2007 Reaffirmation Teams
3.6.2 - 2007 Reaffirmation Teams
The institution structures its graduate curricula to (1) include knowledge of the literature of the discipline and (2) ongoing student engagement in research and/or appropriate professional practice and training experiences.
The graduate curriculum in the academic degree programs at The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas) is structured to provide graduate students with knowledge of the literature of the discipline and with ongoing research experiences. Where appropriate, such as in some master’s programs and in the doctoral program in audiology, students also receive professional practice and training experience. UT Dallas utilizes a series of formal internal and external reviews of all graduate programs to ensure the appropriateness of the curriculum and the research and training experiences as well as to ensure their consistency with established academic standards. Additionally, each of the graduate programs undergoes an annual program assessment, which ensures that students are achieving the knowledge, skills, and values that the graduate faculty have determined are appropriate objectives for the program. Finally, graduate students are required to demonstrate mastery of the discipline by a variety of different means, such as required course work, research projects, qualifying exams, theses, and dissertations.
UT Dallas’ graduate programs are housed in seven schools: the School of Arts and Humanities, the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences, the School of Economic, Political, and Policy Sciences, the Erik Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science, the School of General Studies, the School of Management, and the School of Natural Sciences . The university is currently authorized to offer 47 master’s degrees, 28 Ph.D. degrees, and one professional doctorate in audiology .Approval Process for Graduate Programs
The process for establishing new programs ensures the academic rigor and appropriateness of all graduate programs. Proposed course content and degree structures are developed at the program level within each school. The associate deans of graduate education, comprising the Council of Graduate Education , assess the proposal using criteria published by the national body The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS). General criteria are found in Assessment and Review of Graduate Programs: A Policy Statement ; criteria pertaining to master’s-level programs are found in Master’s Education: A Guide for Faculty and Administrators  and Professional Master’s Education: A CGS Guide to Establishing Programs ; and the criteria for doctoral programs are found in Doctor of Philosophy Degree . Together these criteria state the need for graduate programs to include both scholarly and practical aspects, particularly through emphases on disciplinary literature and on research and professional experiences; alignment with these criteria ensures the rigor and appropriateness of UT Dallas’ graduate programs.
The university’s Committee on Educational Policy (CEP) also reviews the quality and consistency of all new graduate program proposals , and the Academic Senate must review and approve all new degree proposals . This involvement of the faculty further ensures that graduate studies at UT Dallas meet the academic and experiential standards endorsed by actual scholars and practitioners in the various fields.
The University of Texas System (UT System) and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB) provide the final level of approval for new programs; these bodies also require graduate programs to maintain currency with educational theory and practice and with professional licensure requirements   . The THECB conducts a peer review and site visit before issuing approval of a new program; this too ensures the endorsement of the programs by academicians and professionals. The graduate degree programs offered by UT Dallas have been approved and can be found in the list of approved programs on the THECB website . More information on the establishment of new programs can be found in the response to Principle 184.108.40.206 .Periodic Graduate Program Reviews
The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) acknowledges the need for periodic program review due to maintain quality in the face of the dynamic nature of the educational undertaking . In following the CGS criteria, UT Dallas must have a formal periodic review process for academic program evaluation . The provost appoints an ad hoc review team that includes both internal and external members, some from UT Dallas faculty and academic administration unaffiliated with the program being reviewed, and at least three who have scholarly and practical expertise in programs at other institutions similar to those under review. A self-study of the program under review is provided to the review team, and a site visit is conducted; the team’s findings are presented to the appropriate faculty and administrators and are then used to drive improvement. Review by such a body of experts helps to ensure that the university’s graduate programs are of high quality, which necessarily includes a focus on disciplinary literature and research or other practical experiences. Further information about program review, including sample reviews, may be found in the response to Principle 320 .
An example of programmatic improvement, especially improvements in curriculum alignment, can be seen with the review of the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) programs. In 1984, the School of Human Development was authorized to offer a doctoral program in human development and communication sciences where students select 18 major hours from three different areas. The ad hoc review team recommended that the Ph.D. program be completely revamped. The following excerpt from the 2004 degree program proposal details how these changes were implemented (and how the School of Human Development became BBS): “An evaluation of the School conducted recently by a team of distinguished internal and external site visitors praised the content and structure of the School’s graduate programs. However, a change in name of both the School and the Ph.D. program was recommended to bring both more closely in register with the School’s mission, goals, and research strengths. The name changes, it was suggested, should allow for greater external recognition of the School’s disciplinary and interdisciplinary research efforts. It should also set the stage for the School’s future growth by facilitating component disciplines to evolve to meet market and research needs within an environment supporting a multidisciplinary approach to research and student training. In response to the site visit recommendations and following extensive discussion among the faculty, we propose to divide the current Ph.D. degree in Human Development and Communication Sciences into 3 distinct, but mutually supportive Ph.D. degrees….The three proposed Ph.D. degrees are: Cognition and Neuroscience, Communication Sciences and Disorders, and Psychology .” UT System’s Board of Regents and the THECB concurred, and the programs were initiated with more appropriate degree plans and course content .
