Aug 13, 2020  
2020-2021 Graduate Bulletin 
    
2020-2021 Graduate Bulletin

General Degree Requirements



General Academic Information for all Graduate Students

Forms and deadlines discussed in this section can be found on the Graduate School website: http://www.usm.edu/graduate-school

  1. Continuous Enrollment
    Students must maintain continuous fall and spring enrollment after completing required coursework and passing the comprehensive examination until the completion of their degree program. . Graduate students need to be enrolled in a minimum of 1credit hour during their graduating semester. Students must enroll as stipulated below:
        A. Students must enroll for a minimum of hour each fall and spring semester to maintain continuous enrollment.
        B. Students must enroll for one hour of thesis (698), project (699 or 798), or dissertation (898) during the semester they expect to take the comprehensive exam (Master's students) or defend and complete the Master's thesis, doctoral project,
            or dissertation. The final version of the defended and completed document, approved by both the graduate committee and Documents Specialist, must be submitted to the Graduate School no later than the specified deadline. If a student fails to meet the
            deadline for submission, he/she must register for 1 hour of thesis (698), project (699), or dissertation (898) through the semester of graduation.
        C. Failure to enroll for at least 1 hour during the fall and spring semesters will result in discontinuation from the university. A student who has been discontinued and seeks readmission must apply for
            readmission, pay the application fee, and remit payment for one hour of tuition, at the current tuition rate, for each fall and spring semester in which the student was not enrolled.
  2. Integrity Assurance Program (IAP)
    All graduate students must complete integrity assurance training during the first semester of enrollment in graduate school at USM.  Students must complete the online training modules available through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) (www.usm.edu/research/research-and-scholarly-integrity-assurance-program). Appropriate training modules vary by discipline, and students should consult their academic advisor to determine which courses are required. CITI certification is valid for 5 years. Following completion of the modules, the student should submit a copy of the certificate to their graduate degree auditor in the Graduate School.
  3. Minimum GPA and Course Grade Requirements
    A minimum 3.0 GPA in coursework is required for graduation. No grade below a "C" is acceptable in any coursework attempted. No more than 2 grades of "C+" or "C" across 6 credit hours is allowable in any coursework attempted. Some programs require a higher GPA and further restrict the number of "C" grades for graduation.
  4. Grading System for Thesis, Dissertation and Doctoral Projects
    Enrollment incourses numbered 698, 798, or 898 indicate the student is conducting thesis, dissertation, or doctoral project research. These courses must be graded as satisfactory (S), unsatisfactory (U), or pass (P) according to the parameters detailed below:
    Satisfactory (S) - Designates satisfactory research progress. The major professor/committee chair directing the research must develop a set of expectations for research progress in writing, discuss these expectations with the student no later than the first week of the semester, and collect the signature of the student acknowledging that he/she understands the expectations. These signed documents should be maintained by the faculty member in case of an appeal. The major professor/committee chair will assess student progress throughout the semester orat the end of the semester to determine whether the student made satisfactory progress.

    Unsatisfactory (U) - Designates unsatisfactory research progress. If, after assessing the student's progress, the faculty member determines the student did not meet the minimal expectations of satisfactory performance articulated in the research expectations document, the grade of "U" should be assigned. A student who earns a U will be placed on probation immediately after receiving the U grade. The student will return to good academic standing if an S in 698, 798, or 898 (as appropriate) is earned during the subsequent probationary semester. One U grade can be removed from the transcript by petition for a grade change by the faculty member if the student earns two consecutive S grades. A second U grade in these courses at any point in the degree program will result in dismissal from the program.

    Pass (P) - Indicates the student passed his/her thesis, dissertation, or doctoral project defense, submitted the final document to the Graduate School, and the document was approved. Typically, P will be assigned the semester a student passes the thesis or dissertation defense, submits the finalized document, and it is approved. However, in cases where a student passes the defense but defers graduation because the document is not finalized, the student will enroll in 1 hour of 698, 798, or 898, as appropriate, during the next semester, and a P will be assigned if the document is finalized and approved. For students who earn a P grade in 698, 798, or 898 but cannot graduate due to the need to complete internship or practicum hours, a P grade should be assigned and no additional research hours should be taken. Instead, the student should enroll in internship/practicum or other appropriate courses the final semester.

