January 2008

Welcome back to the start of a new semester and a new year!  We ask that you please share this information with faculty in your department.


  • Proposals for the ’08-‘09 Institutional Plan for Graduate Degrees (IPGD) are due February 1
  • Graduate Education Week is scheduled for March 24 – 28, 2008.  Both the Blacksburg campus and the National Capital Region will be scheduling events, so please mark your calendars!  Updates will be posted on the Graduate School website.
  • Ms. Karen Burke has joined the Graduate Student Services Office in the National Capital Region
  • Information  about graduate student awards may be found on the Graduate School website, http://grads.vt.edu/
  • Graduate School Distinguished Lecture Series:  Mary Catherine Bateson, renowned author and cultural anthropologist, is the 2007-2008 Graduate School Distinguished Lecturer.  The university community and general public are invited to hear her speak on February 26th at 4:00 pm in the Graduate Life Center auditorium. More information about Dr. Bateson can be found at: http://www.marycatherinebateson.com/
  • 2008 Graduate Preview Weekend:  Graduate Preview Weekend nominations are being accepted at www.graduateschool.vt.edu/preview_weekend.  To access the registration page, you will need to enter your Virginia Tech PID and password.  A department may nominate up to three prospective students.  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. The nomination deadline is Wednesday, February 13, 2008.  For more information, contact Marilyn Kershaw, Director of Graduate Student Recruiting, at 1-2494 or at mkershaw@vt.edu.
  • Cunningham Doctoral Scholar Awards:  The Cunningham Doctoral Scholar Awards program is accepting nominations to recruit academically well-qualified doctoral students to Virginia Tech. Nominees should be accepted into a doctoral program at Virginia Tech (preferably from a non-VT master’s or bachelor’s program), with an outstanding academic record and strong academic potential for successful completion of a doctoral degree. Nominees should be U.S. citizens.  An academic department nomination is required and should include the following information about the student: name of applicant, VT degree sought, previous university, recommendation letter from department addressing eligibility requirements. A competitive GTA or GRA stipend will be awarded up to two years, with matching commitment from the academic department.  The first round of decisions will be made following the February 1st deadline.  Submissions will be accepted until March 1st.
  • Annual progress review:  Annual progress review is an important part of the academic advising process for graduate students.  Spring is the typical time for conducting the Annual Progress Reviews (see Presidential Policy 229). A meeting of Graduate Program Directors will be held in February to share some examples of review practices that are working well and to engage in discussion and problem solving about review processes.  Please conduct these reviews during spring semester share them with the graduate students and provide constructive guidance for degree progress as needed. When the reviews are completed, please send us a summary for the program as well as copies of the individual reviews.
  • Progress to Degree: For students planning to graduate this semester, it is vital that they are aware of the following important forms and deadlines.
  • Application for Degree: The deadline to submit the Application for Degree for students intending to graduate in spring 2008 is March 1, 2008. Please direct your students to Hokie Spa for completion of this online form. Students must submit this form by the deadline to insure that their name will be listed in the Commencement Bulletin for the May ceremony.
  • Final Exam Request: Must be received by the Graduate School at least 2 weeks prior to the intended exam date. PhD and EdD candidates who intend to participate in the May ceremony must defend no later than March 28, 2008.
  • EDT Submission: The ETD must be uploaded at http://etd.vt.edu no more than 2 weeks after the successful completion of the final exam.

Degree Award Deadlines: Visit http://www.graduateschool.vt.edu/academics/dates_deadlines/commencement_deadlines.html

Application/decision deadlines
The following application and decision deadlines have been established for the upcoming entry terms:

Summer I – Starts May 19, 2008
Online application deadline:  April 15, 2008 Dept decision deadline:  May 1, 2008

Summer II – Starts June 30, 2008
Online application deadline:  May 30, 2008 Dept decision deadline:  June 13, 2008
Fall – Starts August 25, 2008
Online application deadline:  June 30, 2008 Dept decision deadline:  July 15, 2008

Readmission application deadline:
Summer I:  May 1, 2008
Summer II:  June 13, 2008
Fall:  August 8, 2008

Readmission decision deadline:
Summer I:  May 16, 2008
Summer II:  June 27, 2008
Fall:  August 22, 2008

Please note that International students must have a decision on them no later than May 15, 2008 for fall enrollment.  Any decisions made after this timeframe need to be approved in advance by the Graduate Schools International Student Services area, please contact them at igss@vt.edu . For those in the National Capital Region, please contact mtelbisf@vt.edu.

Summary of Recent Graduate School Meetings
Graduate Program Directors, Department Heads & Faculty Gathering:
On January 10th, the Graduate School held a gathering for faculty (department heads, program directors & faculty) to discuss graduate education, policy and procedures, and programs.  Some of the discussion focused on a quality graduate education experience and the document entitled Expectations for Graduate Study available on the Graduate School website (http://www.graduateschool.vt.edu/academics/expectations/index.html).  A two-page summary document is attached and I encourage you to disseminate this to your graduate students and faculty.  A lively discussion focused on the scheduling form for final examination.  As a result, the form will be edited but the signatures will still be required pending review at the end of the semester.  Inasmuch as academic discourse, faculty input and involvement is critical to graduate education, I plan to schedule graduate program faculty gatherings once a semester.