Various professional graduate programs have recently undergone periodic reviews for the purposes of accreditation by discipline-specific organizations; these entities help to ensure that students gain appropriate disciplinary knowledge and professional training. The School of Management’s (SOM) business administration and accounting graduate programs have been accredited  by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB) , a nonprofit body committed to the promotion and improvement of higher education in business administration and management. The School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences (BBS) received accreditation for its doctoral program in audiology  and its master’s degree program in communication disorders from the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA) , the professional, scientific, and credentialing association for the fields of audiology, speech-language pathology, and speech, language, and hearing science. The complete description of the ASHA certification requirements appear in that organization’s most recent accreditation report . The doctorate in audiology includes a significant clinical services coursework component required for professional practice. An example is the course AUD 6310 Advanced Clinical Audiology that covers instrumentation and calibration standards required for professional practice. The Master of Public Affairs degree in the School of Economic, Political, and Policy Sciences (EPPS) received accreditation   from the National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration .
Periodic reviews also occur during the catalog cycle. The contents of the graduate catalog, including the course descriptions, program content, and graduation requirements, are formally reviewed by graduate program faculty, the Graduate Council , the CEP , and the Academic Senate every two years . The review process includes an examination of the content of the courses to make certain that it reflects current thinking and practice in the disciplines. In the interim, the curriculum content of each offering is subject to annual review by the faculty in the originating academic unit as part of the catalog preparation cycle.
In preparation to respond to this principle for SACS reaffirmation, UT Dallas reviewed all of its master’s and doctoral programs using a self-study report template that reviewed the program’s mission, identified benchmark programs, examined program design (including the requirements of the program and key elements of the curriculum), collected data on student participation and placement, and identified key learning outcomes for the program . The survey asked three particularly pertinent questions:
- Describe how the program and curriculum are reviewed and updated to maintain currency in the field.
- Do program requirements include courses in which students gain knowledge of literature of the discipline? If so, which courses?
- Does program require students to be engaged in research, professional practicums, or similar training experiences? If so, what are they and how is this requirement structured?
A sample self-study with responses to these questions from each school is included in the supporting documents       . One change has already occurred because of these self-studies. The master’s degree in healthcare management was originally titled a master’s in medical management. The change in title resulted from the feedback gained by conducting an in-depth analysis of the mission and objectives of the degree .Annual Assessments of Programs
UT Dallas’ rigorous process of program assessment ensures that discipline-specific educational outcomes are clearly defined and measurable and used for improving education. Each academic degree program at UT Dallas is assessed annually using UT Dallas’ web-based Assessment Tool, AT6. Deans, program heads, department heads, assessment officers, and other designated faculty work with instructors to generate objectives from program mission statements and to enter them along with an assessment plan into AT6. The annual review process not only includes measurements and analyses but also identifies where the knowledge of the discipline is learned, i.e., where the program’s student learning objectives are taught. Additionally, when entering the objectives into AT6, program heads (or whoever is entering the data) are asked to align the student learning objectives with specific outcomes such as “foundational knowledge in the discipline,” “advanced knowledge in the discipline,” “guided research,” “independent research,” “research and design,” and “independent thought .” Sample screenshots from five UT Dallas graduate programs are included in the supporting documents to show how graduate programs have used the assessment process to monitor where research is taking place and where students are achieving foundational knowledge in the discipline as the students matriculate through the graduate program     . Additional information about UT Dallas’ assessment process and its results is available in the response to Principle 220.127.116.11 .Graduation Requirements
The information above demonstrates that UT Dallas’ graduate programs identify courses in which research methods are taught and courses where the knowledge of the disciplinary literature is taught. The graduation requirements ensure that the knowledge is mastered and that actual research and training take place. To graduate, students must “maintain a minimum 3.0 grade point average in their degree program’s core courses” as well as in all their graduate courses . UT Dallas realizes that grades do not in and of themselves prove mastery. Hence, the graduate programs have strict graduation requirements that are based on exams, projects, and dissertations and that involve multiple faculty members assessing a student’s success.
Policy Memorandum 87-III.25-48, Procedures for Completing a Graduate Degree, details the procedures for completing a graduate degree at UT Dallas . The reasoning in this policy is consistent with the CGS’s statement regarding master’s degree programs: “The student must conduct the necessary background literature search, do the research, analyze the results, write the thesis, and communicate the results at an oral thesis defense. This work will not necessarily be original research, but it will be a new application of ideas. The experience of conducting research and/or analyzing the research of others instills abilities that can be useful on the job, whether in academia or elsewhere. The master’s student must also demonstrate the ability to write and communicate orally about the work done. In many programs, especially in the sciences and engineering where courses consist largely of problem solving, class participation, or short written assignments, students are not required to write extensively until the end of the master’s program. The experience of having to organize one’s thoughts and communicate them to one’s peers gives students confidence in their abilities amid a broader view of their discipline .”