  5. Course Retake Policy
    A graduate student may retake 1 course to improve overall GPA or a single course grade, but the grade earned during the original attempt will remain on the transcript. However, the original grade will not be calculated as part of the cumulative GPA once a retake has been recorded. If a student intends to retake a course to raise the GPA and/or be removed from probation, the course must be retaken as soon as possible (i.e., at the next opportunity). The student will remain on probation until the course has been retaken.
  6. Transfer Credit Policy
    At the discretion of the academic program, up to one-third (33%) of the credit hours required to complete a graduate degree program may be transferred from other accredited institutions. Programs may accept fewer transfer hours.  Any requested transfer credits must meet the following restrictions.
       • The coursework to be transferred is time limited; it must have been taken within the time period allowed for the graduate degree program. 
       • The credit must carry a letter or numeric grade of "B" or better; courses assigned the grade pass/fail, satisfactory/unsatisfactory, incomplete (I), or other ungraded designation cannot be transferred.
       • Course credit applied toward another earned degree cannot be transferred.
       • Non-content courses, such as thesis or dissertation research, cannot be transferred.
       • Transfer grades will not be calculated in the USM GPA.
       • Transfer credit is not automatic and will be awarded only after course content is evaluated and approved by the graduate committee chair and/or graduate committee, school director, and Dean of the Graduate School. Students will supply syllabi, course
         descriptions, and other requested materials for review. For doctoral programs, final evaluation and acceptance of transfer credit will be made after the student has been enrolled for one semester. A total sum of no more than one third (33%) of combined
         transfer and non-degree coursework may be applied toward a graduate degree.
  7. Foreign Language
    Some Master's and Doctoral degree programs include a foreign language requirement. Students should refer to the section of the Graduate Bulletin describing individual schools to determine whether a program has a foreign language requirement. A student may demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language by any one of the several options; the particular option followed by the student must have the approval of the student's advisory committee and school director. The options are as follows:
       A. Students may complete 6 graduate credit hours with grades of "C" or better in one of the following language sequences: FRE 501-FRE 502, SPA 501-SPA 502, or GER 501-GER 502. Some schools may require a "B" for the courses. These courses are
           specifically designed to meet The University of Southern Mississippi foreign language requirements. 
       B. Students may complete 9 semester hours (undergraduate or graduate) with grades of "C" or better in an approved foreign language. The courses listed above in option A may not be included as part of these
           9 hours.  Coursework completed at an accredited U.S. institution prior to admission into the current degree program may fulfill this requirement (with approval by the school director), provided that the most
           advanced of the courses was taken within the last 5 calendar years for Master's degree programs; 6 calendar years for specialist programs; or 8 calendar years for doctoral programs. After
           admission courses are taken to satisfy the foreign language requirement by this option must be taken at The University of Southern Mississippi or at another accredited institution with written approval from the
           student's advisory committee, the director of the School of Social Science and Global Studies, and the Dean of the Graduate School. Graduate students enrolling in undergraduate courses to meet foreign
           language requirement must complete the Out-Of-Career coursework form and submit it to the Graduate School for processing. Failure to record the undergraduate enrollment as out-of-career coursework will result in the
           course(s) calculating into the graduate program GPA; therefore subject to the Graduate School Probation Policy.

