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A primary goal of graduate education at the University of Missouri is to instill in each student an understanding of and capacity for scholarship, independent judgment, academic rigor, and intellectual honesty.

It is the joint responsibility of faculty and students to work together to foster these ends through partnerships that encourage freedom of inquiry, demonstrate personal and professional integrity, and foster mutual respect.

Advisors, Committees, and the Graduate Experience

In general, graduate student progress toward educational goals at MU is directed by an advisor, in consultation with the student’s graduate committee.

The graduate student, the advisor, and committee members comprise the basic unit of graduate education at an institution. It is the quality, breadth, and depth of interaction within this unit that largely determines the outcome of the graduate experience.

The advisor and the individuals on the committee provide intellectual guidance in support of the scholarly/creative activities of graduate students. The advisor and committee members are also responsible for evaluating a graduate student’s performance in scholarly/creative activities.


A Community Based on Ethics

High quality graduate education depends upon the professional and ethical conduct of those involved.

Academic program directors of graduate studies, other faculty members, and graduate students have complementary responsibilities in the maintenance of academic standards and the creation of a high quality graduate program. Excellence in graduate education is achieved when faculty and students are highly motivated, possess the academic and professional backgrounds necessary to perform at the highest level, and are sincere in their desire to see each other succeed.

An Environment of Professionalism

Graduate students must be viewed as early-career professionals, not as students whose interest is guided by the desire to complete the degree.

Graduate Students

Graduate students have made career choices and must be viewed and treated as the next generation of professionals.
To accomplish this, it is essential that graduate students:
  • Conduct themselves in a mature, professional, ethical, and civil manner in all interactions with faculty and staff in accordance with the accepted standards of the discipline and all MU policies.
  • Recognize that the faculty advisor provides the intellectual and instructional environment in which the student prepares a plan of study; may be involved with research; and that they may, through access to teaching and research funds, also provide the student with financial support.
  • Expect that their scholarly contributions, with appropriate recognition, may be incorporated into progress reports, summary documents, applications for continuation for funding, and similar documents authored by the faculty advisor, to the extent that the student’s research is related to the faculty advisor’s research program and the grants supporting the research.
  • Recognize that faculty have broad discretion to allocate their own time and other resources in academically productive ways.
  • Recognize that the faculty advisor is responsible for monitoring the accuracy, creativity, credibility, and integrity of the student’s scholarship. Careful, well-conceived research and creative works reflect favorably on the student, the faculty advisor, the degree program, and MU.
  • Exercise the highest integrity in taking examinations; completing master’s, educational specialist, and doctoral projects; and/or collecting, analyzing, and presenting original scholarship in theses, dissertations, creative works, and presentations.
  • Acknowledge the contributions of the faculty advisor and other members of the research team to the student’s work in all publications and conference presentations, as applicable to the student’s degree program; acknowledgment may mean co-authorship when that is appropriate.
  • Recognize that in some disciplines, the faculty advisor will determine when a body of work is ready for publication, exhibition, or performance and will determine an appropriate venue because the advisor bears responsibility for overseeing the performance of the student and ensuring the quality of any applicable scholarship.
  • Maintain the confidentiality of the faculty advisor’s professional activities and research before presentations or publication, in accordance with existing practices and policies of the discipline.
  • Take primary responsibility to inform themselves of regulations and policies governing their graduate school at MU.
  • Recognize that faculty and staff have many professional responsibilities in addition to graduate education.


Correspondingly, it is imperative that faculty:
  • Interact with students in a professional and civil manner in accordance with the accepted standards of the discipline and the University of Missouri’s policies.
  • Impartially evaluate student performance regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, disability, status as a qualified protected veteran, or other criteria that are not germane to academic evaluation.
  • Serve on graduate student committees without regard to the race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, genetic information, disability, or status as a protected veteran of the graduate student. Unwillingness to serve on the basis of pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions of the student is also prohibited.
  • Prevent personal rivalries with colleagues from interfering with their duties as graduate advisors, committee members, directors of graduate studies, or other colleagues.
  • Excuse themselves from serving as advisors on graduate committees or supervising assistantship responsibilities when there is a familial or other relationship between the faculty member and the student that could result in a conflict of interest.
  • Acknowledge any student contributions to research and/or creative activity presented at conferences, in professional publications, or in applications for copyrights and patents.
  • Not impede a graduate student’s progress and completion of their degree in order to benefit from the student’s proficiency as a teacher and/or scholar.
  • Create in the classroom, lab, or studio supervisory relationships with students that stimulate and encourage students to learn creatively and independently.
  • Have a clear understanding with graduate students about their specific academic, creative activity, and/or research responsibilities, including time lines for completion of comprehensive examinations, research, and the thesis or dissertation, as applicable.
  • Provide oral and written comments and evaluations of each student’s work in a timely manner.
  • Assist the director of graduate studies in an annual review of graduate student progress.
  • Discuss laboratory, academic program, and authorship policy with graduate students in advance of entering into collaborative projects.
  • Ensure an absence of coercion with regard to the participation of graduate students as human research subjects in their faculty members’ research.
  • Refrain from requesting students to do personal work (e.g., mowing lawns, baby-sitting, typing papers) with or without appropriate compensation.
  • Familiarize themselves with policies that affect graduate students.