First joint meeting of CUS&P and CGS&P:
On January 11th, the first gathering of the Commission on Undergraduate Studies & Policies (CUS&P) and the Commission on Graduate Studies & Policies (CGS&P) was held.  The purpose was to discuss shared interests and concerns about academic policies and procedures which concern undergraduate and graduate students.  Several topics were discussed in depth and the commissions agreed to continue to collaborate on selected topics including:  tracking course proposals, review of Bachelor’s/Master’s programs, the use of 4000 level courses for graduate credit, and student life policies.   Committees will be taking on these tasks and sharing results with the two commissions.  Consideration will be given to increasing communications between the two commissions and annual gatherings.

Commission on Graduate Studies & Policy (CGS&P):
Degrees approved by SCHEV:

  • Ph.D. in Social, Political, Ethical, and Cultural Thought (ASPECT)
  • Virginia Tech – Georgetown University M.S. Degree in Biomedical Technology Development and Management

Procedures Updates & Clarification
Probation letters for students whose GPA dropped below a 3.0 at the end of fall semester were mailed on January 10, 2008. Students have one semester to remedy their GPA deficiency and departments should work closely with these students to help them succeed in raising their GPAs.  Copies of the letters will be distributed to departments via email by the end of the month.

Letters indicating probationary status have been sent to students who have GPAs of <3.0. These students fall into several categories:

  • New students who entered in fall semester on Regular Status. These students have one semester to raise their GPA to 3.0. They may be allowed an additional probationary semester, on departmental request, if they are making good progress toward reaching a 3.0.
  • New students who entered in fall semester on Provisional Status. These students were required to attain a 3.0 GPA in their first semester.  These students may have one probationary semester. However, departments can deny these students a probationary semester if the first semester performance was so poor that they believe the student cannot succeed in the program.
  • Continuing students who have probationary averages either for the first time or on a sustained basis.  The university indicated that no student could be put on probation beginning in spring 2007 because of the tragic events of April 16 so students who had GPAs below 3.0 will not have “probation” designated on their transcript for that semester.  There also are students who were continued on probation for a variety of other reasons. We are writing to departments about the sustained probation cases because they typically need special attention.

Note that students may remain on assistantship for only one semester of probation.
A graduate student transcript will show Probation for each semester the student has a GPA of <3.0.  This is a change from the past designation of “Satisfactory Progress” that used to appear on the unofficial transcript on Hokie Spa of any student who was qualified to enroll in the subsequent semester, even if they were on probation. This “old” type of designation caused a lot of confusion about what was satisfactory progress for graduate students.

Repeat Grades:
Many graduate students and faculty do not seem to be aware of the Repeat Grade option that “replaces” an inadequate grade. This policy has been in effect for about a year and is especially important when students receive low grades in courses on their Plans of Study.  When graduate students retake a course, the new grade is the one that calculates into the GPA.  The original grade is designated RG or RP, defined as “C- or less” and “C or less”, respectively.  Neither the credits nor the grade calculate into the GPA when courses are designated RG or RP. These grade replacements should occur automatically, but if they do not, please contact the Graduate School so changes can be made manually.  There are many programs where the same course number can be taken repeatedly with different subject matter so some manual changes will continue to be necessary.

Graduate students whose enrollment has lapsed for more than a calendar year are required to apply for readmission.  When a readmission is requested the Graduate School asks the departmental graduate program to review that student’s record (with emphasis on the Plan of Study) and to determine whether the student should be readmitted. In cases of relatively brief absences from degree work, where the coursework is current, no Plan of Study (POS) changes or committee changes may to be needed and the department is likely to readmit the student quickly.  In some cases the student may have been away for so long that the department will determine a degree cannot be completed, e.g., cases where committee members have retired and the department no longer has expertise in the field of the student’s thesis or dissertation. In some cases, in which the program feels the student should be allowed to continue, the coursework on the POS is >5 years old and the student’s committee must determine how the student can establish currency in the field (filing of Justification of Old Coursework form). In other cases, changes in the POS coursework or changes in the committee composition are needed (filing of Change Plan of Study form or Change of Committee form).  The emphasis in the readmission process should be on a review of past degree progress and whether the department will allow the student to continue and what steps are needed to have a current degree if the student is readmitted. In general, the longer the time the student has been inactive, the longer the time the department and Graduate School are likely to need to process a readmission request.


Pending applications:  Banner report SYRB601 allows departments to review and sort the list of applications that are still waiting for a decision. The report provides a data file that you can pull into an Excel file so that you can sort the data by student name, ID, campus, application status and citizenship status. If you need assistance in accessing or running the report, please contact the Graduate Student Services Office in the National Capital Region at 703/538-8327 gsso@nvc.vt.edu or the Admissions and & Academic Progress Office in Blacksburg at 540/231-8636.