Every Ph.D. student will have a Supervisory Committee to help the student develop a relevant and efficient Program of Studies to match the student's desired professional goals while respecting the requirements of the university and the department Ph.D. program. The Supervisory Committee is appointed by the Dean for the Graduate Studies based on a recommendation/approval of the department Graduate Faculty Chair or Committee in the student's major, prior to the approval of the program of study, in order to assure there is appropriate faculty representation from within and outside the department. The student's mentor is generally the Chair of the Supervisory Committee.

Invitations to serve on the Supervisory Committee should be done in the student's first year with consideration of what knowledge and skills each faculty member might bring to the student's program planning, later exams, and possible dissertation, given the student's professional goals and interests.

The Supervisory Committee members may play the following important roles in the Ph.D. program. Their approval is necessary at key milestones.

  1. Agree to Serve. Invited faculty members would have to agree to be listed on the Appointment of Supervisory Committee form and agree, if asked, to be a designated Reader for a preliminary dissertation document, later in the student's program. The Supervisory Committee form should be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator before or with the committee-approved Program of Studies and before the student has completed 45 of the minimum 90 credit hours required for a Ph.D. degree.
  2. Input on Program of Studies. Drafted copies of the Ph.D. Program of Study Planning Document and a drafted Program of Studies form can be used to seek Committee members' input. Members can discuss the student's goals and then suggest content and design/analyses courses, relevant experiences for doctoral seminars, teaching experiences and how exams might be organized. The final Program of Studies form must be signed by the Committee Chair, as a representative of the Committee and their input.
  3. Draft and Grade Exams. The Committee members may be asked to help the Chair draft exam questions or design instructions for product-oriented exams, and establish the grading policy for each. Committee members will also read/review exams and submit a grade or vote of PASS or NO PASS and comments to the Chair. The Chair will summarize the Committee members' vote/grade and feedback, and provide an opportunity to review that feedback with the student.
  4. Assist in Design of Dissertation. One or more members of the Committee may be asked to play a role in helping the student design the dissertation study. It may be at this time that a new Committee member is sought for expertise relevant to the particular dissertation topic and/or design. Committee members agree to attend a proposal meeting and provide the student approval of his/her dissertation plan, or offer suggestions for maximizing the student's efforts for a productive and satisfying study.
  5. Read Dissertation and Approve Oral Defense. Two Committee members, who agreed to read the preliminary dissertation document, will sign the Application for Final Oral Examination form to indicate the dissertation is ready for oral defense or make suggestions for improvements needed. Then all Committee members will read the dissertation document and attend the oral defense presentation. Following the oral presentation and the question/answer period, the Committee will decide whether the defense warrants a passing grade for dissertation credits. All Committee members present for the defense will sign the Report of Completion.

The Supervisory Committee includes a minimum of four resident (i.e., within the NU system) Graduate Faculty members of the University of Nebraska. The Committee Chair must have Graduate Faculty status, be actively affiliated with the program granting the student’s degree, and have an active research agenda of interest to the student. A Graduate Faculty member with emeritus status can be a department representative or Co-Chair of the student's Supervisory Committee, but not the Chair. Graduate Faculty Associates can serve as committee members on a Ph.D. student’s Supervisory Committee, but they cannot serve as the Committee Chair or Co-Chair.

The Committee must include a minimum of two Graduate Faculty members from the student’s home department (one can be the Supervisory Committee Chair) and at least one Graduate Faculty member from a department external to the academic department in which the degree will be granted, but within the University of Nebraska system. The signature of the Departmental Graduate Chair is required at the time of filing the Supervisory Committee form

In accordance with the Graduate Catalog, the members of the Supervisory Committee are as follows:

  • Chair: The Chair of a doctoral student’s Supervisory Committee serves as the advisor and mentor of the student. The Chair may not serve as the Outside Representative or a designated reader.
  • Member: All members of the Committee assist the student and Chair in outlining the student's Program of Study, vote to allow the student into candidacy following review of comprehensive exam materials, request an extension of the program if necessary, and determine the outcome of the student’s dissertation defense. Members may serve as a dissertation "Reader" or Outside Representative.
  • Reader: Two members of the Supervisory Committee are designated as "Readers." They and the Chair read the draft(s) of the dissertation to determine whether the student is ready to defend his/her work. They sign the Application for Final Oral Examination form if the student is approved to move forward with the defense. Outside Representatives and Courtesy Members may serve as Readers.
  • Outside Representative: One member must be external to the student’s major department but within the University of Nebraska system. If the student is seeking a minor, the faculty member representing the student’s minor may serve as the Outside Representative. He or she may serve as a Reader on the student’s committee.
  • Courtesy Member: Faculty external to the University of Nebraska system may serve as a fifth committee member on the student’s Supervisory Committee. Courtesy Members may serve as Readers and have voting rights for the student’s committee. Only one Courtesy Member may serve per committee. A Courtesy Member may not serve as the Outside Representative.

A student can request a change in the faculty serving as members of the Supervisory Committee. This can be done anytime a Committee member leaves the university, or a student finds a more appropriate member to serve for exams and dissertation. Such a change is made through negotiations with the Supervisory Committee Chair and by informing current Supervisory Committee members of the change. The Chair of the Department Graduate Committee and the Dean of Graduate Studies must approve any changes to the Supervisory Committee membership. The Change of Committee form should be submitted to the Graduate Coordinator before the new member assumes responsibilities on the Committee.

A student can also change his/her Supervisory Committee Chair (i.e., faculty mentor) through negotiations with the current and future mentor. The student can seek assistance from the Chair of the Department Graduate Committee to facilitate this change. Any such changes must first be approved both by the Chair of the Department Graduate Committee and the Chair of the Department of Special Education and Communication Disorders; then, final approval comes from the Dean of Graduate Studies. Changing mentors is a process that helps ensure a student’s Ph.D. education needs are met.

The Chair of the Supervisory Committee can seek approval from the Supervisory Committee members for ombudsman rights to make changes on the student's Program of Study without Committee review and approval. All Committee members must agree to this request.