       C. Students may achieve an acceptable minimum score on the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) test in French (43), Spanish (48), or German (39).
       D. Students whose first language is not English have already met the foreign language requirement by earning scores acceptable for admission on the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL), International 
            English Language Testing System (IELTS), or Pearson Test of English (PTE) examination.
       E. Students may fulfill the proficiency requirement for one language if they have completed an undergraduate major or a Master's degree in a foreign language at any time.
       F. Other methods for demonstrating proficiencies must be recommended and approved by the student's advisory committee and the Dean of the Graduate School
  8. Application for Degree and Degree Audit
    Students should submit a signed, completed Application for Graduate Degree (cover sheet, updated Degree Progress Report (DPR), and payment receipt) to the Graduate School degree auditor by the specified deadline during the semester before the expected graduation term. The Graduate School degree auditor will check the application and notify the student and his/her advisor if any problems are evident. See the Graduate School website for specific forms, directions, and deadlines. A student who applies for degree but finds that he/she cannot finish as anticipated must submit a new degree application to the Graduate School degree auditor. There is no fee associated with the first deferment. Any subsequent deferments must be accompanied by a fee payment. Those students whose Degree Progress Report (DPR) includes a thesis, dissertation, or doctoral project should notify the Communication and Documents Specialist of a deferment.
  9. Course Revalidation
    A student who successfully petitioned for an extension of the time limit for graduation due to extraordinary circumstances that slowed degree progress must revalidate all graduate courses taken at The University of Southern Mississippi outside the time limit for the degree (see Master's, Specialist, Doctoral sections) before the student can graduate. The revalidation plan must be developed by the major professor/committee chair and approved by the school director and Dean of the Graduate School.  A $50 fee for each course to be revalidated must be paid before the revalidation is attempted, up to a maximum of $400 in revalidation fees. Over-age extension and transfer courses cannot be revalidated. Revalidation forms are available on the Graduate School website.

Requirements for a Graduate Certificate Program

  1. Coursework

    A.  A minimum of 12 semester hour credits of prescribed coursework is required for a graduate certificate. Many certificate programs require more than 12 hours of coursework. To determine specific program requirements, consult individual school policies.
    B.  A student enrolled in a degree program may earn a certificate while pursuing the degree, and all certificate coursework credit earned as a degree-seeking student may apply to the degree if approved by the graduate committee. A separate application with associated application fee is required as follows: 1) a student enrolled in a degree program also decides to pursue a certificate; 2) a student enrolled in a certificate program decides to also pursue a degree.
    C. Credits earned while a student is a certificate-seeking, non-degree student, may be applied to a degree program if approved by the graduate committee whether the certificate is awarded or not. Up to 12 credits from certificate program coursework may be applied to a degree program, if approved.
    D. Courses used to complete a degree cannot be used toward a certificate after the degree is awarded.
    E. Transfer credits are not allowed in certificate programs.  All certificate courses must be taken at The University of Southern Mississippi.

  2. Time Limitation
    The student must complete the graduate certificate within 5 calendar years from the date of initial enrollment in a graduate certificate program. Five years is the maximum age allowed for graduate coursework used toward a graduate certificate.

