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

Research Partner Profile

Cornell University

Principal Investigator
Alison G. Power
Dean, Graduate School
Tel (607) 255-7374

Participating Programs (10)
Computer Science
East Asian Literature
Genetics and Development
Mechanical Engineering
Natural Resources

Cornell University will undertake strategic interventions in 5 of the 6 areas expected to have an impact on completion rates, although not all activities will be carried out in all graduate fields included in our pilot project. Some of the proposed activities will include all pilot fields; the selection of other activities will be negotiated with the Directors of Graduate Studies and Department Chairs to ensure that these activities are relevant to the needs of the students in those fields. Although fields have already agreed to participate in the project, their enthusiasm has been greatly increased by the understanding that they will have a crucial role in selecting the set of strategies most likely to lead succeed under their local conditions. In addition to the interventions to be adopted across all pilot fields, each field is expected to engage in a minimum of three or four of the activities listed below:

Proposed Interventions

  • Promote collaborative student admission system in which all faculty in a field are engaged in selecting next cohort of students
  • Arrange pre-admission campus visits, preferable as recruitment weekends
  • Make completion data available to prospective students on both Graduate School and graduate field websites and during pre-admission campus visits
  • Include guidelines on mentoring and examples of best practices to faculty when they are admitted to the graduate faculty; provide an overview of these materials as part of the new faculty orientation organized by the Provost’s Office
  • Revise existing graduate handbook (Guide to Graduate Study) to include advice to students on selecting, and developing an effective relationship with, an advisor
  • Institute annual written evaluations of student progress by all students and advisors, accompanied by field discussion of any problematic cases, for those fields that do not currently follow this practice
  • Work with natural science fields to increase the availability of first year lab rotations to enhance the advisor selection process
  • Annual “dissertation camp” for students in the humanities and social sciences, with special support for women and underrepresented minorities
  • Revise allocation of fellowship support to fields to include attrition issues
  • Exit surveys and interviews by neutral party; share results with graduate faculty
  • Ensure written requirements are provided by the field to all students
  • Design and implement a family leave policy for graduate students
  • Partner with health professionals to provide services for students in distress
  • Use qualitative implementation survey and exit surveys to explore opportunities for improving program environment


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