DSAS Doctoral Dissertation Committee Policy

DSAS Doctoral Dissertation Committee Policy (in effect: October 14, 2021; rev. April 8, 2022)

Committee Composition

Doctoral dissertation committees are composed of at least four members. The Chair of the committee must be a current (or recent) member of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate Faculty. Any member may serve as Co-Chair. At least three members (to include the Chair) must be members of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate Faculty with either a primary appointment in the candidate’s department or a secondary/joint appointment in the candidate’s department and a primary/joint appointment in another relevant department within the University of Pittsburgh (“internal members”). At least one member must either be a member of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate Faculty external to the candidate’s department or a qualified scholar with an equivalent status at another accredited institution (“external member”; for exceptions, see below, Special Requirements for External Committee Members from outside the University of Pittsburgh). The Graduate Faculty Roster for the University of Pittsburgh can be viewed at the following website: https://www.provost.pitt.edu/graduate-faculty-roster. Membership in the Graduate Faculty is not automatic and must be formally requested by the faculty member’s department and approved by the Associate Dean for Graduate Studies and the Vice Provost for Graduate Studies before the faculty member can serve on a doctoral dissertation committee. Additional committee members from the University of Pittsburgh may be added to the doctoral committee in cases where additional expertise is needed. For additional members, the Graduate Faculty status requirement may be waived by approval of the Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies. A program’s request for any additional committee member from the University of Pittsburgh must be accompanied by (1) a current C.V. that documents the potential member’s educational and professional background of relevance to the student’s research, as well as documentation of teaching and/or mentoring doctoral or post-doctoral trainees and (2) a memo that clearly outlines the benefit of the member’s participation to the student.

Notification of Committee Membership

The names of the committee members must be submitted by the student’s Ph.D. program to the DSAS Office of Graduate Studies as part of a student’s application for doctoral candidacy. All requests for subsequent changes to the committee should be submitted for approval to the Office of Graduate Studies by the Graduate Administrator for the candidate’s program. Any changes to committee membership, internal or external, after the dissertation proposal/prospectus/overview meeting must be approved by the Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies prior to the dissertation defense. [1]

Special Requirements for External Committee Members from outside the University of Pittsburgh

Requests for an external committee member from outside the University of Pittsburgh should be sent to the Coordinator of Graduate Student Services.

A program’s request for any external member from outside the University of Pittsburgh must be accompanied by (1) a current C.V. that documents the potential external member’s educational and professional background of relevance to the student’s research, as well as documentation of teaching and/or mentoring doctoral or post-doctoral trainees and (2) a memo that clearly outlines the benefit of the member’s participation to the student.

Faculty from outside the University of Pittsburgh may serve as external committee members. Under certain circumstances, active researchers or professionals with appointments outside of academia may be approved as external committee members. In this case, the memo should also document how the Ph.D. program renders diverse careers valued, visible, and viable and supports a pathway for the student to pursue a career in sectors such as government, business/industry, and/or non-profit.

In cases where the only external committee member is requested to be an active researcher or professional with an appointment outside academia, the program’s robust support for diverse post-doctoral career trajectories will be weighed particularly heavily.

C.V.s for external committee members who have been approved previously by the Assistant Dean for a particular program’s graduate students need only be resubmitted once every five years. In this case, however, the memorandum accompanying each request for an external member’s participation in a new committee must also note the date on which the C.V. was last submitted for this individual. If the date is not known, a new C.V. must be included.

In all cases, requests for external members must be approved by the Assistant Dean in advance of the requested member’s participation on the doctoral committee and before the meeting or defense is scheduled. The Assistant Dean will review the materials and render a decision.

Committee Participation by Former Members of the University of Pittsburgh Faculty

Committee members who leave the University after a graduate student has been admitted to candidacy may stay on the committee in their original capacity, provided that the defense is scheduled within 12 months of the faculty member’s departure. If the committee member who left the University is the Committee Chair and wishes to continue in this role, a Co-Chair must be designated from among the other internal committee members.

Committee Participation by Retired Members of the University of Pittsburgh Faculty

Faculty who are retired from the University of Pittsburgh are eligible to serve as members or Chairs of committees formed both before and after their retirement, as long as they are still active professionally in the academic community as reasonably determined by the Chair of Department.