Requirements for a Master's Degree

  1. Credit Hours
    A minimum of 30 graduate credit hours are required for any Master's degree. Many schools require more than 30 hours. A minimum of 18 credit hours must be taken in courses numbered 600 or above. No more than 6 hours of thesis (698) can be counted toward the degree. Specific school requirements should be consulted for additional information.
  2. Time Limitation
    A Master's degree must be completed within 5 academic years from the semester of initial enrollment in a Master's program. Five years is the maximum age allowed for graduate coursework toward a Master's degree. A student must meet the requirements and adhere to the policies described in the Graduate Bulletin that is current the first semester of enrollment through the fifth year in the program. If a student's degree progress is slowed due to an extreme hardship, he/she may petition the school for a limited extension, which must be reviewed by the Dean of the Graduate School. If an extension is granted, the student will become subject to the Graduate Bulletin that is current the semester the extension is granted and will be responsible for meeting any new requirements of the degree and/or school or university policies. Course revalidation will be required.
  3. The Master's Committee
    The student's work toward the Master's degree is supervised by a school committee comprised of the major professor/committee chair and 2-3 additional graduate faculty members for thesis or project programs. For some non-thesis or non-project programs, an experienced faculty advisor may supervise the student's work. Qualified individuals from outside the school may serve on a graduate committee if the individual has specialized knowledge that enhances the committee and is approved by the Graduate Council and the Dean of the Graduate School. A Graduate Committee Request Form must be submitted to the Graduate School early in the student's degree program, prior to defense of proposal or the comprehensive exam, whichever comes first. When voting on a student's performance on the qualifying exam, comprehensive exam, thesis proposal, or defense of theses/projects, a simple majority of the committee determines a pass.
  4. The Minor Field
    If a minor field is required in the Master's program, it shall consist of at least 9 semester hours of graduate coursework and may consist of courses from a number of related areas. Some disciplines define their own minor and may require more than 9 semester hours to complete the minor. The minor school must be consulted to determine specific requirements.
  5. Examinations
    1. The Comprehensive Examination
      A comprehensive examination is required of all Master's students to assess students' knowledge of the major field of study. The comprehensive exam must be taken after all coursework has been completed. The major school will determine whether the comprehensive exam will be written, oral, or both. It is prepared, administered, and assessed by the student's graduate committee. A student who fails the comprehensive examination may retake it no sooner than 3 months after the first attempt. A student being examined as a part of a cohort or group may repeat the comprehensive examination at the next scheduled administration if at least 3 months have passed since the first attempt. A student may repeat the comprehensive examination only once; failure to complete the comprehensive examination successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program. Students must register for a minimum of 1 credit hour the semester the comprehensive exam is taken. The Results of the Comprehensive Exam form must be submitted by the major professor/committee chair to the Graduate School immediately after completion of the exam.
    2. Oral Defense of Thesis
      A defense of the thesis cannot occur until after the student successfully completes the comprehensive examination. The thesis must have been submitted by the student to the graduate committee with ample time for their review. The oral defense will be conducted by the graduate committee and any other faculty member(s) designated by the Dean of the Graduate School. A final seminar, if required by the school as a part of the defense, will be open to the public. The examination part of the defense will be closed to the public, but open to any member of the graduate faculty. Only members of the graduate committee will vote on the results of the examination. A simple majority will designate a pass. The major professor/committee chair must submit the Results of the Oral Defense form to the Graduate School immediately following the defense. If the student fails the defense on the first attempt, he/she has one additional attempt to defend the thesis successfully. Failure to defend the document successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program. Following a successful defense any required revisions should be completed in a timely manner, and the finalized thesis must be submitted to the Graduate School.
  6. The Master's Thesis
  • A student in a thesis-option Master's program must submit a thesis in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree.
  • The thesis committee must be assembled before the student can defend the thesis proposal/prospectus. Any change to the membership of this committee at any time requires that the major professor/committee chair submit new Graduate Committee Request Form to the Graduate School.
  • A thesis proposal/prospectus should describe an original project that contributes new information to the field of study. It should be defended early in the degree program and no later than one semester before the thesis defense. The Thesis, Project, Dissertation, or Doctoral Project Proposal Approval Form must be submitted by the major professor/committee chair immediately after the proposal defense.
  • As appropriate, the Institutional Review Board (IRB) or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) must approve the thesis methodology before any research begins.
  • Guidelines and templates for the preparation of the thesis must be followed.  These documents are available on the Graduate School website.
  • The Communications and Documents Specialist ensures that theses meet the university requirements, including formatting and originality.The specialist will assist students with formatting questions.Students must allow ample time to make revisions.
  • Students are responsible for meeting the thesis deadlines listed on the Graduate School website. If a student fails to submit the thesis in accordance with the published deadlines, the degree will be awarded the following semester, and the student must submit a new application for graduation and enroll in 1 hour of 698 during the final semester. Deferment of graduation requires submission of a new application for graduation.
  • Prior to the submission of the thesis to the Communications and Documents Specialist, the committee chair must contact the Documents Specialist to verify that the thesis has been checked to ensure originality and that the student has made all requested revisions to content and grammar.
  • Students must meet the credit hour requirement for thesis  (698) during the degree program. No more than 6 hours of credit for this course may be included in the program of study, although additional hours may be taken. Students must enroll in at least 1 semester hour of 698 the semester they defend and remain enrolled in 1 hour of 698 until the final document is submitted to the Graduate School.  Individual programs may develop more stringent policies. Graduate students must be enrolled for 1 credit hour of 698 or other approved course during their graduating semester.

