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Reminder: Doctoral Committees (note KRSS-specific policy for committee chair)

The doctoral committee is composed of the major professor who directs the student’s dissertation and chairs the dissertation committee, plus at least three other eligible faculty members. The student and major professor work together to identify potential committee members who are then invited by the student to serve. The full guidelines for PhD Committee Service can be found in the Graduate Catalog. Here is the short version of the general rules for PhD Committees Committee membership:

  • The committee must have at least 4 members.
  • At least 2 committee members must be UT tenured or tenure-track faculty members.
  • At least one committee member must be from outside of the student’s department/interdisciplinary program. This external member can be from outside UT.
  • UT tenured or tenure-track faculty without a doctoral degree and other experts in the field may serve on PhD committees with department head approval.
  • Emeritus faculty can serve on committees on which they are serving in that capacity at the time of retirement.

UT Graduate School requirements for committee chairs:

  • Committee chairs must hold a doctoral degree.
  • UT tenured, tenure-track, and joint faculty holding a doctoral degree may chair PhD committees.
  • The chair is typically from the student’s department/interdisciplinary program, but department heads can make exceptions.
  • UT employees holding a non-tenure track assistant professor, associate professor or professor title may co-chair committees if their appointment is within the student’s major. (The other co-chair must be a UT tenured, tenure-track or joint faculty member.)
  • Emeritus faculty can chair committees on which they are serving in that capacity at the time of retirement.

KRSS requirements for committee chairs (important):

Tenured faculty in KRSS may direct doctoral dissertations. Tenure-track faculty in KRSS may direct doctoral dissertations following approval by the Department Head in consultation with the Associate Department Head and faculty mentor. (Note: This department policy is more restrictive than the UTK policy spelled out in the Graduate Catalog. For directive status of other categories of faculty, see the Graduate Catalog.) It is generally expected that faculty serve on and make valuable contributions to graduate committees prior to approval. This is a one-time process and the faculty member seeking approval shall initiate the process.

The policy provides for exceptions to the above, and in the case that exceptions are needed the department head petitions the Graduate School Dean using the committee approval form.

The committee members approve all course work for the degree, write and evaluate the comprehensive examination, approve the dissertation proposal, evaluate the candidate’s defense of the dissertation, and evaluate the written dissertation.

The committee should be formed as early as possible during the degree program. It is the student’s responsibility to invite committee members and have those that agree to serve sign the Doctoral Committee Appointment Form available on the Graduate School’s Graduate Student Forms web page. Once the committee has signed, the student must also obtain the Department Head’s signature before submitting it to the Graduate School. Previous or current work with a specific faculty member does not obligate the student to include that person on the doctoral committee.

Ordinarily, the major professor serves as chairperson of the committee, but in some circumstances, another member of the committee may be designated as the chair of the dissertation committee. In preparation for the first meeting with the committee to approve coursework, the student should prepare a list of all the courses taken, indicating the school at which they were taken, whether undergraduate or graduate credit was received, the grade received, and the credit hours for the course. It is the student’s responsibility to initiate this meeting with the committee.