Remote Participation by Committee Members

The candidate and committee members may choose to attend the dissertation proposal/prospectus/overview either in person or remotely without needing prior approval. In cases where there are both in-person and remote attendees, the hybrid meeting must be conducted synchronously.

The candidate, the Chair of the committee, and at least one other committee member must attend the dissertation defense in person. If a candidate has co-chairs, the candidate, BOTH co-chairs, and at least one other member must attend in person. If the defense will have any configuration other than this, a completed Remote Participation Request form must be submitted to the Coordinator of Graduate Student Services for approval prior to the defense.

  • If the candidate is requesting to be remote, the request form must provide a compelling rationale for why the in-person participation requirement represents a hardship for the candidate.
  • If the Committee Chair (or one or both Co-Chairs) is requesting to be remote, the request form must provide a compelling rationale for remote participation, e.g., if the in-person requirement would delay the candidate’s graduation timeline to a subsequent term. In such cases, the petitioning Committee Chair’s designated internal committee member (“designee”) must confirm their in-person attendance as one of at least two physically present committee members and assume responsibility for certifying that audio-visual requirements have been met.
  • In certain extenuating circumstances, a fully remote defense may be requested. The request must provide a compelling rationale for a fully remote defense, e.g., if the in-person requirement for the candidate and Committee Chair would delay the candidate’s graduation timeline to a subsequent term.

The Graduate Dean’s Office will review the petition and render a decision. Any request for remote attendance should be sent to the Coordinator of Graduate Student Services as early as possible prior to the defense.

If any committee member, or, exceptionally, the candidate, participate remotely in the defense, the Ph.D. program is responsible for hosting a synchronous dissertation defense meeting with in-person and remote participants according to the guidelines detailed below. The candidate may opt to make the public parts of their defense meeting accessible to further remote attendees, such as faculty, fellow students, and the candidate’s family and friends. Committees and candidates requiring guidance should consult the University Center for Teaching and Learning.

Requirements for Audio-Visual Technology

To satisfy the requirements for the remote attendance of any committee member or, exceptionally, the candidate, all participants in the meeting or defense must have access to the technological means for audiovisual interaction. Remote attendees must be accessible, with or without reasonable accommodations, to the graduate student presenter and other committee members participating in person and vice versa. The candidate’s graduate program is responsible for arranging the necessary technology on campus and it is recommended that someone with technological expertise be present to resolve any difficulties as they may arise.

The dissertation proposal/prospectus/overview meeting or the defense of the dissertation must be rescheduled (or completed at a later time) if –

1. it is not technologically possible to accomplish the required level of audiovisual interaction at the time and place appointed; or

2. the video portion of the connection fails before the meeting or defense is 50% completed (reasonably determined by the Committee Chair) and cannot be reestablished; or

3. the audio portion connection fails before 90% of the meeting or defense is completed (reasonably determined by the Committee Chair) and cannot be reestablished.

Should any committee member and/or graduate student require accessible accommodations, please be sure to plan accordingly with the department in advance.

Chair’s Dissertation Meeting/Defense Attendance Certification

For ALL Dissertation Proposal/Prospectus/Overview meetings and Defenses, the Chair of a dissertation committee will be required to complete the Attendance Certification form whereby they attest whether the meeting or defense was conducted fully in-person, fully remote, or a hybrid defense. Where a meeting or defense includes any number of remote attendees, the Chair must also attest on this form that the technological requirements for remote attendance have been met. [2] This form must be included with the results of the dissertation proposal/prospectus/overview meeting or defense in the submission to the Office of Graduate Studies. If the Chair of the committee signs the student’s paperwork in the name of a remotely attending member, a copy of the authorization for this signature must also be provided when the documentation is submitted; an email from the remotely attending member authorizing the signature is sufficient.

 

 

[1] Relevant forms for admission to candidacy and committee changes should be obtained from the program’s Graduate Administrator via the DSAS Graduate Handbook.

[2] The Graduate Administrator can access the form in the DSAS Graduate Handbook.