The University of Alabama
September 23, 2014

The regular meeting of the Graduate Council was held at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, September 23, 2014 in 110 AIME Building.



Dr. Andrew Billings, Dr. Joy Burnham,
Dr. Ibrahim Çemen, Dr. Julia Cherry,
Dr. Linda Cummins, Dr. Thomas Fitzgibbon,
Dr. Andrew Graettinger, Dr. Jonathon Halbesleben,
Dr. Maria Hernandez-Reif, Dr. Laura Hopson,
Dr. Burcu Keskin (by proxy), Dr. Seongsin (Margaret) Kim,
Dr. Aaron Kuntz (by proxy), Dr. James Leeper,
Dr. Mary Meares, Dr. John Petrovic,
Dr. Daniel Riches, Dr. Harris Schlesinger,
Dr. Marietta Stanton, Dr. C. Heath Turner,
Dr. John Vincent, Dr. Frederick Whiting,
Dr. Vivian Wright

Dr. Jason DeCaro, Dr. Linda Knol,
Dr. Alice March, Professor Sarah Marshall,
Dr. Ion Stancu, Dr. Joseph Weber
Professor Steve Miller
Dr. Louis Pitschmann
Dr. John Schmitt, Associate Dean
Dr. Andrew Goodliffe, Assistant Dean
Mr. Eric Harris, Assistant Registrar
Ms. Beth Yarbrough, Registrar
STUDENT REPRESENTATIVE:                                
Ms. Jean Swindle

I.  Approval of Minutes of the April 22, 2014 Meeting

Dean David Francko welcomed everyone and asked for any corrections or changes to the minutes from last Graduate Council meeting. Having heard none, motion was made to approve the minutes from April 22, 2014. All approved, none opposed, none abstained.

II. Dean’s welcome to the Graduate Council and State of the Graduate School report for Fall 2014

Dean David Francko – Dean Francko began again by welcoming everyone, including new members, to the new school year and acknowledging the tremendous growth that UA has witnessed since his time with the Graduate School began. In 2006 projections placed the total student population at 25,000 – 28,000; however, it is now at 36,155 and may be heading toward 40,000 “before all is said and done.” Dean Francko gave a PowerPoint presentation (Handout #1) to illustrate recent enrollment patterns and what strategic goals are in place to foster more growth at UA and to anticipate yet guard against future drops in enrollment. From the mid-2000’s to 2012, applications have been up 40%, enrollment up 32% (including African-American enrollment up 66%), doctoral enrollment up 50%, and degrees conferred up 31%. One area of concern in the current term (Fall 2014-2015), with respect to falling enrollment particularly in Distance Education and the DNP program, where UA faces challenges to out-of-state student participation.  

Dean Francko explained that some departments will not extend offers if grants have not yet been shored up and assistantships are not available. This has a negative effect on enrollment. A number of students will choose to attend Graduate School without financial support, and thus, we can lose some prospective students. Also, many master’s programs are “pay as you go” non-thesis students that need a year or so of general coursework before entering dental school or medical school. Many enroll at UAB when UA could plausibly attract them to Tuscaloosa for a few semesters.

While warning about a shrinking resource base, Dean Francko stressed that a cost-sharing approach (with academic departments) is a win-win strategy and reminded members to approach the Graduate School with ideas for recruitment of quality students. He also stressed a need to synergistically contribute to overall UA growth, with a goal of producing marketable graduates and securing a place as the best student-centered graduate school in the Southeast.

III. Reports from Graduate Council Committees

No reports presented.

IV. Reports from the Dean's Office and Academic Affairs

Associate Dean John Schmitt

Dr. Schmitt touched on what the various Graduate Council Committees accomplished in the very active previous year and described what to expect in the upcoming academic year. The Program and Degree Requirements, Research and New Programs Committee (PDR/RNP) was very active. Closure was reached with a number of new items; all were brought to a vote and approved. A new Certificate in College Teaching has been ACHE-approved. This certificate pulls students from around campus (not just the College of Education). The Council approved multiple new specializations that then went to the Board of Trustees and ACHE. ACHE approved all but one, and it is pending approval on Sept. 12. The specializations are as follows: Statistics, within the MS in Applied Statistics; Analytics in the MS in Applied Statistics; Decision Analytics in the MS in Operations Management; Educational Neuroscience in the PhD in Educational Psychology; and Marketing Analytics in the MS in Marketing.

A proposal to discontinue the master’s candidacy requirement passed. As of December 2013 master’s students are no longer required to submit this form, as it is no longer a requirement for the degree.  

For the 2014-2015 academic year, the PDR/RNP Committee will consider a number of items including: mandatory reviews of alternative doctoral residencies (ADRs) that the Council approved four years ago; new certificate programs and new specializations; and possibly new dual-enrollment degrees.

