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FAQ's for the Graduate RFP



Appendix II – FAQ


Who should we contact with questions or for clarifications regarding this program?
Please direct your inquiries by telephone or e-mail to Associate Provost Brian Mitchell (314-2818,


Will the Provost’s Office entertain questions regarding a proposed program or idea?
Yes.  Please send a one-paragraph summary of your idea to Associate Provost Brian Mitchell (  If desired, a meeting will be scheduled to discuss the idea.  A favorable response will not guarantee ultimate support of the idea by the Graduate Council or Provost.  Similarly, a negative response will not prevent the idea from being submitted, nor does it mean that the proposal will not receive full consideration.


Can a faculty member, department or program participate in more than one doctoral program?
Yes.  However, substantial faculty overlap in multiple programs will be carefully scrutinized to ensure that each program will be viable if they should all be approved.


Can a proposal be submitted for a terminal-degree program; for example, an MFA degree?
No.  The current program is for doctoral programs only.  However, programs which offer a combined degree are strongly encouraged; e.g., MFA-Ph.D.


Can funds be used to hire new faculty in the programmatic area?
No.  Such strategic hires must be made in consultation with the Dean and Provost.  These hires may be, however, a necessary component of the new program.


What is the difference between “interdisciplinary” and “multidisciplinary?”
Although the terms are often used interchangeably, the NIH Roadmap Initiative¹, for example, defines a multidisciplinary approach as that which brings together numerous experts from diverse disciplines to collectively address a complex problem, with each expert addressing the issues from the perspective of his or her own discipline. In contrast, an interdisciplinary approach results from the melding of two or more disciplines to create a new (interdisciplinary) discipline.  In this way, the doctoral programs being proposed here are primarily interdisciplinary in nature, but the problems and issues that students may be studying could be considered multidisciplinary if a team of investigators are involved.


What are the relative merits of self-financing vs. programmatic quality?  In other words, is a program more likely to be funded if it can show financial independence by charging tuition?
Program quality is the overriding consideration in doctoral education.  No level of potential monetary gain will offset a program of poor quality.  The Graduate Council and Provost are prepared to fund programs that require substantial amounts of financial support if there is great potential for maintaining a high standard of doctoral training in the program.


Can an existing Ph.D. program be proposed in which all of its current teaching assistantships (TAs) are converted to fellowships?
There is nothing in the guidelines that prohibits such a program, but unless there are substantive programmatic reasons for proposing the change, the proposal will likely not be funded.  If, however, the department wishes to contribute all or part of its teaching assistant allotment to a new interdisciplinary program that involves only fellows, this approach would be acceptable.


Can a program with an existing Ph.D. propose a “track” approach in which the current Ph.D. degree continues to be conferred, but students may select from several subdisciplines or tracks?
Yes, but such proposals should make clear how the new program or track is different from and preferable to the existing program.  Alternatively, a certificate program could be considered as an add-on to an existing doctoral program.  Again, the relative merits of this approach must be clearly enumerated.  Some examples of graduate certificate programs can be found at:


What is to be gained by pitting the schools against each other in this RFP?
The Innovation and Interdisciplinarity in Doctoral Education at Tulane program is not meant to pit schools against each other in a competitive manner.  It is true that the various proposals will be competing for limited resources, but because the majority of programs will presumably be interdisciplinary in nature and therefore cross disciplinary and school boundaries, there will hopefully be no winners and losers on a school-based basis.  Rather, the program is intended to stimulated collaborative activities that will raise Tulane’s doctoral education programs in a way that all will benefit.  In certain instances, the same effect could be accomplished through the resumption of admissions in departmental-based programs.  In this respect, the School of Liberal Arts has a unique opportunity since schools who had entire departments eliminated (complete with doctoral programs) will not be able to request that those programs be reinstated (at least not in their former departmental-based forms).  The pitfall will come if departments and programs choose to define interdisciplinarity too narrowly; e.g., essentially collaboration within a department, such that the proposals all become de facto school-identified proposals.  This RFP presents faculty – some who have NEVER had an opportunity to mentor doctoral students – with a mechanism for developing world-class, internationally recognized doctoral education programs that will attract the best and brightest students to Tulane.  These students, in turn, will take courses across departmental and school boundaries regardless of their dissertation titles and will stimulate growth of the graduate environment at Tulane.”


The new programs will be implemented around the time that Tulane will be under review by SACS. What criteria will SACS apply to them? Are these criteria being taken into consideration in the approval process?
There are two important SACS considerations related to the development of any new doctoral program. The first is that SACS has to be informed and approve of any so-called “substantive changes.”  Since Tulane has continuously offered the Ph.D., and new Ph.D. programs would not be subject to substantive change review under SACS’s definition.  We would probably still inform them of the new programs, however.  The second consideration has to do with the accreditation visit itself in 2010/2011.  Any new programs would have to document the credentials of its faculty and have assessment processes in place similar to those doctoral programs already in operation.  Obviously, they would not have the same number of years of assessment data as standing programs, but they should follow the same assessment processes.  The Provost’s Office and Office of Institutional Research will work with the new programs to ensure that they meet SACS assessment requirements just as any other doctoral program.

What was the role of the Graduate Council in formulating the RFP and the criteria for new programs?
The Graduate Council reviewed a draft of the document, submitted its suggestions for revision and unanimously approved the RFP.

What will be the number of graduate fellowships available? The figure of 20 per year has been mentioned by the administration, but it is not clear if that represents 20 additional fellowships or a topping up of the current number until it reaches 20.
As indicated in the Table on page 2 of the RFP, 20 new fellowships/TA slots will be added each year (for each of three years) beginning in FY11.  This is in addition to the TA slots already allotted to continuing programs.

What is the institutional scope of 'interdisciplinarity' in program proposals and to what extent is it a requirement? One recent message to the faculty with quotations from administrators contained passages that referred both to "the resumption of admissions in departmental-based programs" and to an essential criterion of interdisciplinarity that is at a minimum interdepartmental and preferably inter-school.
As indicated at the top of page 3 of the RFP “Any department, program or school may participate in the development of a new, interdisciplinary doctoral program, or where appropriate request the reinstatement of a suspended doctoral program.”  The clarifications quoted above are accurate.  The term “interdisciplinarity” is defined on page 1 of the RFP and further elaborated upon in the FAQs at the bottom of page 12.

To what extent will an emphasis on New Orleans be a desired or required criterion for success in the forthcoming proposals?
There is no emphasis – stated or otherwise – in the RFP with regard to the role of Tulane’s location in New Orleans as a prerequisite to a successful doctoral program.  Programs are expected to be internationally-recognized for their excellence, regardless of the role New Orleans plays in the program.  If New Orleans is an important component to the proposed program, it will be appropriately considered.  The absence of a New Orleans component, however, will not be considered a negative if it is not necessary to the success of the program.

What will be the role of departments in new interdisciplinary programs and what risks are there that participating departments will be subsumed in an amorphous center or other non-discipline-based grouping?
Departments will continue to provide the primary appointments for faculty in doctoral programs as well as providing the home for appropriate doctoral programs.  To the extent that the current departmental structure has survived and flourished through the establishment of current interdisciplinary doctoral programs at Tulane, there is little risk of the departmental structure being subsumed by new interdisciplinary doctoral programs.  The relevance of any department is ultimately the responsibility of its faculty.


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