In its ongoing work of conducting the best practices of mentoring and advising for doctoral students, the Graduate Program in Religion (GPR) seeks to:
(1) maintain effective channels of communication between the program and its students;
(2) present expectations for both students and faculty;
(3) sponsor a range of exercises and events to inform students and to encourage them to pursue opportunities provided on campus;
(4) provide the organizational means for student-faculty liaison in order to enable the communication of student concerns regarding mentors and advisors;
(5) continue to use effective administrative means of informing and documenting student milestones.
- Maintaining Effective Channels of Communication between Program and Students
In addition to the longstanding practice of encouraging students to approach the DGS or the DGSA on matters of concern, the GPR also seeks formal feedback on advising and mentoring from current students by conducting exit surveys as students complete the PhD. In order to ensure anonymity, the survey is conducted online by sending a link to students who have successfully defended their dissertations.
The GPR improves awareness of and access to key program data by linking to doctoral program statistics on the Graduate School’s website.
- Expectations of both Students and Faculty
The GPR maintains and distributes to all students and faculty statements of basic expectations for faculty advising. These include guidelines for recruiting, advising, and mentoring doctoral students.
Faculty advisors are responsible for:
•Informing students of program requirements and deadlines, academic and non-academic policies that pertain to doctoral students;
•Mentoring students in the conventions of academia and other relevant career paths and the search for employment
•Timely response to student inquiries for advice or assistance, including during faculty leave
These efforts supplement two practices of providing information to students:
- stating relevant programmatic information regarding financial matters in each student’s (re)appointment letter;
- A Graduate Student Manual that covers a wide variety of matters in detail. Information of direct relevance to international students offers them additional information pertaining to their status as non-nationals.
The GPR provides an information manual (Graduate Student Manual of the GPR) that clearly articulates expectations regarding advising and program procedures, milestones and deadlines, exam formats, and relevant programmatic information. This resource is on the GPR website.
Peer advising is a recent initiative endorsed by the Graduate School and is something the GPR will also promote. We have over the past several years engaged in peer advising by pairing our Masters students with doctoral students. But extending this effort to match new doctoral students with students at an advanced stage in the program provides additional support.
Upon matriculation, PhD students receive a temporary committee of two or more faculty who advise them on matters of coursework, language preparation and exams, and other items of academic relevance. The matriculation committee is in place for at least the first two semesters of the student’s program. After that, the student should identify an academic advisor with whom to work toward the milestone of preliminary exams.
- Sponsoring a Range of Exercises and Events
In order to encourage professional development in students, the GPR offers workshops and symposia in collaboration with the Teaching & Learning initiative already in place, and sponsors workshops for faculty in which mentoring and advising are the focus for discussion.
- Providing the Organizational Means for Student-Faculty Liaison
The GPR reinforces an existing organizational structure for student reporting by encouraging student representatives on the Executive Committee of the GPR in their role as conduits for conveying student concerns. Student representatives on the Executive Committee regularly convey student concerns.
For reporting problems whose resolution is better served by offices beyond the DGS or the GPR, such as instances of harassment, discrimination, or sexual misconduct, students are referred to the following resource provided by the Graduate School: https://projects.gradschool.duke.edu/reporting/
- Preparing for and documenting milestone events
The GPR has developed a series of forms that students are issued as they approach and prepare for milestone events. These forms include a Checklist for Dissertation Defense and the work of the Committee on Dissertation Committees, which reviews a formal proposal for the student’s dissertation committee and dissertation proposal. The Graduate Student Manual includes further information on the milestones, including indication of what to expect with language exams, the formatting of preliminary exams, and basic information about the dissertation defense.