Equalization of GRA and TA university minimum rates

See below a note from the graduate school sent to DGSs by email.  This doesn’t apply to you in an immediate sense because the rate we paid was already above this.  However, I think this is worth being aware of the dynamics of how grad stipends are set at cornell.  GRA and TAs were historically paid the same minimum rate.  Recently (I think last year), the grad school separated the minimum rates and allowed the two rates to become different.  The argument (at the time) was that fields that paid primarily TAs were competing in an employment market different from those that paid primarily GRAs.  Anyway, from below it is clear that grad students opposed the separation of these two pay rates, and the new president/provost have acted to bring them together again.

Again, we pay students in our field more than this anyway, so it doesn’t directly affect you, but good to know what is going on at the university.

****************************

Jason Kahabka
Aug 28 (2 days ago)
Dear DGSs and GFAs,

As you may know, the minimum stipend rate for Graduate Research Assistants (GRAs) and Research Assistants (RAs) has been slightly lower than the minimum rate for Teaching Assistants (TAs) for the past year. For 2015-16, the published differential was $324/semester. This disparity has raised strong objections from students and their elected representatives on the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly. In response to these concerns, President Garrett, Provost Kotlikoff and Dean Knuth have approved equalizing the RA and GRA rates with the current TA rate of $24,658/year, effective this fall. We expect that President Garrett will publically announce this news next Monday but I am writing now to alert you of this impending change. (Please don’t share this message until Tuesday, 9/1)

In a survey conducted last spring many fields reported that they had already planned to pay RAs and GRAs at or above the minimum TA rate. An evaluation of current appointment records indicates that approximately 130 doctoral students will be impacted and will receive a higher stipend. We are working directly with those fields and faculty PIs to adjust their stipends and reissue appointment letters.

If you have any RA or GRA appointments in your field that are currently below $24,658/year ($12,329/semester) please contact me immediately for information on how to make the necessary changes. The new rates have been posted online. Thank you for your understanding as we work through this adjustment.

From all of my colleagues at the Graduate School, we hope you and your students have a great semester.

Sincerely,
Jason

__________________________________

Jason Kahabka
Associate Dean for Administration
Cornell University
The Graduate School

20 Aug 2015 ME field meeting minutes

This is a draft of the minutes from today’s ME field meeting. We ran out of time and thus the ME field review of students will commence next week at an ADDITIONAL field meeting.

  • Item #1: By unanimous consent, the field rules, under section “Minor in Mechanical Engineering” were changed as follows:

old version:

Minor in Mechanical Engineering

Ph.D. students majoring in other graduate fields may take a minor in Mechanical Engineering. Usually four graduate courses in Mechanical Engineering are taken for credit to fulfill the minor.

new version:

Mechanical Engineering Minor Subject

Ph.D. students pursuing a Ph.D. in other graduate fields may study Mechanical Engineering as a Minor Subject. Faculty serving as Minor Committee Members representing the ME field usually require that students take four graduate courses in Mechanical Engineering are taken for credit to complete study of ME as a Minor Subject.

 

  • Item #2: Malte Jung’s application for field membership was approved by vote.
  • Item #3: Itai Cohen’s application for field membership was approved by vote.
  • Item #4: A motion was passed by vote that the Field Rules be amended regarding the MS program as follows:

old version:

Master of Science (M.S.)
Registration Units
Two registration units are required for an M.S. degree with a Thesis, and four registration units are required for a M.S. degree without a Thesis.

Time-to-Degree
All requirements for the M.S. degree must be completed within four years.

The field of Mechanical Engineering does not admit students into an M.S.-only degree program. The Field may grant an M.S. degree in any of the following circumstances.