Requirements for a Specialist's Degree

  1. Credit Hours
    A minimum of 33 graduate semester credit hours are required for any specialist degree. Many schools require more than the minimum. Consult specific program requirements for additional information.
  2. Time Limitation
    A specialist degree must be completed within 6 calendar years from the date of initial enrollment in a specialist program. Six years is the maximum age allowed for graduate credits toward a specialist degree. A student must meet the requirements and adhere to the policies described in the Graduate Bulletin that is current the first semester of enrollment through the sixth year in the program. If a student's degree progress is slowed due to an extreme hardship, he/she may petition the school for a short extension, which must be reviewed by the Dean of the Graduate School. If an extension is granted, the student will become subject to the Graduate Bulletin that is current the semester the extension is granted and will be responsible for meeting any new requirements of the degree and/or school or university policies. Course revalidation will be required.
  3. The Specialist Committee
    The student's work toward the specialist degree is supervised by a school committee comprised of the major professor/committee chair and 2-3 additional graduate faculty members. For some non-thesis or non-project programs, an experienced faculty advisor may supervise the student's work. Qualified individuals from outside the school may serve on a graduate committee if the individual has specialized knowledge that enhances the committee and is approved by the Graduate Council and the Dean of the Graduate School. A Graduate Committee Request Form must be submitted to the Graduate School early in the student's degree program, prior to the qualifying or comprehensive exam. When voting on a student's performance on the qualifying exam, comprehensive exam, or projects, a simple majority of the committee determines a pass.
  4. The Minor Field
    If a minor field is required in the specialist program, it shall consist of at least 9 semester hours of graduate coursework and may consist of courses from a number of related areas. Some disciplines define their own minor and may require more than 9 semester hours to complete the minor. The minor school must be consulted to determine specific requirements.
  5. Examinations
    1. The Comprehensive Examination
      A comprehensive examination is required of all specialist students to assess students' knowledge of the major field of study. The comprehensive exammust be taken after all coursework has been completed. The major school will determine whether the comprehensive exam will be written, oral, or both. It will be prepared, administered, and assessed by the student's graduate committee. A student who fails the comprehensive examination may retake it no sooner than 3 months after the first attempt. A student being examined as a part of a cohort or group may repeat the comprehensive examination at the next scheduled administration if at least 3 months have passed since the first attempt. A student may repeat the comprehensive examination only once; failure to complete the comprehensive examination successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program.  Students must register for a minimum of 1 credit hour the semester the comprehensive exam is taken. The Results of the Comprehensive Exam form must be submitted by the major professor/committee chair to the Graduate School immediately after completion of the exam.
    2. Oral Defense of Thesis
      A defense of the thesis cannot occur until after the student successfully completes the comprehensive examination. The thesis must have been submitted by the student to the graduate committee with ample time for their review. The oral defense will be conducted by the graduate committee and any other faculty member(s) designated by the Dean of the Graduate School. A final seminar, if required by the school as a part of the defense, will be open to the public. The examination part of the defense will be closed to the public, but open to any member of the graduate faculty. Only members of the graduate committee will vote on the results of the examination. A simple majority will designate a pass. The major professor/committee chair must submit the Results of the Oral Defense form to the Graduate School immediately following the defense. If the student fails the defense on the first attempt, he/she has one additional attempt to defend the thesis successfully. Failure to defend the document successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program. Following a successful defense, any required revisions should be completed in a timely manner and the finalized thesis submitted to the Graduate School.
  6. The Specialist Thesis
  • The specialist degree entails the writing of a thesis or completion of a field-based project.
  • The graduate committee must be assembled before the proposal can be defended. Any change to the membership of this committee at any time requires that the major professor/committee chair submit new Graduate Committee Request Form to the Graduate School.
  • A thesis proposal/prospectus should describe an original project that contributes new information to the field of study. It should be defended early in the degree program and no later than one semester before the thesis defense. The Thesis, Project, Dissertation, or Doctoral Project Proposal Approval Form must be submitted by the major professor/committee chair immediately after the proposal defense.
  • Students must meet the credit hour requirement for thesis (798) during the degree program. No more than 6 hours of credit for this course must be included in the program of study, although additional hours may be taken. Students must enroll and remain enrolled in 1 hour of 798 until the final document is submitted to the Graduate School. . Individual programs may develop more stringent policies. Graduate students must be enrolled for 1 credit hour of 798 or other approved course during their graduating semester.
  • As appropriate, the Institutional Review Board or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee must approve the thesis methodology before any research begins.
  • Guidelines and templates for the preparation of theses are available on the Graduate School website.
  • The Communications and Documents Specialist ensures that theses meet the university requirements, including formatting and originality.  The specialist will assist students with formatting questions Students must allow ample time to make revisions.
  • Prior to the submission of the thesis to the Communications and Documents Specialist, the committee chair must contact the Documents Specialist to verify that the thesis has been checked to ensure originality and that the student has made all requested revisions to content and grammar.
  • Students are responsible for meeting the thesis deadlines that are listed on the thesis/dissertation deadline schedule on the Graduate School website. If a student fails to submit the thesis in accordance with the published deadlines, the degree will be awarded the following semester, and the student must submit a new application for graduation and enroll in 1 hour of 798 during that semester.

