Field meeting and field review of ME PhD students: followup

thanks to ME PhD students who submitted information for the field review that we had last thursday. An informal summary of the joint AE/ME field meeting minutes from 21 Aug 2014 is below.

Professors Selva and Barthelmie were elected to become field members in ME and AE.

Professors Knepper, James, Warner, and Lammerding were elected to become field members in ME.

We passed a motion to have regular ME field meetings thrice yearly.

We passed a motion to set the Q exam format–in the past there was a recommended format but committees had license to do anything they wanted. I feared that this just led to unwanted uncertainty. Now what used to be the recommended format is set as the required Q exam format. Wording to describe this format was codified.

Two motions I brought–TA requirements and how we inform students of Q exam results–I tabled because discussion ensued about detailed wording and I deemed the field review more important than hammering out those motions. I will revisit those motions at the next field meeting, scheduled for January.

We held a field review of ME PhD students. This involved presenting the material that students prepared and discussing it amongst the faculty. 65 of 78 ME students were discussed; 13 were skipped because of incomplete info or faculty absence or both. In general the review was positive. In a small number of cases, action items were identified (e.g. professor X should talk to professor Y or professor A should talk to student B or the committee for student C should meet with him/her).

If you were part of the review and don’t hear anything, you should assume that no major issues came up with your progress. It is appropriate to follow up with your advisor or me if you have questions–I have had several people ask me if everything went ok with their review, and I am happy to field those questions.

On a personal note, one result of the field review that I actually hadn’t planned for was that it was an occasion for faculty to rattle off all the reasons why student X is great and why student Y is going to experience tons of success in the immediate and distant future. It was fun to have that be such a prominent part of the meeting. I often talk of the field review as an opportunity to sniff out problems proactively to address them, but most of what it entailed was my listening to faculty brag about their great students. I had a lot of fun with it.

Field review of PhD students: some comments and FAQ

Some comments and FAQ re the field review of students that will happen on thursday. 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 ~4 years ago. we have done this 3 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 gtraduate 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.