Sep 16, 2021  
2021-2022 Graduate Bulletin 
    
2021-2022 Graduate Bulletin

General Degree Requirements



General Academic Information for all Graduate Students

Forms and deadlines discussed in this section can be found on the Graduate School website: http://www.usm.edu/graduate-school

  1. Continuous Enrollment
    Students must maintain continuous fall and spring enrollment after completing required coursework and passing the comprehensive examination until the completion of their degree program. Graduate students need to be enrolled in a minimum of 1 credit hour during their graduating semester. Students must enroll as stipulated below:
        A. Students must enroll for a minimum of one (1) hour each fall and spring semester to maintain continuous enrollment.
        B. Students must enroll for one (1) hour of thesis (698), project (699 or 798), or dissertation (898) during the semester they expect to take the comprehensive exam (Master's students) or defend and complete the Master's thesis, doctoral project, or dissertation. The final version of the defended and completed document, approved by both the graduate committee and Documents Specialist, must be submitted to the Graduate School no later than the specified deadline. If a student fails to meet the deadline for submission, they must register for 1 hour of thesis (698), project (699), or dissertation (898) through the semester of graduation.
        C. Failure to enroll for at least 1 hour during the fall and spring semesters will result in discontinuation from the university. A student who has been discontinued and seeks readmission must apply for readmission, pay the application fee, and remit         payment for one (1) hour of tuition, at the current tuition rate, for each fall and spring semester in which the student was not enrolled.
  2. Integrity Assurance Program (IAP)
    All graduate students must complete integrity assurance training during the first semester of enrollment in graduate school at USM.  Students must complete the online training modules available through the Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative (CITI) (www.usm.edu/research/research-and-scholarly-integrity-assurance-program). Appropriate training modules vary by discipline, and students should consult their academic advisor to determine which courses are required. CITI certification is valid for 5 years. Following completion of the modules, the student should submit a copy of the certificate to their graduate degree auditor in the Graduate School.
  3. Minimum GPA and Course Grade Requirements
    A minimum 3.0 GPA in coursework is required for graduation. No grade below a C is acceptable in any graduate-level coursework attempted. No more than 2 grades of C+ or C across six (6) credit hours is allowable in any graduate-level coursework. Some programs require a higher GPA and further restrict the number of allowable C grades for graduation.
  4. Grading System for Thesis, Dissertation and Doctoral Projects
    Enrollment in courses numbered 698, 798, or 898 indicate the student is conducting thesis, dissertation, or doctoral project research. These courses must be graded as satisfactory (S), unsatisfactory (U), or pass (P) according to the parameters detailed below. The grade assigned in these courses documents a student's progress toward completion of the research project. Therefore, students should enroll in these courses no sooner than the first semester the research or project prospectus/proposal will be written and/or defended. 
    Satisfactory (S) - Designates satisfactory research progress. The major professor/committee chair directing the research must develop a set of expectations for research progress in writing, discuss these expectations with the student no later than the first week of the semester, and collect the signature of the student acknowledging that they understand the expectations. These signed documents should be maintained by the faculty member in case of an appeal. The major professor/committee chair will assess student progress throughout the semester; or at the end of the semester to determine whether the student made satisfactory progress.

    Unsatisfactory (U) - Designates unsatisfactory research progress. If, after assessing the student's progress, the faculty member determines the student did not meet the minimal expectations of satisfactory performance articulated in the research expectations document, the grade of U should be assigned. A student who earns a U will be placed on probation immediately after receiving the U grade. The student will return to good academic standing if an S in 698, 798, or 898 (as appropriate) is earned during the subsequent probationary semester. One U grade can be removed from the transcript by petition for a grade change by the faculty member if the student earns two consecutive S grades. A second U grade in these courses at any point in the degree program will result in dismissal from the program.

    Pass (P) - Indicates the student passed their thesis, dissertation, or doctoral project defense, submitted the final document to the Graduate School, and the document was approved. Typically, a P will be assigned the semester a student passes the thesis or dissertation defense, submits the finalized document, and it is approved. However, in cases where a student passes the defense but defers graduation because the document is not finalized, the student will enroll in 1 hour of 698, 798, or 898, as appropriate, during the next semester, and a P will be assigned if the document is finalized and approved. For students who earn a P grade in 698, 798, or 898 but cannot graduate due to the need to complete internship or practicum hours, a P grade should be assigned and no additional research hours should be taken. Instead, the student should enroll in internship/practicum or other appropriate courses the final semester.

