The University of Alabama
November 20, 2014

The regular meeting of the Graduate Council was held at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 20, 2014 in 110 AIME Building.



Dr. Jason DeCaro, 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. Linda Knol, Dr. Seongsin (Margaret) Kim,
Dr. Aaron Kuntz, Dr. Alice March,
Dr. Mary Meares, Professor Sarah Marshall,
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. James Leeper

Dr. Andrew Billings, Dr. Burcu Keskin
Dr. Joseph Weber, Dr. Ion Stancu
Dr. Steve Miller
Dr. Louis Pitschmann
Dr. John Schmitt
Dr. Andrew Goodliffe
Mr. Eric Harris
Ms. Beth Yarbrough
STUDENT REPRESENTATIVE:                                
Ms. Nicole Vaux

I.  Approval of Minutes of the September 23, 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 September 23, 2014. All approved, none opposed, none abstained.

II. Reports from Graduate Council Committees

A. Dean David Francko – Dean Francko began again by welcoming everyone, introduced two proposals worked on by committees for quite some time, both significant opportunities for graduate departments at UA; the first from the Admissions & Recruitment – Additional Language Requirement. Dean Francko gave Dr. Andrew Graettinger the floor so that he could to provide an overview of the first proposal. Dr. Graettinger described the proposal to rename (rework) Provisional Language Admissions. Fundamentally, the proposal concerns how the federal government looks at the name of the admission and the need for UA to be more in line with that. Traditionally, students could be admitted conditionally or even “double stamped” if they did not meet one or both GPA and GRE minimum requirements. However what the committee found is that there are many untapped populations of students – particularly in the Middle East and South America – that quite possibly don’t have the means or opportunity to take the GRE (or TOEFL).

This provision is an attempt to welcome accomplished foreign students and allow them to study at UA and sit for the GRE after a full semester of ELI coursework. ‘Provisional’ admits would now be considered, labelled ‘Conditional’ admits. Further, fully funded, international students would receive the opportunity to have a full year of English language training and then sit for the required exam. Limited enrollment (in addition to ELI courses) would be allowed if the department was to be in favor of such. Dr. Goodliffe added that if the TOEFL score is low, then the student would be allowed to enroll in “one carefully chosen class” in order to become acclimated to the department’s surroundings and academic culture. At present, UA is not on a level playing field with many other research universities and this would allow for UA to be more competitive in the pursuit of top tier international students, particularly in the STEM disciplines.

Dr. John Petrovic raised the issue of students possibly failing the entrance exam after being admitted and spending an entire year in residence at UA. Would the students be required to repay any funding that they had previously secured? Dr. Goodliffe answered that in some instances they would be required to repay funding, but that that scenario is no different from any other student that fails out of a program. Dean Francko agreed, stating that repayment would be required, but reminded members that the overarching purpose of the proposal is to remove barriers that presently encumber such international students, and prevent them from being able to meet graduate admissions requirements. There is a need to be more competitive with other institutions that already have these allowances to recruit otherwise qualified students. Under no circumstances are departments required to admit any students.

A second question was raised inquiring as to how departments know that a particular student is “well qualified” if the GRE has not been taken. Dr. Goodliffe answered stating that students that would be considered for this allowance, scholarship have in most instances been vetted in their home country. Secondly, the GRE is not always the best predictor of future success. Dr. Ibrahim Çemen opined that in his experience the TOEFL is a better indicator of how well prepared a foreign student may be. Dr. Schlesinger asked if the GS has any information on how well Saudi students have done under the same – already existing – structure. Dr. Goodliffe replied assuring members that tracking data would be fairly easy to pull. Dean Francko solicited further comments or questions. No other hands were raised so the proposal was brought to a vote. Proposal passed (21 in favor, 1 in opposition, 2 abstentions).

B. Dr. Jason DeCaro introduced the second proposal, Amendment to the University of Alabama PhD Credit Transfer Policy. At present, PhD students are able to transfer in a maximum of twenty four hours from a previous institution on a course by course basis. In many instances, less than twenty-four hours are transferred into UA due to various reasons (no A or B, too old, or no existing UA equivalent course). This proposal would allow for a second option - for departments wishing to exercise it – that would instead ask that the Graduate School accept a master’s degree in place of a list of twenty-four separate course hours. If the degree is more than six years old, the onus would be on the department to show that the student has been working in the field in some capacity during the interim period.