Non-Thesis M.S.
A Non-Thesis M.S. degree may be awarded to a doctoral student who has earned at least four registration units and one of the following:
1. has successfully completed the A-Exam,
2. has withdrawn from the Ph.D. program after failing the A-Exam, but performed at a level commensurate to a passed Final Exam for an M.S. degree,
3. has successfully completed a Final Examination for the M.S. degree, but will not continue in the Ph.D. program.
M.S. with Thesis
An M.S. degree (with Thesis) may be awarded to a doctoral student who has earned at least two registration units, and either:
1. with the approval of the Special Committee, writes an M.S. Thesis and successfully completes an M.S. Examination before continuing on with the Ph.D. program. (The M.S. Examination may be combined with the A-Exam.)
2. submits a “Change of Program” to an M.S. degree, submits a Thesis, and takes a M.S. Examination. The student does not continue in the Ph.D. program.

Subjects
One major and one minor subject are required for the M.S. degree. If the minor is within the Mechanical Engineering Field, it must be chosen in an area that is substantially different from that of the major.

Special Committee
A minimum of two faculty members compose the committee. The chairman represents the major subject and another appropriate faculty member represents the minor subject. A thesis advisor, not representing a subject area, may be added.

Examinations
A final examination conducted by the Special Committee is required for an M.S. with thesis. At the committee’s discretion, this examination may be entirely oral or both oral and written, and a portion of the examination may be opened as a public presentation of the thesis. At least two faculty members must be present at the final examination.
Thesis
Candidates for the M.S. degree (with thesis) are required to submit a thesis based on the work in their major subject. Each candidate must provide one bound copy of the thesis to be held in the Sibley School collection, in addition to those copies required by the Graduate School.

Other
There is no language requirement or teaching requirement for an M.S. degree.

new version:

Master of Science (M.S.)
Registration Units
Four registration units are required for a M.S. degree.  Students may petition the DGS to reduce MS degree registration unit requirements to three if they begin their MS study while completing their BS degree in the Sibley School of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering.  The DGS may approve this petition at his/her discretion.  The DGS may also reduce MS degree registration unit requirements to two if a student transfers from the PhD program to the MS program.

Time-to-Degree
All requirements for the M.S. degree must be completed within four years.

The Field may grant an M.S. degree in any of the following circumstances.

Terminal M.S. with thesis
Students may be admitted directly to terminal MS program with thesis.  These students must meet the following requirements:

  1. four registration units
  2. completion of an MS thesis and successful completion of an MS examination.  The collective expectations of the field, as interpreted by the MS thesis committee, is that the MS thesis should be publishable as independent research or should be a significant secondary author contribution to a publication with another researcher as first author.
  3. 48 credits total
  4. at least 20 credits of MAE 8900
  5. at least 2 credits of MAE 7999
  6. at least 15 credits at 5000 level or higher
  7. at least 6 credits at 6000 level or higher (not including 7999 or 8900)

Non-Thesis M.S.
A Non-Thesis M.S. degree may be awarded to a doctoral student who has earned at least four registration units and one of the following:
1. has successfully completed the A-Exam,
2. has withdrawn from the Ph.D. program after failing the A-Exam, but performed at a level commensurate to a passed Final Exam for an M.S. degree,
3. has successfully completed a Final Examination for the M.S. degree, but will not continue in the Ph.D. program.
M.S. with Thesis
An M.S. degree (with Thesis) may be awarded to a doctoral student who has earned at least two registration units, and either:
1. with the approval of the Special Committee, writes an M.S. Thesis and successfully completes an M.S. Examination before continuing on with the Ph.D. program. (The M.S. Examination may be combined with the A-Exam.)
2. submits a “Change of Program” to an M.S. degree, submits a Thesis, and takes a M.S. Examination. The student does not continue in the Ph.D. program.

 

Subjects
One major and one minor subject are required for the M.S. degree. If the minor is within the Mechanical Engineering Field, it must be chosen in an area that is substantially different from that of the major.

Special Committee
A minimum of two faculty members compose the committee. The chairman represents the major subject and another appropriate faculty member represents the minor subject. A thesis advisor, not representing a subject area, may be added.

Examinations
A final examination conducted by the Special Committee is required for an M.S. with thesis. At the committee’s discretion, this examination may be entirely oral or both oral and written, and a portion of the examination may be opened as a public presentation of the thesis. At least two faculty members must be present at the final examination.
Other
There is no language requirement or teaching requirement for an M.S. degree.

