School of Graduate Studies

Post-Recruitment Best Practices


Exit interviews (SPER; E&HS)

Focus group interviews with graduate students (SSWA MSW)

Track student progress (ITLS; FCHD)

All graduate programs require that students present their research plans during spring semester (usually the second semester in the program) to department (aka "pre-project seminar"). This presumably hastens the progress toward completion of the degree (CNR department; WILD; WATS; ENVS).

The semester-long professional orientation seminar is an excellent tool to help students and faculty (SSWA SOC PhD). As a part of the Physics orientation, students must write a research proposal (PHYS PhD).

Non-discipline-specific professional/science communication course offered (ADVS).

Orientation for all new students at beginning of year (many).

Department has developed a document that gives benchmarks and guidelines for the expectations in student progress each year; the document is given to students at fall orientation (CHEM & BIOCHEM PhD).

Bring in guest writers/artists/industry representatives/researchers to help students know/understand what needs to happen to have a successful career (ENGL, THAR, BE, CHEM, Ecology Center).

Make proposal writing, abstract writing, conference paper submission and public presentation part of the regular classroom curriculum (ENGL).

The department requires each student to complete at least one peer-reviewed journal paper submission or a conference presentation per year of enrollment in the doctoral program (EED, TEAL PhD).

Comprehensive exam portfolio includes developing critical skills in research, publication, literature review, conference presentation, grant writing supervision, and college teaching (EHS_SPER_PhD_DD).

A graduate representative is elected each year by both PhD and MS students in the department to provide anonymous feedback to head and faculty (HR_ENVS_HDESM_MS & PhD; EHS_FCHD_MMFT).

Strong career focus including: (1) 7-week workshop in first semester focused on helping with job search skills; (2) career acceleration specialists work one-on-one with students; (3) capstone experience in Salt Lake City where students interview with HR professionals, who provide feedback on interview skills; (4) opportunity to participate in 10-12 day international trip to meet with global HR executives (MGT MSHR).

Combination of investing faculty time in PhD qualifying exam preparation, weekly lab meetings, supporting student trips to professional meetings, treating students as colleagues (MAE, others).

Excellent mix of one-on-one and group activities to develop work ethic, enhance technical knowledge, improve science communication skills, develop networking skills, and providing opportunities for honing leadership skills (WILD WILDLIFE PhD, GEOL).


Faculty members publish at above-average rates, include graduate students as active members of their research teams, and co-author papers and presentations with their students (PSYCH, others).

Faculty members are invested in the department and are actively engaged in decisions about the curriculum and the direct of the degree program (ITLS).

Graduate faculty meets monthly to discuss the programs (TEAL).

The program recognizes that seminar visits by USU faculty to other institutions affords those faculty an opportunity to gain further insights into graduate training, and similar benefit derives from hosting visiting seminar speakers at USU (CHEM).

Initiated a summer internship program in 2011, which is an REU-like (NSF Research Experience for Undergraduates) 10-week research program for students at feeder schools: Five of six participating students were offered acceptances into the graduate program (CHEM).

The use of pooled F&A funds for the purchase of current technologies (COMPSCI - MS &PhD) add research supplements to teaching assistant awards (PHYS).

Degree programs recently implemented short courses (Espresso courses, three 1-credit courses instead of one 3-credit course) to introduce students to new technological advances in the field (WATS).

Some form of accreditation where available for professional practice programs; faculty serve on accreditation boards (many).

Successful at finishing students in a timely manner, which is especially commendable given the national average time PhD students take to complete degrees, although it isn't clear what specific practices result in this outcome (WILD).

Department's ability to maintain a 100+ student MS program in School Counselor Education completely through RCDE was outstanding (PSYCH).

Makes effective use of staff in Career Services (MAE).

Survey special education directors in Utah every 3-4 years to assess the needs for this degree in Utah's school districts. Curriculum in Often adjusted according to the survey feedback (EHS_SPER_Med).

Each faculty member with >50% research role submits two research proposals, many of which are collaborative, to various funding agencies, particularly NSF (ENGR_EED_PhD).

Use researchers from industry and outside institutions to be on supervisory committees (BE).


Making maximum use of graduate instructors (ENGL).

Keeping standards high and only offering funding to the very best students (TEAL PhD).

Faculty members have generated millions of dollars in external funding, which encourages collaborations and collegiality, and helps significantly in hiring new faculty members (EHS_FCHD_PhD, others).

Faculty members are successful at obtaining external funding and use that funding to support graduate students at competitive levels (WATS, PSYCH, PSC, CEE, BE, etc.).

Seek graduate training grants (RGS).

Take advantage of the grant writing workshops offered by the Office of Research and Graduate Studies (ENVS).

Applies online revenue to graduate teaching assistantships (FCHD).

Leverage small grant programs for graduate students with other funds (e.g. Sigma Xi, USU Ecology Center, etc. WILD).

Budget tuition costs into grant proposals where allowable (RGS).

Has donor funding for graduate program (MUSIC, FCHD, SSWA SOCI PhD).

Don't be shy! Ask for funds from potential donors to support students in their quest to achieve success (MUSC, SSWA SOCI PhD).

Overall - Funding

Many self-studies indicate funding as a limitation or requirement for improvement. While we acknowledge that funding is limited for all, we suggest programs not dwell on this and focus on the excellence that can be achieved with current funding. Focus on taking ownership of your future and doing what you can to attract funding, rather than expecting it to come from above. Programs that are vibrant and excel at current funding levels are more likely to attract additional funding.

Some additional insight offered by a task force member:
Perhaps an unintended consequence of this review was that programs looked inward to themselves, rather than outward to other programs. Many programs have opportunities to partner with other programs on course offerings and other best practices. Many students take courses in other departments and hence there are interdependence between them. As we move ahead in the 5 year plans, we suggest that the following questions be addressed by most programs:

  • Do other departments know of dependencies your department has on them and vice versa?
  • What can be done to better coordinate interdependencies between these programs?
  • Can we create or expand opportunities to partner with other departments and programs in recruiting, mentoring, management, and funding?