SSE Graduate Studies Committee

November 10, 2011
9:00 AM – 10:30 AM


Present: C. Burdsal, D. Gaver, M. Fink, V. John, A. Kurganov, K. Muneoka, B. Nastasi, J. Perdew, C. Richards-Zawacki, B. Rosenheim, J. Tasker, D. Kahrson, P. Stapor, and S. Borrego

Absent: None

Minutes from the October 4, 2011 meeting were approved by unanimous vote.

Admission to Candidacy

Dean Burdsal continued the discussion that was begun at the last Graduate Studies Committee Meeting about changing the requirements for Admission to Candidacy. It had been suggested that by changing the requirements for Admission to Candidacy to include completion of coursework and successful passing of comps but no longer the approval of a prospectus, students would be able to register for dissertation research sooner and not have to carry nine credits to constitute full-time status. Dean Burdsal informed the Graduate Studies Committee that they do have the authority to make this policy change.

A discussion followed, and several points were raised:

  • A. Kurganov: Full-time fees are an incentive to push students to complete the prospectus.
  • V. John: Asked if departments can add on to the minimum requirements for candidacy.
  • J. Perdew: Prefers that Admission to Candidacy be after prelims and before prospectus.
  • D. Gaver: It could delay a student’s productivity, as some students think the prospectus should be the same as their dissertation. The prospectus should be a roadmap, not a contract.
  • D. Kahrson: Prefers to a candidate sooner, as it helps to apply for grants and fellowships.
  • K. Muneoka and C. Richards-Zawacki: Feel that the prospectus should be a department-specific requirement.
  • B. Nastasi: Chemistry department faculty votes on admitting students to candidacy each semester.
  • V. John: Suggested that each program coordinator send S. Borrego a list at the beginning of each semester as to who will be admitted to candidacy.
  • P. Stapor: Feels that it penalizes the student with fees if he/she is working on research and it takes 2-3 years to define problem.

Dean Burdsal reminded the Committee members that degree audits will soon be available through Banner, and this will be helpful in tracking students’ progress towards degree. She suggested that the handbook be amended to define SSE’s minimum requirements for Admission to Candidacy as successful completion of: course work, any departmental/program-specific teaching or research requirements, and prelims. The graduate catalog will state that additional requirements (such as passing the prospectus) may be set by the department/program.

A vote was called for, and the motion was unanimously passed.

Course Approvals

Dean Burdsal told the Committee that both SCEN 7500: Introduction to Scientific Writing and SCEN 7660: ESL Writing Skills had not yet been formally approved, although they are both on Dean Parker’s books for the spring semester.

A vote was taken, and both courses were unanimously approved.

Board of Advisors Grant Writing Competition

Dean Burdsal informed the Committee of the Board of Advisor’s Graduate Education and Research Committee’s idea to sponsor a grant writing competition. The competition would award students money for research or conference travel. The Board members are willing to judge the competition, but they asked that the students not use current research in their proposals, and that they do not seek advisor input. Dean Burdsal told the Committee that this would be a good opportunity for students to practice scientific communication, as well as a CV builder.

Comments from the Graduate Studies Committee members included:

  • D. Kahrson: Very few students would likely participate in something like that. Could awards be used towards summer funding?
  • D. Gaver: Suggested it be a prospectus competition.
  • K. Muneoka: Should focus on scientific writing not soft writing.
  • C. Richards-Zawacki: This could be a way to extend the student’s research in a novel direction.
  • V. John: The Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering department currently gives $75 to students for their first authored paper at the annual Christmas party.
  • J. Tasker: Proposed that it be an oral exercise; not written.
  • K. Muneoka and J. Tasker: Suggested that this be tied in to Research Day.
  • P. Stapor: Suggested the grant be for a 4th year student to work with a grad student.
  • D. Kahrson: Suggested that it be a non-grant writing competition and that students write up their research for a lay audience, i.e. Scientific America.

Dean Burdsal will take the suggestions back to the Graduate Education and Research Committee at the next Board of Advisor’s meeting in the spring.


Dean Burdsal announced to the Committee members that Dean Altiero had agreed to give each department/program $2500 in matching funds to be used towards recruitment of under-represented minorities. D. Kahrson asked if URM followed the criteria of NSF, which included under-represented socio-economic minorities as well. C. Burdsal answered that currently we are only basing URM recruiting on ethnicity.

Dean Burdsal also announced that she and Dean Altiero are considering ways to increase international recruitment. One idea is for faculty members traveling internationally to their home countries for conferences or research to extend their travel to include recruiting stops at a few universities. The Dean’s office would then reimburse the faculty member for the added cost of their trip. Dean Burdsal is open to feedback and suggestions from Committee members.

Committee members suggested that it be extended beyond just faculty members to include recently graduated Ph.D.s and current grad students.


Dean Burdsal introduced the idea of an entrepreneurship 4+1 or certificate program with SSE. She distributed a handout with comparison graduate and certificate programs. There is currently one entrepreneurship course taught in SSE, and it is getting good reviews. The plan would be to introduce new courses that could lead to a certificate first, then possibly a 4+1 program, and finally a Ph.D. that has an entrepreneurship track. When asked if professors from the Business school would be involved, Dean Burdsal responded that Dean Altiero has already spoken about the possibility with the dean of the Business school.

Concerns were raised by Committee members as to the value added for SSE, as well as the resources needed to begin such a program.

Alternatives to Master of Science for Non-Thesis Students

B. Rosenheim introduced the topic and handed out a summary sheet to Committee members. He would like to find a way to distinguish thesis Master’s students from non-thesis Master’s students, such as awarding non-thesis students a Master of Science (Non-thesis) (MSNT). Currently at Tulane, the only distinction for a thesis-student is on the student’s transcript.

Discussion followed and opinion was mixed. As time was running short, it was decided that the topic would be continued at the next meeting.

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