Requirements for a Doctoral Degree

  1. Credit Hours
    All doctoral degrees entail a minimum of 54 semester hours of coursework beyond the bachelor's degree. Individual departments may have additional requirements. Students must enroll in a dissertation course (898) during the degree program. No more than 12 hours of this course may be included in the program of study, according to requirements of the degree program, although additional hours may be taken. Consult specific school requirements for additional information.
  2. Time Limitations
    A doctorate must be completed within 8 calendar years from the date of initial enrollment in a doctoral program. Eight years is the maximum age allowed for graduate credits toward a doctoral degree. A student must meet the requirements and adhere to the policies described in the Graduate Bulletin that is current the first semester of enrollment through the eighth year in the program. If a student's degree progress is slowed due to an extreme hardship, he/she may petition the school for a short extension which will be reviewed by the Dean of the Graduate School. If an extension is granted, the student becomes subject to the Graduate Bulletin that is current the semester the extension is granted, including responsibility for any changes in the requirements of the degree and/or school or university policies. Course revalidation will be required.
  3. Residency
    The purpose of academic residency is to provide doctoral students with significant time for extensive involvement with faculty, professional colleagues, and peers and to provide a period of time for concentrated study and coursework. It is structured as a full-time experience. The following are options for satisfying the residency requirements: (a) 2 consecutive terms of 12 hours each, (b) 2 consecutive summer terms of 12 hours each with continuous enrollment during intervening terms, or (c) 3 consecutive terms of 9 hours each. Students must consult with individual programs regarding which of these options are approved and whether online or off-campus courses can be used to establish residency. This policy differs from Mississippi residency for in-state tuition purposes.
  4. Research Tools
    Each doctoral degree program has a research tool requirement that is determined by the school. Consult the school for the specific requirements. Verification of the research tool requirement occurs on the Degree Progress Report (DPR) form.
  5. The Minor Field
    If a minor field is required in the doctoral program, it shall consist 12 semester hours of graduate coursework and may consist of courses from a number of related areas. Some disciplines define their own minor and may require more than 12 semester hours to complete the minor. The minor school must be consulted to determine specific requirements.
  6. The Doctoral Committee
    The student's work toward the doctoral degree is supervised by a school committee comprised of the major professor/committee chair and 3-4 additional graduate faculty members. Qualified individuals from outside the school may serve on a graduate committee if the individual has specialized knowledge that enhances the committee make up and is approved by the Graduate Council and the Dean of the Graduate School. A Graduate Committee Request Form must be submitted to the Graduate School early in the student's degree program, prior to defense of proposal or the comprehensive exam, whichever comes first.  When voting on a student's performance on the qualifying exam, comprehensive exam, proposal/prospectus defense, and defense of dissertation, a simple majority of the committee determines a pass.
  7. Examinations
    1. The Qualifying Examination
      At or near the beginning of the student's work, the school may require a preliminary examination to determine the student's qualification to pursue a doctoral degree and to assist the student's advisory committee in planning the degree program. The expectations for the qualifying examination are determined by the school, and information should be obtained from those units. The Results of the Comprehensive and/or Qualifying Exams Form should be submitted to The Graduate School immediately after the exam.
    2. The Comprehensive Examination
      A comprehensive examination is required of all doctoral students to assess students' knowledge of the major field of study. The comprehensive exam must be taken after all coursework has been completed. The major school will determine whether the comprehensive exam will be written, oral, or both. It is prepared, administered, and assessed by the student's graduate committee. A student who fails the comprehensive examination may retake the examination no sooner than 3 months after the first attempt and may repeat the examination only once. A student being examined as a part of a cohort or group may repeat the comprehensive examination at the next scheduled administration if at least 3 months have passed since the first attempt. Failure to complete the comprehensive examination successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program. The Results of the Comprehensive Exam form must be submitted by the major professor/committee chair to the Graduate School immediately after completion of the exam. Students must register for a minimum of 1 credit hour the semester the comprehensive exam is taken. Doctoral candidates should complete the comprehensive examination at least 1 semester prior to the defense of the dissertation or capstone project.