More advanced coursework and credit hours are involved in satisfying the requirements associated with earning a doctorate. In addition, the student must pass a qualifying examination that demonstrates mastery of the core material in the discipline. The format of this qualifying examination varies among degree programs and can be obtained from a student’s graduate program office. An examining committee assigns a passing or failing assessment of performance on the qualifying examination.
A student judged to have failed the qualifying examination may be terminated as a doctoral student in that program unless a two-thirds majority of the examining committee votes that a second examination be permitted. The second examination typically cannot be taken sooner than six months after the first examination and no later than one year after. Students failing the second examination are not allowed to pursue a doctoral degree in that program.
Upon satisfactory completion of the qualifying examination requirement, the academic unit appoints a supervising committee to work with the student in designing a suitable research project. UT Dallas offers a wide spectrum of research opportunities within the academic program structure and also within the numerous research centers and institutes . The catalog description of each degree program and school references the ongoing research activities in that unit and provides a listing of the facilities supporting them .
The background and feasibility of the proposed research identified by the student, the hypotheses to be tested or concepts to be explored, and the methodology to be employed are critically evaluated by the supervising committee prior to acceptance of the research proposal. The relationship of the proposed study to existing work and knowledge in the field are important criteria considered.
The supervising committee meets with the student on a regular basis to review progress, unanticipated problems, and potential solutions. Changes in research direction or emphasis may be dictated by unexpected findings and results. The supervising committee submits an annual report on the progress of the research to the dean of graduate studies. The template of the form used to collect this information is sent to the associate deans for graduate education each fall . The associate deans send the template to all supervisors who in turn meet with the students, fill out the forms, and return the forms to the associate deans. The completed forms are housed in the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies.
At the completion of the research project, the student must prepare a report on the work and findings following style and formatting requirements contained in the Guide for the Preparation of Master’s Theses and Doctoral Dissertations , which students can obtain from the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies’ website . Once the candidate has, in the judgment of the supervising professor, prepared an examinable thesis/dissertation manuscript, it is distributed to the other members of the supervising committee, allowing them sufficient time to review the document. The dissertation must demonstrate an independent research competence on the part of the candidate that substantially adds to knowledge in the candidate’s field with respect either to its intellectual substance or professional practice. The dissertation must be of such standard as to warrant publication in peer-reviewed journals or scholarly books or monographs or the equivalent.
The committee members are charged with ensuring that the manuscript is complete, has been rigorously proofread (preferably by a professional proofreader), and meets scholarship standards for theses or dissertations. Members of the committee who do not agree that the manuscript is examinable, whether in the majority or not, must immediately inform in writing the department head or program administrator so that such objections may be discussed with the supervising professor and the candidate.
Conduct of the final oral examination for a doctoral degree is subject to policies set by the Office of Graduate Studies. Formal arrangements, such as time and place, are made by the appropriate committee or administrator for that program, in consultation with the candidate and the examining committee, and with the approval of the dean of graduate studies. Upon the submission of the dissertation to the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies, the dean of graduate studies appoints the examining committee.
The membership of the final oral examining committee includes all members of the supervisory committee plus a representative appointed by the dean of graduate studies. The dean of graduate studies appointee serves as the chair of the Examining Committee. An examiner external to the university may also be appointed by the dean of graduate studies on the recommendation of a member of the Examining Committee or the candidate. The examination is conducted by the chair in a manner appropriate to the material presented and in accordance with current university regulations .
The final oral examination is conducted in three phases as follows:
- Phase I. The candidate makes a formal public presentation of the research. That presentation is open to the public, and members of the audience may ask questions. The supervising professor chairs this phase and supervises the questioning.
- Phase II. Following the public presentation, the candidate is examined by the members of the examining committee. This part of the examination is not open to the public. Depending upon the school’s policy, other members of the faculty may also attend that part of the examination. This portion of the examination is chaired by the representative appointed by the dean of graduate studies.
- Phase III. After the completion of the oral examination, the examining committee votes on the results of the final oral examination. The committee is requested to reach agreement on one of the five possible outcomes listed below with no more than one dissenting vote. If the committee cannot reach agreement on one of the options, then the candidate is judged to have failed the oral examination and the manuscript will not be accepted.
- Passed the oral examination and manuscript accepted,
- Passed the oral examination and manuscript accepted pending specified revisions,
- Second oral examination required, but manuscript accepted or accepted with specified revisions,
- Major revisions of the manuscript and a second final oral examination required,
- Oral examination failed, manuscript not accepted and the committee recommends dismissal from the program.
Following the vote of the examining committee, the chair submits to the dean of graduate studies a written evaluation of the examination process; these evaluations are housed in the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies.