Council of Graduate Schools - Ph.D. Completion Project  
Project Information Project Participants Quantitative Data Promising Practices

Research Partner Profile

University of Maryland—Baltimore County

Principal Investigator
Janet C. Rutledge
Interim Vice Provost, Graduate Education
(410) 455-1781

Participating Programs (24)
Applied Developmental Psychology
Applied Mathematics
Applied Physics
Atmospheric Physics
Biological Sciences
Chemical & Biochemical Engineering
Civil and Environmental Engineering
Computer Engineering
Computer Science
Electrical Engineering
Geography and Environmental Systems
Human-Centered Computing
Human Services Psychology
Information Systems
Language, Literacy & Culture
Marine-Estuarine Environmental Science
Mechanical Engineering
Molecular and Cellular Biology
Neurosciences and Cognitive Science
Public Policy

UMBC’s project focuses on three overarching areas: building community among graduate students, developing support and mentoring for students and for faculty, and encouraging programmatic accountability. Numerous interventions are designated to cut across all doctoral programs and several interventions are specific to particular disciplines or fields. The interventions piloted during Phase I have already had an impact on the retention of current students. During Phase II, UMBC will continue implementing strategies for improvement that are unique to each program, and expand and intensify intervention efforts with the goal of significantly increasing Ph.D. completion and decreasing time to degree. The following interventions will receive special focus during Phase II.


  • Update institution and program webpages to provide an overview of initiatives to improve Ph.D. completion and highlight efforts to create a more nurturing environment where students can be successful.
  • Review and revamp orientation programs based on feedback from evaluations and exit interviews.
  • Develop a student handbook that covers academic, social, and orientation needs, as well as information that is program-specific. In addition, the graduate assistant handbook will be revised.
  • Encourage programs to set up annual student performance review systems.
  • Develop “best practices” for tracking student progress and amount and type of student financial aid.
  • Develop institution-wide policy on family and medical leave for graduate assistants.
  • Expand counseling groups that deal with general issues and issues specific to dissertation completion.
  • Extend “Dissertation House” two day intensive writing workshops to provide mini-retreats that do not require an overnight stay.
  • Encourage graduate student organizations in all programs/ departments to explore additional community building activities.


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