Graduate Catalog, 2007-08 Policies and Procedures (p. 6-7) on the Graduate School website.

            Academic units are encouraged to remind students that they should enroll in courses prior to the start of the semester and adhere to the drop/add deadlines set by the university.  Instructors should not allow students who aren’t on their formal class lists (see Faculty Access in Hokie Spa) to attend class beyond the Add deadline. This will help insure that graduate students deal with any enrollment problems early in the semester.  Departmental staff should refrain from enrolling students so that we can avoid unnecessary drops/withdraws in which the student denies responsibility for the enrollment.  Only under unusual circumstances will graduate students be allowed to add or drop a class after the deadlines.

Instructors of record for graduate courses
            Graduate School policy requires that graduate courses (5xxx, 6xxx) be taught by faculty members holding the appropriate terminal academic degree (e.g., PhD).  Graduate students (including staff working for graduate degrees) can teach undergraduate courses but are not authorized to teach graduate courses.  Please note this requirement in planning course offerings in the future.
Graduate Curriculum Committee & Commission on Graduate Studies and Policies
Course approval and degree progress may be tracked at:

Student learning outcomes for graduate degrees
The Degree Requirement Standards Criteria and Academic Policy (DRSCAP) subcommittee, on behalf of Commission on Graduate Studies & Policies (CGS&P), is developing a set of generic (foundational) student learning outcomes and examples of possible assessment measures for the graduate degrees at Virginia Tech.   In keeping with university accreditation (SACS) guidelines, graduate education throughout the university and across campus locations ought to have a mechanism by which the learning objectives for our students earning graduate degrees can be clearly articulated and easily measured.  
Inasmuch as SACS requires measurable student learning outcomes for each graduate degree offered at Virginia Tech, the generic student learning outcomes being developed could be utilized by each academic unit/department in finalizing the departmental learning outcomes for each graduate degree.  The outcomes will represent a range of student learning outcomes appropriate to graduate education at VT depending upon the type of degree (e.g., research degree, professional degree, coursework only) and level of degree (e.g., Master’s, MFA, PhD, EdD).  In preparation for the SACS accreditation documents and site visit, individual departments and their graduate program committees could identify a set of unique student learning outcomes, select among the generic student learning outcomes and modify as appropriate to each graduate program to fit their specific needs and requirements, or utilize a combination of the above.  Once the generic student learning outcomes have been approved by CGS&P, they will be made available to the department in January. The intention is to ease some of the burden for departments occasioned by the approaching SACS deadline.  Departments are under no obligation whatsoever to use any of the generic guidelines provided.

Vacation time and work requirements for graduate student assistants (GA, GTA, GRA)
As the winter break approaches, it is time to clarify the work requirements for graduate students on GA, GTA, and GRA appointments.  Graduate students on assistantship are required to work an average of 20 hours/5 day week during the appointment period.  Unless stipulated in the assistantship agreement contract, students are not required to work when the university is officially closed (December 24, 25, 31, January 1) and may be allowed to take vacation during official university break (December 17 – January 11).  If stated in the assistantship contract, some GRAs and GAs will be required to work during the university breaks but should not be required to work more than an average of 20 hours/5 day week.  Expectations for work and vacation for graduate students should be clarified and mutually agreed upon.

The Graduate School works with the University Libraries and UMI/Proquest to provide access to Graduate Student works through Dissertation Abstracts.  UMI/Proquest passes the abstract(s) on to other entities for a variety of uses.
Choosing to use UMI/Proquest for their copyrighting and binding services is optional.  If students wish to pursue this alternative, in the future, the payments will need to go directly to the company rather than being routed through VT.

Upon receipt of the signed final defense card, students will be sent an email outlining expectations for degree completion.  In this email, the Graduate School will provide the URL to UMI/Proquest and list other options for copyrighting and binding services so graduate students can choose which options they prefer.

Preliminary and Final examination cards

The Graduate School has updated the design of the preliminary and final examination cards.  Soon Committee advisors will be receiving a packet with either a manila (prelim) or salmon (final) colored card.  These cards will replace the old white and blue cards previously used by the graduate school.