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Advising Expectations

In April 2018 the Faculty Senate updated University policy with a requirement that "within each department or program minimum advising expectations be set for both advisor and advisee...These department or program expectations must be distributed to faculty and graduate students on an annual basis at the start of each academic year and must be easily accessible on the web." 

These prompts can guide advising discussions within departments, programs, and Schools and serve as a template for the creation of minimum advising expectations, as required by the Faculty Senate. The examples were excerpted from the advising materials collected by the Committee on Graduate Studies in Spring 2017.

Advising expectations should be incoporated in Graduate Handbooks and should also be updated and posted annually in the department's Explore Degrees section of the Stanford Bulletin and posted on departmental websites. See examples in LinguisticsHistory, Mechanical EngineeringPhysics, and the Graduate School of Education.

By being explicitly stated, advising expectations can be discussed and clarified by both students and faculty, resulting in a shared understanding about the roles and responsibilities of students and faculty advisors.

What is the overall purpose of faculty advising in this program?

Biochemistry Graduate Student Handbook (2016-17): The Biochemistry faculty recognizes that students admitted to our program are among the best-prepared and most motivated scientists in training throughout the world. We feel that students will best explore their creative potential and develop their intellectual and analytical skills through frequent collegial interactions with faculty. In this spirit, committee and proposal meetings are designed to allow an open and exciting exchange of scientific ideas and results. Through this, the student learns to develop, organize, and present his/her ideas and results while benefiting from the experience and insights of committee members. These meetings also provide an opportunity to identify areas for students to focus on as they develop as independent scientists.

How are advisors initially assigned to or selected by incoming graduate students? What is the process by which students can change advisors and when should this happen?

Economics Department Graduate Student Handbook (2016-17): The Director of Graduate Study is the official advisor to all graduate students and is available to consult with students about progress and help them select courses. The DGS also monitors the progress of students during their first three years, and especially at the time of the third-year review. In addition to the DGS, students have an advisor selected by the department (in the first year) or by themselves (in the second year and beyond), who can provide more relevant advice. The second-year paper advisor (who may become the thesis advisor) is helpful in the second year and beyond. Once students start work on their dissertation, the thesis advisor becomes the main advisor.

Bioengineering Graduate Handbook: Ph.D. First Year Advising Autumn Quarter (2015-16): Students will be assigned an initial faculty advisor on the basis of the research interests expressed in their application. Initial faculty advisors will assist students in selecting courses and identifying research opportunities.

English PhD Handbook: Choosing an Advisor (2016-17): Each entering student will be assigned to a faculty advisor based on common research interests. If you and/or your advisor believe that your needs may be met best with another faculty advisor, you may change advisors by informing the Graduate Administrator and the Director of Graduate Studies.

How frequently should students meet with their advisors and how are those meetings set up? How does meeting frequency change as the student progresses? What topics might be discussed at advising or committee meetings? Are there any forms to complete or “deliverables” associated with any of those meetings?

Expectations of PhD Students in Musicology: Advising. Be an active advisee. Don’t wait for your advisor to email you: arrange for meetings to discuss your coursework, summer plans, Quals preparation, language study, and, later, your dissertation topic, fellowship applications, and other aspects of professional development. Prepare for these meetings carefully, recognizing that your advisor’s time is limited.

Graduate School of Education (2016-17 email to incoming PhD students from student mentors):

Things to talk about with your faculty advisorduring your advising appointment:

  1. Share a little bit about yourself (where you grew up, went to school, jobs you had before coming to GSE).
  2. Explain your current academic, course and research interests.
  3. Tell him/her the courses you are interested in taking this fall quarter.
  4. Ask for your advisor’s thoughts regarding your selection of courses, and ask for advice on any other courses that you might find relevant given your interests.
  5. Ask about the best way to reach your advisor if you have questions or would like to seek advice during the year—find out if it’s easier to setup an appointment as needed or check-in on a regular basis; or if your advisor is best reached by phone or by email.
  6. Discuss details of program requirements (1st year milestones, PhD Minor, etc.)
  7. Find out about the possibility of your advisor providing guidance on connecting with research projects; supporting you on research assistantships, or linking you to opportunities for teaching and course assistantships later in the program.
  8. Ask about regular research group meetings that your advisor might hold (or other research workshops/groups that your advisor thinks could be useful).
  9. Ask your advisor about office space.

