University Council on Graduate Study
January 16, 2001
3:00-5:00 PM, 817 CL

Attending: Elizabeth Baranger (Chair), David Barker (FAS), Jacob Birnberg (KGSB), Ray Burdett (SHRS), Luis Chaparro (Engineering), Judith Erlen (Nursing), Joseph Grabowski (FAS/Chemistry), Stephen Hirtle (SIS), Stephanie Hoogendoorn (GPSA), Steven Husted (FAS), Y.H. John Ismail (Dental Medicine), Margaret Mahoney (Law), David Miller (GSPIA), Cindy Persinger (GPSA/FAS), Stephen Phillips (Medicine), Louis Pingel (Education), Deane Root (FAS/Music), Esther Sales (Social Work), Roslyn Stone (GSPH), Regis Vollmer (Pharmacy); Kit Ayars (Provost’s Office), Barbara Repasi Heron (Registrar’s Office), Beth Fischer (Survival Skills and Ethics), Michael Zigmond (Survival Skills and Ethics)

I.    Minutes Approval

The minutes of the November 2000 meeting were approved with corrections to typographical errors in the section on tuition rates.

II. Announcements

Chair Elizabeth Baranger called Council’s attention to these announcements:

Travel Grant Information for GPSA has been collected from the contacts provided in each graduate school. GPSA President Stephanie Hoogendoorn asked Council members if she had permission to put the contact information on the GPSA web site, to help graduate students from those schools find the person who could best provide information on travel grants. Council agreed this would be a good idea as long as GPSA agreed to check the contact list annually and update it as needed.

Has any program had experience in using the Cambridge Exam as an alternative to the TOEFL? KGSB has received its first request that the Cambridge results be accepted in lieu of TOEFL scores; the applicant entered the University of Warwick after successfully taking the Cambridge exam. Baranger will collect information from the Office of International Services on this exam and take the issue to the Student Affairs or Graduate Procedures Committee for consideration.

Council is reminded that TA/TF appointments are academic appointments. The Provost’s Office has received calls from units who want to “hire” graduate students who already have full TA (or equivalent academic appointments) positions on supplemental TA/GSA/GSR appointments. The TA/TF/GSA Policy Statement notes that “graduate students are not permitted to hold more than the equivalent of one full appointment within the University at a time.” A “full appointment” works out to an average of 20 hours of effort a week. Baranger stressed that TAs are students, not employees (no social security tax is taken out of their stipend, for instance), and their primary objective is to make steady progress toward the graduate degree. There are rare exceptions where a student may receive an academic appointment that goes beyond the “one full appointment” range, but there should be academic reasons for that exception (not reasons related to unit needs) and the extended appointment must be limited (e.g. a full appointment might be extended with a ¼ appointment for compelling academic reasons but would never be extended to a double (two full-appointment) position).

Council discussed the possible need for some objective standard to determine the rare exception cases; could General Counsel formulate a response to these situations to help schools avoid students slipping into an “employee” category? Consensus was that this was largely an academic issue and Counsel’s advice was not needed at this time.

III. Report of the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) Working Group

Steve Husted, a member of the ETD Working Group, updated Council on this group’s work to date. About 90 schools are now accepting electronic theses and dissertations. The working group divided itself into focus groups on the issues involved in accepting ETDs (such as archiving), considered reports on the issues, and concluded that it strongly supports ETDs as a positive development in graduate study.  ETDs provide creative opportunities for research and scholarship, broader availability and visibility of research, and can have a significant impact on library storage costs.

Husted pointed to the Chemistry Department’s (FAS) informal project with electronic dissertations had a significant impact on the availability of those students’ research. Council members are encouraged to review the Networked Digital Library of Theses and Dissertations site ( and to check out Chemistry’s thesis/dissertation page (

The working group is drafting a proposal for a pilot project to accept electronic dissertations and theses for those schools and students who wish to participate.

Council asked questions about archiving, noting concerns about updating files as the technology changes, losing microfiche as a storage format, and losing files if an archive server crashes. Bell & Howell’s UMI branch is committed to regular updates of electronic documents; dissertations submitted in pdf form (or other UMI-approved file formats) will be updated into new formats if/when necessary. UMI continues to microfiche all dissertations, even those submitted electronically, but is archiving all dissertations submitted since 1997 in electronic format (see The electronic format allows much greater visibility for dissertation research than is possible with microfiche.

In response to the concern about losing archived dissertations if a server crashes, Husted noted that this is not unlike the existing risk of losing archived dissertations if a library burns down. UMI is committed to protecting its electronic archives and has taken precautions to safeguard those archives. The University’s dissertations and theses can also be stored electronically on a University Library System server if the University moves to electronic format.

Elizabeth Baranger asked Council to assess the likely faculty response to a proposal to accept ETDs here. Council noted that faculty will probably tend to be supportive, but that they will want to be able to see hard copy versions of the dissertation (or thesis) at various points in the dissertation writing process.

IV. Survival Skills and Ethics Program

Survival Skills and Ethics Program Co-Directors Beth Fischer and Michael Zigmond presented information on the history, current activities, and future plans of this program. The workshops are designed to provide information and instruction on skills and experiences needed for professional development in academic positions; graduate students and junior faculty are the target audiences.

The program holds local (University of Pittsburgh) and national workshops. In addition to the “survival skills” workshops, the program holds a discussion series on issues relating to women, minorities, and international scholars in academia; a series of “Moving Toward Tenure” workshops specifically for University of Pittsburgh junior faculty; and develops with schools an “Ethics in the Core” curriculum to involve ethical issues in the discipline’s core courses.

For more information, please see .

A period of discussion followed the presentation. Council members noted their positive experiences in participating in the workshops. Faculty should be strongly encouraged to encourage their graduate students to attend the Saturday Survival Skills workshops. The UCGS Student Affairs Committee will consider how best to integrate and encourage participation in the program’s offerings.

V. Reports on Creative Approaches to Graduate Education

One of Council’s functions is “to identify and promote creative new approaches to graduate education, whether in defining fields of study, program structure, course content, behavioral objectives, research goals, or other aspects.” In keeping with that function, Baranger has initiated a new feature for Council meetings: brief (~ five minutes) reports from Council members on creative approaches to graduate education in their schools.

· Steve Phillips (School of Medicine) described the interdisciplinary program’s experience in putting together a core course for all of the biomedical students, a course that would pull together disparate fields and offer a truly interdisciplinary core. This foundations course (known as “boot camp”) is now four years old; it is a 12-credit course made up of a didactic portion and an intensive literature review. The course develops a social core for students in the program, enhancing communication and thus enriching student life.

Successful implementation of this sort of effort requires support or backing of school authorities and willing faculty. Faculty are motivated by the access to students and by their commitment and pride in their particular discipline.

· David Miller (GSPIA) described the strategic planning that was involved in developing a mathematical model for target faculty size. The GSPIA administration considered credit hours (rather than students), average class size, and mode of instruction. The model developed through this study has become an important planning tool for strategic discussions in the school.