    3. Oral Defense of Dissertation or Doctoral Project
      A defense of the dissertation/doctoral project cannot occur until after the student successfully completes the comprehensive examination. The dissertation/doctoral project must have been submitted by the student to the graduate committee with ample time for their review. The oral defense will be conducted by the graduate committee and any other faculty members designated by the Dean of the Graduate School. A final seminar, if required by the school as a part of the defense, will be open to the public. The examination part of the defense will be closed to the public, but open to any member of the graduate faculty. Only members of the graduate committee will vote on the results of the examination. A simple majority will designate a pass. The major professor/committee chair must submit the Results of the Oral Defense Form to the Graduate School immediately following the defense. If the student fails the defense on the first attempt, he/she has one additional attempt to defend the document successfully. Failure to defend the document successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program. Following a successful defense, any required revisions should be completed in a timely manner and the finalized document submitted to the Graduate School.
  8. The Doctoral Dissertation or Doctoral Project
  • The dissertation/doctoral project committee must be assembled before the proposal can be defended. Any change to the membership of this committee at any time requires that the major professor/committee chair submit new Graduate Committee Request Form to the Graduate School.
  • A dissertation/doctoral project proposal/prospectus should describe an original project that contributes new information to the field of study. It should be defended early in the degree program and no later than one semester before the defense. The Thesis, Project, Dissertation, or Doctoral Project Proposal Approval Form must be submitted by the major professor/committee chair immediately after the proposal defense.
  • As appropriate, the Institutional Review Board (IRB) or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) must approve the project methodology before any research begins.
  • Guidelines and templates for the preparation of the dissertation/doctoral project must be followed.  These documents are available on the Communication and Documents Specialist section of the Graduate School website.
  • The Communications and Documents Specialist ensures that dissertations/doctoral projects meet the university requirements, including formatting and originality. The specialist will assist students with formatting questions. Students should allow ample time for required revisions to be done as required by the Communications and Documents Specialist.
  • Students are responsible for meeting all published deadlines found on the Graduate School website. If a student fails to submit the document prior to the published deadlines, the degree will be awarded the following semester, and the student must submit new application for graduation and enroll in 1 hour of 898 during that semester.
  • Prior to the submission of the dissertation/doctoral project to the Communications and Documents Specialist, the committee chair must contact the Documents Specialist to verify that the document has been checked to ensure originality and that the student has made all requested revisions to content and grammar.
  •  Students must meet the credit hour requirement for dissertation (898) during the degree program. Students must enroll and remain enrolled in 1 hour of 898 until the final document is submitted to the Graduate School. Individual programs may develop more stringent policies. Graduate students must be enrolled for 1 credit hour of 898 or other approved course during their graduating semester.

Dissertation, Doctoral Project and Thesis Deadline Schedule

The Graduate School maintains a schedule of deadlines for students writing theses, doctoral projects, and dissertations. The schedule is available at www.usm.edu/graduate-school. Generally, students should be aware that applications for degree must be submitted one semester in advance of the semester or term in which they plan to graduate. The proposal must be defended at least 1 semester before the thesis/doctoral project/dissertation defense. See the deadlines for more detail.

Leave of Absence for Graduate Students

Under special circumstances (illness, family hardship, military service, etc.) a student may request a leave of absence from his or her graduate program. A leave of absence will be granted for one semester or longer as circumstances warrant. Requests for a leave of absence should be submitted via the Leave of Absence Request Form to the school director. The form is available on the Graduate School website. The director should forward the Leave of Absence Form to the Graduate School indicating the school's recommendation regarding leave. Upon final review by the Dean of the Graduate School, the student and director will be notified of the final decision.