How is degree progress monitored, for example through a departmental annual review process or regular meetings with advisor or thesis committees?

Political Science PhD Program Guide (2016-17): Chapter 5 - Faculty Reviews: The faculty holds two student review meetings each year: one in the latter part of the Fall quarter, and the other at the end of the Spring quarter. Particular emphasis is placed on the review of those students applying to candidacy (typically students in the Spring of their 2nd year in the Ph.D. program). 5.1 Feedback from Faculty Review: Letters are sent to students following these reviews by the Director of Graduate Studies, indicating the faculty’s assessment of the student’s work and any problems that have been identified at that time.

Biosciences Individual Development Plan (see Your Individual Development Plan (IDP) and annual planning meeting with your advisor are intended to help you:

  • Take ownership of your training and professional development.
  • Pause and reflect! Amidst daily research activities, it is easy to lose sight of longer-term goals.
  • Think intentionally about your short-, mid- and long-term training and development goals.
  • Identify and use resources to help you achieve your goals.
  • Have open and direct dialogue with your mentor(s).
  • Establish clear expectations/steps.

How and when does a student select and convene their dissertation reading or “thesis” committee; what is the purpose of the committee; and how often should the committee meet? How does the department or program, advisor, and student decide when a student is ready to graduate?

Mechanical Engineering Graduate Student Handbook (2016-17): Green Light Meeting: No less than 6 months prior to the planned PhD Defense, the Student and the reading committee are required to meet in a "Green Light Meeting". In this meeting, a Final Dissertation Proposal will be reviewed and discussed, and the student will present a "Draft PhD Thesis outline" indicating status of prior work and plans for additional work. The presentation should not be a "practice thesis defense presentation", but rather should be a chapter-bychapter review of the status of completion of each part of the expected PhD thesis. A month-by-month schedule for the time remaining until the PhD Defense should be presented at this meeting. The purpose of this Green Light Meeting is to make sure that the entire reading committee is familiar with the plans for the completed PhD thesis, and is comfortable with the proposed content and the schedule. At the conclusion of the meeting, a student services form is used for a brief report. The form must be submitted to the student services office as soon as possible after the meeting. This report should indicate the target dates for the PhD Defense and completion of the PhD Thesis as agreed to by the reading committee, and is signed by the PhD Advisor.

Who else might a student consult for help or guidance, e.g., department chair, DGS, student services staff?

This information can easily be posted in the graduate handbook, the department website, and the Stanford Bulletin, with information about who students should consult with which questions. In addition, other offices students might consult can be posted, such as the Graduate Life Office.

Individual faculty can use these prompts to make their own expectations explicit:

  • What are your expectations about time off, vacation, holidays, etc.- do you expect the student to request time away and if so, how far in advance?
  • Do you expect your students to consult with you about the courses they take?
  • How will you write together? How polished should drafts be before you see them? How much time do you want to review drafts and how do you want your student to request input?
  • How long in advance should your student make a request for a letter of recommendation (or similar) and what information do you need in advance?
  • What fellowships or research funds do you expect your students to apply for and how will you support their efforts?
  • What funding might you be able to provide (conference travel funds, research funds, etc.)?
  • Do you expect student to present their work, in your research group or department, on campus, at conferences, etc.?
  • Do you expect students to publish their work and if so, will you and/or others co-author with them?
  • How and when do you discuss co-authorship?
  • What might students seek your guidance on beyond their courses and dissertation: i.e., teaching opportunities, career guidance, work-life balance?