 

7 May 2015 ME field meeting minutes

An ME field meeting was held on 7 May 2015 at noon in 178 Rhodes. DGS Brian Kirby served as Speaker. Dr. Marcia Sawyer acted as Secretary. Professors Hernandez, Shepherd, Singh, Miller, Rand, Selva, Zhang, Phoenix, Desjardins, Donnelly, Silberstein, Campbell, Avedisian, Kress-Gazit, Erickson, Fisher, Kirby were in attendance.

  • by unanimous consent, the field formally adopted parliamentary procedures:
    • Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised, 11th edition (RONR11) is the governing parliamentary authority.
    • As RONR11 requires that a deliberative body provide “equivalent conditions of opportunity for simultaneous aural communication among all participants” (RONR11 Chapter 1 Section 1 page 1), and electronic vote clearly does not satisfy this condition, all electronic votes proceed only with unanimous consent from the field. Electronic votes will always have not less than a seven-day window before votes are counted.
    • Faculty participating in meetings by teleconference and videoconference will be considered as attending, i.e., meetings with members participating by teleconference and/or videoconference will be deemed by the Field to constitute “equivalent conditions of opportunity for simultaneous aural communication among all participants”.
    • Absentee voting (i.e. notifying the DGS of one’s vote when one cannot attend the meeting), though not allowed by RONR11, is deemed critical by the Field to allow maximal participation by those with busy schedules and multiple commitments. Absentee voting will be allowed when unanimous consent exists. Faculty objecting to the validity of absentee voting on a motion should notify the DGS to object within 7 days of the vote.
    • The quorum for Field meetings is 12 field members.
    • The DGS will be the Speaker for Field meetings. The DGS will appoint a Secretary for each Field meeting.
  • an informal discussion regarding timing of A exams was held; the DGS notified the field that the Grad School plans to show less leniency with regards to scheduling A exams and that the DGS plans, similarly, to push students to complete A exams before end of 6th term. The Grad School claims that the field average A exam is 3.8 years after program start. Grad school requires before end of 3 years.
  • motions to admit Silvia Ferrari, Tobias Hanrath, and John Albertson to the ME field passed.
  • motions to admit Al George and Steve Pope as a Graduate School Professors of Mechanical Engineering, contingent upon each receiving the status of Professor Emeritus, passed.
  • DGS Kirby presented a draft set of requirements for a self-funded, terminal MS program and the faculty discussed this topic with plans to vote on a motion at the Aug 20 Field Meeting.

New Faculty in Sibley School

In case you are unaware, the Sibley School will have four new faculty that have just started or will start in the upcoming year:

Silvia Ferrari:  Started 1 July 2015.  Formerly Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Duke.  Neural networks, bayesian networks, feedback control.  http://www.mae.cornell.edu/mae/people/profile.cfm?netid=sf375

Nelly Andarawis-Puri: Starts 1 Jan 2016.  Currently Assistant Professor of Orthopaedics at Mount Sinai.  Tendon biomechanics.  http://www.mountsinai.org/profiles/nelly-a-andarawis-puri (hired through biomechanics search)

Greg Bewley: Starts 1 Jan 2016.  Currently at Max Planck Institute for Dynamics and Self-organization.  Experimental fluid mechanics and turbulence.  http://www.lfpn.ds.mpg.de/turbulence/bewley.html (hired through fluids search)

Guy Hoffman: Starts 1 jan 2016.  Currently Assistant Professor at IDC Herzliya.  Human-robot interaction.  http://guyhoffman.com/ (hired through design/manufacturing search)

August 2015 Field Review of ME PhD Students: info and FAQ

this post is very similar to one I sent a year ago.

Some comments and FAQ re the ME field review of students that will happen on Aug 20.  AE and TAM students: you can ignore.  Students matriculating in August 2015: this doesn’t apply to you yet.  Those to which this applies have received individual emails from Dr. Sawyer, I believe yesterday.