Areas discussed in committee were: 1) giving departments the latitude to choose which option to follow, 2) possibility of accepting old coursework, and 3) possibility of diluting admissions requirements. A strong interest from the STEM departments as well as other non-STEM departments was expressed. Dean Francko reminded all that the proposal has been in the works for nearly two years and it would bring UA on par with what other research institutions have in place in order to admit new doctoral students. This measure would help departments exercise more flexibility in determining how much previous work to count toward the total amount of coursework needed, before a student can begin research. The proposal would put more control in the hands of departments.

Dr. Goodliffe gave an example of a recent student that approached him about not being able to transfer in coursework from a master’s degree that was older than six years, but who had been working in her field. The student felt that transferring to another university might be her only recourse. Dr. Goodliffe viewed that as unacceptable and stressed that this change to the transfer credit policy is vital to attract and retain students who would have otherwise gone elsewhere for their doctoral studies.

Dr. Schmitt stressed that this new policy would place greater responsibilities on departments to scrutinize the amount and quality of work performed by students with an older master’s degree. Also, some departments are more consistent than others in distinguishing between 500 and 600 level coursework in a student’s respective program of study. Dr. DeCaro noted that much time was spent in committee addressing the need for departments to inform prospective doctoral students that UA is not offering a “Master’s plus 24” degree, but that if all twenty-four hours qualify, then they can be transferred in as a block of coursework toward the PhD.

After some discussion the proposal was brought to a vote and passed (20 in favor, 1 opposed, 2 abstentions).

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

A. Dean Francko gave the Graduate Council an update on the status of Graduate School applications. At present applications are up 6% over last year and the number of Fall 2015 applications are up as well. He reminded all present that Dr. Blake Bedsole has a useful, interactive spreadsheet available to anyone interested. GRE/GMAT/TOEFL scores can be accessed that will aide both departments and the Graduate School alike. Reports can be tailored made and generated for specific purposes. A list of all undergraduate McNair scholars is also available. Dean Francko also informed members that undergraduate Presidential Scholarships can now be used if the student finishes the baccalaureate degree in three years. This is not only important for that student but means that departments can now leverage that funding in order to provide partial or full funding for an additional student. Dr. Goodliffe stated that the logistics of using the funds are fairly complicated but are being worked out. This new development is a “game changer” and needs to be fast tracked so that it can be taken advantage of as soon as possible. Dr. Knol asked about the continuous nature of the award. The funds are only available if the student begins graduate studies in the semester immediately following undergraduate studies. In other words, the awardee cannot take time off. Research & Travel is 10% ahead of last semester and 6% ahead of 2013. 338 awards totaling $236, 000 has been given. Finally, the Three Minute Thesis competition was a success with 275 in attendance to see 15 finalists represent 10 different departments across campus. A WVUA broadcast of the awards contest is forthcoming, which is welcome state-wide press for what is a very successful event at UA.

B. Dr. John Schmitt announced that DegreeWorks for all master’s degree programs is nearing completion. The last two degree program audits have been scripted and are being reviewed. Both should be moved to production by the end of Fall 2014 term.

A revised GTA Departmental Training Activities online survey will be sent to departments, and the results will be posted. With this survey, departments can see the primary GTA training activities of all UA departments and have the opportunity to use that information to improve their overall GTA training programs.

C. The three committees to select the seven Graduate School awards are working to have their selections finalized by the end of January 2015. Winners will receive framed certificates and honoraria from the Graduate School during Honors Week. College winners who did not win a UA-wide award all receive a Certificate of Merit from the Graduate School to acknowledge their winning at the college level.

D. The UA master list of degree program accreditations recently was updated. It is posted in the UA Fact Book and available in the A-Z website indexes at the UA homepage and Graduate School homepage.

E. Dr. Andy Goodliffe shared his impressions from a recent trip to Peru. The conference was massively well attended. The college and university fair resulted in many good contacts and renewed interest in South America as an emerging source of highly qualified students.

IV. Reports from Standing University Committees


V. Old Business

No old business

VI. New Business

No new business


Dean Francko thanked all in attendance and adjourned the meeting at 4:18pm.