Dr. Schmitt reported that on August 14-15 the 28th Annual Workshop for New Graduate Teaching Assistants was held at the Bryant Conference Center. Nearly 300 new GTAs engaged in multiple sessions with some of UA’s leading faculty and staff members, focusing on various issues and techniques in college teaching. They also were videotaped while teaching, followed by constructive evaluation of their teaching abilities by experienced Graduate Teaching Fellows and their fellow GTAs. The new GTAs also had collaborative problem-solving sessions to analyze and provide solutions for common problems experienced in the college classroom.

The SACSCOC compliance report was finalized and sent to Atlanta in early September, from where it will be sent for review by a select off-site review team. Dr. Schmitt served on the Steering Committee and coordinated the effort to document UA’s compliance with the multiple SACSCOC principles regarding graduate education.

Program Reviews continue for multiple degree programs across campus, including New College; Anthropology; all degree programs in the College of Education; and all degree programs in the College of Human Environmental Sciences.

Dr. Schmitt said that dossiers of each college’s winners of the outstanding thesis award and outstanding dissertation award are due to be posted to the Graduate School’s awards website by November 7. The Graduate School has appointed two committees of emeritus faculty to evaluate the nominated theses and dissertations and to select winners by the end of January 2015.

The Graduate Council’s Teaching, Research and Service Awards Committee will evaluate the colleges’ nominations for the 5 University-wide awards for outstanding teaching (master’s and doctoral), outstanding research (master’s and doctoral) and outstanding service. January 14th is the deadline for colleges to upload the dossiers of their winners who then become nominees for UA-wide awards, and the committee will determine the one winner for each award by the end of January 2015.

Dr. Schmitt reminded members to inquire with the Graduate School (specifically the A-Z online index) if more information is needed about awards qualifications or procedures.

B. Assistant Dean Andrew Goodliffe

Three Minute Thesis (TMT) competitions need volunteers to act as judges for the early rounds. The TMT is a time-consuming but very rewarding effort to be associated with. Dean Francko reminded members that the competition will be televised locally and statewide in what promises to be a very successful and well-publicized event.

On the Admissions and Recruitment front, there is a new policy with regard to international students, wherein students will be conditionally admitted and allowed to begin ELI courses here at UA and then sit for their GRE exam. A similar yet informal policy is already in place for students from Saudi Arabia.

A forthcoming proposal for a revamped transfer credit policy will also be introduced this academic year. This proposal will be that a previous in-field master’s degree counts for 24 of the 48 regular coursework hours in a PhD program. If the master’s degree is older than the UA limit of 6 years at the time of admission, it still can be considered if there is appropriate documentation of significant, ongoing work in the field of study.

Departments increasingly are working with the Graduate School’s Director of Recruitment, Blake Bedsole, to collaborative on the most effective recruitment strategies. The Graduate School makes it possible for departments to access the GRE/GMAT/TOEFL scores of good candidates for recruitment. Reports can be tailor-made and generated for departments’ specific purposes. Also, an automated email system has been developed to address prospective students’ interests based on a web form that they complete. This will help encourage second and third contacts by departments with prospective graduate students. Dean Francko interjected to remind departments that, particularly in the summer, contact needs to be made to possible recruits to inform them that UA is interested in their enrolling. We should not be losing students because of a lack of communication. With the automated system in place, departments can help widen the pool of applicants by sharing names with the Graduate School.

Dr. Goodliffe reminded departments to attend recruitment fairs, both domestic and international, and to ask the Graduate School for matching funds to help underwrite such efforts.

Dr. Goodliffe also reminded members to emphasize to prospective students the numerous resources available to our graduate students who are parents. Grad Parent Support and Tide Together offer free babysitting, mentoring programs, and other student service groups that prospective graduate students will not find at other universities. The availability of these services is a powerful recruitment incentive for prospective applicants to graduate degree programs.

All of the above will help to increase the number of applications and hopefully reach the 2014-2015 goal of 8,500 applications. This in turn will help raise funds for more recruitment efforts. The online App. Review program helps applicants through the entire process from start to finish and is much more efficient than past admissions processes.

Dean Francko approached President Bonner and Provost Benson about having high-achievement undergraduate students who “finish in three” be able to use the remaining funds from four-year scholarship programs (such as Presidential Scholars) for graduate study at UA. . Initial responses from upper administration are quite favorable.

V. Reports from Standing University Committees

No reports from Standing University Committees.

VI. Old Business

No old business

VII. New Business

No new business


Dean Francko thanked all in attendance and adjourned the meeting at 4:25 pm.


Handout #2: The UA Graduate School Research and Travel Grant Program - Report to Graduate Council -- August 2014