We will, at our field meeting, go over the information you provide on the confluence web pages as a group.  I will lead the discussion.  Our Field rules in ME say we should do this every year. The goal is to provide a level of oversight that goes beyond the committee. It is designed to be a quick check to make sure everyone is on track. It is not detailed nor could it be given the number of students we will review. Our goal is to identify those cases where students appear to not be on track, so that we can help the students and/or help the committee. About 80-90% of applications are reviewed for 30 seconds–the materials looks fine, the advisor says things are fine, and we move on. In 10-20% of cases, there is something that makes us ask a question or two–why hasn’t this student published, why has this student not taken an A exam, why is he/she taking so many/so few classes, et cetera. In most of these cases, the advisor has a simple explanation that makes the field happy. In a very small number of cases, we make a suggestion to the advisor or committee. Theoretically, if something were really crazy, I could intervene as DGS. The last possiblity (intervention) has never happened to date.

Some questions I have received:

1. is this new?

No, it was approved by the field ~5 years ago. we have done this 4 times.

2. why are we doing this?

see above.

3. What am I supposed to write in the student comments section? It feels like a “justify your existence” section.

It is not meant to be a justify-your-existence sort of thing. It is more like we want to hear how you describe how things are going. If you say “I am miserable”, we will take note and be concerned. if you say “I think I am on track”, we will be happy. if you say you expect to graduate in 7 years, we will tell you it shouldn’t take that long. If you say you expect to graduate next month and your advisor thinks you are two years away, we will tell you advisor that he/she should probably discuss goals and timelines with you.

4. who sees this information? what is the audience?

I recommend you think of it as a short report to me as DGS. Marcia and I see this, and you should expect that I could show it to any field faculty if they ask to see it. I read them all, although of course I don’t remember every detail. In practice, the field faculty see a projection of the information during the field meeting. Usually, especially when things are going well, the review is cursory but illuminating.

5. couldn’t you get this information from cornell databases? my class grades for example.

for grades and committee, yes. but there is no easy way to do it and so we are asking you to each do a small bit of clerical work to make this all happen in a timely fashion

6. why don’t we do this in Aerospace Engineering or TAM?

TAM does do it, but is smaller and they do it without soliciting info from students. AE doesn’t have a field policy to do this (ME and AE share some policies but not all). if you want AE to do this, I recommend encouraging the AE DGS. If you don’t want AE to do this, I recommend not saying anything.

ME field PhD TA requirements

I have heard, from many students, a number of incorrect interpretations of the field TA requirements.

The field rules for ME are listed at http://blogs.cornell.edu/maeassocdirector/mech-eng-msphd-field-rules/.  I urge students to bookmark http://blogs.cornell.edu/maeassocdirector in your browser.

The part relevant to field TA requirements is copied below.

Teaching Experience
Two semesters of teaching experience are required of all Ph.D. students. This requirement is usually fulfilled through Teaching Assistantships (TAs). International students whose native language is not English are required to undergo screening by the International Teaching Assistant Development Program (ITADP) and may be required to take courses in English and pedagogy before assuming TA duties. The College of Engineering requires all teaching assistants to participate in TA Training offered by the College. In exceptional circumstances, students may petition the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) for a reduction in the required amount of teaching experience.

PhD students on a three-year (or longer) fellowship may satisfy the teaching requirement by serving one semester as a TA and performing an additional qualified teaching activity. A qualified teaching activity shall be approved by the DGS and Special Committee chair, and must involve teaching technical material to a group and involve at least 15 contact hours.

 

I have heard it said that anyone can get out of the TA requirement.  this is incorrect.  I have heard that those on fellowship have the requirement waived automatically–this is incorrect; you have to do an addtional qualified teaching activity.  I have heard that if your advisor wants you to get out of the requirement that it will be waived.  this is incorrect.

 

I have also had people speak to me informally about waiving this requirement, then had them assume that they were all set.  The rules require a formal petition. No one can get the TA requirement waived without a petition.