Graduate Students and Their Advisors

Graduate education is structured around the generation and transmission of knowledge at the highest level.

In many cases, graduate students depend on faculty advisors to assist them in identifying and gaining access to intellectual and/or financial resources that support their graduate programs. In addition, faculty advisors and academic program administrators must notify students of the job market in and outside of academia so students can develop realistic expectations for the outcomes of their studies.

Every admitted and enrolling student must have an advisor. In some academic units, the student’s specific advisor may change during the course of the student’s program, either because of faculty or student wishes. The role of advising may also change and become a mentoring relationship.

The reward of finding a faculty advisor implies the student has achieved a level of excellence and sophistication in the field or exhibits sufficient promise to merit the more intensive interest, instruction, and counsel of faculty.

To this end, it is important that graduate students:

  • Devote an appropriate amount of time and energy toward achieving academic excellence and earning the advanced degree.
  • Be aware of time constraints and other demands imposed on faculty members and program staff.
  • Take the initiative to ask questions that promote understanding of the academic subjects and advances in the field.
  • Communicate regularly with faculty advisors, especially in matters related to scholarship and/or creative works, progress within the graduate program, and with any teaching responsibilities.

Correspondingly, faculty advisors should:

  • Provide clear maps of all requirements each student must meet and delineate the amount of time expected to complete each step related to:
    • course work
    • language requirements
    • research tools
    • examinations
    • theses or dissertations
    • teaching/research/library assistantships
  • Evaluate student progress and performance in regular and informative ways consistent with the practice in the field.
  • Help students develop interpretive, writing, oral, and research skills in accordance with the expectations of the discipline and the specific degree program.
  • Assist graduate students in the development of grant writing skills where appropriate.
  • Take reasonable measures to ensure graduate students who initiate thesis or dissertation research/creative activity do so in a timely fashion, regardless of the overall demands of assistantships in the laboratory, studio, library, or classroom.
  • Encourage graduate students to participate in professional meetings or display their work in public forums and exhibitions when appropriate.
  • Stimulate graduate students’ appreciation of professional skills in which they must become proficient in their respective disciplines (e.g., teaching, administration, research, writing, performance, and creativity).
  • Create an ethos of collegiality so learning takes place within a community of scholars.
  • Prepare students to be competitive for employment, which includes portraying a realistic view of the field and the job market and making use of professional contacts and associations for the benefit of their students, as appropriate.
  • Create an environment of the highest ethical standards and insist students behave ethically in all of their professional activities.
  • Discuss risks students might encounter while participating in scholarly activities and exert reasonable effort to minimize risks. Faculty advisors are encouraged to consult the following resources for assistance:

Advising is variant in its scope and breadth and may be accomplished in many ways.

In academic units, faculty advisors support the academic promise of graduate students in their programs.

In some cases, academic advisors are assigned to entering graduate students to assist them in academic advising and other matters. In other cases, students select faculty advisors in accordance with the disciplinary interest or research expertise of faculty.

A student’s academic performance and a faculty member’s scholarly interest may coincide during the course of instruction and research/creative activity/performance.

As the faculty-graduate student relationship matures and intensifies, direct collaborations may involve the sharing of authorship or right to intellectual property developed in research or other creative activity. Such collaborations are encouraged and are a desired outcome of the mentoring process.

Ways of Communicating

It is understood that the standards of advising and mentoring may differ by academic program, depending on the degrees students are pursuing and how much time working professionals in communities outside Columbia have to consult with their advisors. Nevertheless, it is recommended that advisement, consultation, and mentoring be nurtured via electronic means if they cannot be nurtured in person.

Changes in Advisors and Committees

It is further understood that academic programs will establish appropriate policies and practices to assist students whose major advisor is no longer able to serve in that capacity, as well as students who need additions or deletions to their committees. At the same time, academic programs whose funding of graduate students is generated primarily from research grants need to work with faculty advisors and other graduate students to ensure they understand the importance of completing their research commitments.

History of the Guidelines

This document was approved for distribution on Jan. 23, 2001, by the University of Missouri Graduate Faculty Senate.

It was adopted from documents shared among the following:

  • The Graduate School at North Carolina State University
  • The Graduate School at the University of Southern California
  • The Graduate School at the University of California-Davis
  • The Graduate College and Graduate Council at the University of Arizona (“Mentoring: the Faculty-Graduate Student Relationship,” Cusanovich and Gilliland, 1991)
  • The University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • The University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • The Graduate Council at the University of Oregon