Before completing the Leave of Absence Request Form, be sure to

  • confer with your graduate coordinator, advisor(s), and relevant offices (e.g., ISSS and Financial Aid) regarding the impact a Leave will have on your financial, academic, and work-related (assistantship) circumstances; and
  • confer with your graduate coordinator, advisor(s) and the Graduate School about what, if any, conditions may be placed on your reinstatement after the Leave.

If, after review, you choose to request a Leave of Absence

  • complete the Leave of Absence Request Form including supporting documentation, if requested by your graduate program and/or college;
  • obtain all appropriate signatures; and
  • submit the signed form to your graduate program for final review and forwarding to the Graduate School for approval.

Important Notes

  • When to submit the request:  All requests should be submitted the semester before the requested Leave term except in the case of emergencies.
  • Verify college approval:  Submitting a request for Leave does not guarantee that the request will be approved. Be sure to obtain confirmation from the Graduate School that your Leave has been approved, and verify the approved Leave's start and return dates.
  • Canceling registrations:  An approved leave does not automatically cancel any registrations.  If you are enrolled for the term(s) included in the approved leave, you must cancel/withdraw your registration(s).  Failure to do so will result in billing and assigned grades for the term(s).  Please refer to www.usm.edu/registrar for withdrawal deadlines and implications.
  • Financial support (from the University): If you receive financial aid from the University, you should talk with your graduate program and/or school; Student Financial Aid; International Students and Scholars office; and the Graduate School to learn about any effects a Leave of Absence might have.
  • Financial support (from private funding sources): If you receive funding from a source outside the University, you should talk with that agency to learn about any effects a Leave of Absence might have.
  • If you hold a graduate assistantship appointment: You must contact your graduate program and talk with your employing unit prior to submitting the Leave of Absence Request form to the Graduate School.  If Leave is granted, assistantship funds and health insurance will be terminated effective on the date of final leave approval from the Graduate School. The student will be held responsible for any remaining tuition charges if applicable.
  • If you are an international student:  You must contact the International Students and Scholars office to determine what, if any impact the Leave will have regarding your legal status.
  • If you are a student pursuing two graduate degrees in more than one college, you will need to request a Leave of Absence from each college under the provisions of this policy and will need to request reinstatement from each college.

Reinstatement after Leave:  If you obtain an approved Leave in accordance with the Leave of Absence policy, you should be eligible for reinstatement provided you

  • apply to your program for reinstatement;
  • apply for reinstatement to the same graduate degree program from which you obtained Leave;
  • are reinstated and enrolled for the term/year identified in the approved Leave agreement

Maternity Leave Options for Graduate Assistants

The following information identifies ways a pregnant graduate assistant can access work release during and after pregnancy as needed:

  1. Request a leave of absence for a full semester.  The leave of absence form (see below) must be completed and signed by appropriate approvers, and documentation from a healthcare provider may be required.  The student will be reinstated in the graduate assistant (GA) position upon return.  The student will not receive a stipend or tuition waiver while on leave.  There is no time penalty for the leave period, i.e. the clock stops for the approved leave period, so there is no negative impact on the time limit to degree completion. 
  2. Request to work from home.  The request must be made in writing and approved by the Graduate School, and documentation from a healthcare provider may be required.  There will be no break in stipend or tuition waiver, and the student must produce a deliverable (i.e. proof that work was done).  A release to perform such work is required from the healthcare provider. 
  3. Request a leave of absence for part of a semester with no work required.  The leave of absence form (see below) must be completed and signed by appropriate approvers, and documentation from a healthcare provider may be required.  The student will not be paid for missed time, and the tuition waiver will be prorated. 

International Students:  Please contact the International Student and Scholar Services office to determine eligibility and for additional information. 

Classroom accommodations due to pregnancy can be requested by contacting the Office for Disability Accommodation at 601.266.5024.

The Leave of Absence form may be accessed at: https://www.usm.edu/sites/default/files/groups/graduate-school/pdf/leave_form_2.pdf