  5. Course Retake Policy
    A graduate student may retake 1 course to improve overall GPA or a single course grade, but the grade earned during the original attempt will remain on the transcript. However, the original grade will not be calculated as part of the cumulative GPA once a retake has been recorded. If a student intends to retake a course to raise the GPA and/or be removed from probation, the course must be retaken as soon as possible (i.e., at the next opportunity). The student will remain on probation until the course has been retaken.
  6. Transfer Credit Policy
    At the discretion of the academic program, up to one-third (33%) of the credit hours required to complete a graduate degree program may be transferred from other accredited institutions. Programs may accept fewer transfer hours.  Any requested transfer credits must meet the following restrictions.
       • The coursework to be transferred is time limited; it must have been taken within the time period allowed for the graduate degree program. 
       • The credit must carry a letter or numeric grade of B or better; courses assigned the grade pass/fail, satisfactory/unsatisfactory, incomplete (I), or other ungraded designation cannot be transferred.
       • Course credit applied toward another earned degree cannot be transferred.
       • Non-content courses, such as thesis or dissertation research, cannot be transferred.
       • Transfer grades will not be calculated in the USM GPA.
       • Transfer credit is not automatic and will be awarded only after course content is evaluated and approved by the graduate committee chair and/or graduate committee, school director, and Dean of the Graduate School. Students will supply syllabi, course descriptions, and other requested materials for review. For doctoral programs, final evaluation and acceptance of transfer credit will be made after the student has been enrolled for one semester. A total sum of no more than one-third (33%) of combined transfer and non-degree coursework may be applied toward a graduate degree.
  7. Foreign Language
    Some Master's and Doctoral degree programs include a foreign language requirement. Students should refer to the section of the Graduate Bulletin describing individual schools to determine whether a program has a foreign language requirement.
  8. Application for Degree and Degree Audit
    Students should submit a signed, completed Application for Graduate Degree and payment receipt to the Graduate School degree auditor by the specified deadline during the semester before the expected graduation term. The Graduate School degree auditor will check the application and notify the student and their advisor if any problems are evident. See the Graduate School website for specific forms, directions, and deadlines. A student who applies for degree but finds that they cannot finish as anticipated must submit a new degree application to the Graduate School degree auditor. There is no fee associated with the first deferment. Any subsequent deferments must be accompanied by a fee payment. Those students whose Degree Progress Report (DPR) includes a thesis, dissertation, or doctoral project should notify the Communication and Documents Specialist of a deferment.
  9. Course Revalidation
    A student who successfully petitioned for an extension of the time limit for graduation due to extraordinary circumstances that slowed degree progress must revalidate all graduate courses taken at USM outside the time limit for the degree (see Master's, Specialist, Doctoral sections) before the student can graduate. The revalidation plan must be developed by the major professor/committee chair and approved by the school director and Dean of the Graduate School.  A $50 fee for each course to be revalidated must be paid before the revalidation is attempted, up to a maximum of $400 in revalidation fees. Over-age extension and transfer courses cannot be revalidated. Revalidation forms are available on the Graduate School website.

Requirements for a Graduate Certificate Program

  1. Coursework

    A.  A minimum of 12 semester hour credits of prescribed coursework is required for a graduate certificate. Many certificate programs require more than 12 hours of coursework. To determine specific program requirements, consult individual school policies.
    B.  A student enrolled in a degree program may earn a certificate while pursuing the degree, and all certificate coursework credit earned as a degree-seeking student may apply to the degree if approved by the graduate committee. A separate application with associated application fee is required as follows: 1) a student enrolled in a degree program also decides to pursue a certificate; 2) a student enrolled in a certificate program also decides to pursue a degree.
    C. Credits earned while a student is a certificate-seeking, non-degree student, may be applied to a degree program if approved by the graduate committee whether the certificate is awarded or not. Up to 12 credits from certificate program coursework may be applied to a degree program, if approved.
    D. Courses used to complete a degree cannot be used toward a certificate after the degree is awarded.
    E. Transfer credits are not allowed in certificate programs.  All certificate courses must be taken at USM.

  2. Time Limitation
    The student must complete the graduate certificate within 5 years from the date of initial enrollment in a graduate certificate program. Five years is the maximum age allowed for graduate coursework used toward a graduate certificate.

Digital Credentialing Badges

A digital badge is a micro-credential that students can receive during their studies. Badges provide students an opportunity to digitally showcase the skill sets that they have acquired during their participation in university activities and coursework. Badges allow students the opportunity to showcase their acquired skillsets to potential employers and others by displaying badges on social media, email signature lines, etc.

Students can select from foundational badges or proficiency badges. The foundational badges allow students to earn a digital micro-credential upon successful completion of various professional development activities that are experienced outside of the traditional classroom environment. Foundational badges may have an expiration date and do not appear on the student's academic transcript. Proficiency badges allow students to earn a micro-credential upon successful completion of a combination of specific coursework and demonstration of proficiency in one or more skillsets. Proficiency badges require no more than 9 credit hours of specified coursework. Proficiency badges appear on the student's academic transcript and have no expiration date.

Badge requirements and definitions:

Foundational Badges (Level 1):  Indicates successful completion of non-discipline-specific professional development activities designed to cultivate transferable skills through non-credit activities. Foundational badges bear the imprimatur of the university, and as such, students must demonstrate an appropriate level of achievement through a set of significant activities. Foundational badges do not appear on the student transcript.

Requirements: Foundational badges require students to develop and demonstrate a minimal level of competency in one or more transferable skills acquired outside the traditional classroom environment. Students will spend a sufficient quantity of time developing transferable skills and demonstrating an acceptable level of competency. A foundational badge requires a minimum activity time commitment of 20 hours over the course of the activities and the demonstration of competency in those skillsets through the use of specified assessment instruments.

Proficiency Badges (Level 2): Indicates the completion of specific coursework aimed at developing a skillset competency. Proficiency badges require less credit hours for completion than a minor or certificate and appear on the student transcript upon graduation. Students will receive the digital badge upon completion of the proficiency badge requirements.

Requirements: Proficiency badges require 6-9 credit hours and a demonstration of skillset competency in order to complete the micro-credential. Students need not complete all proficiency badge requirements within the same semester.

Requirements for a Master's Degree

  1. Credit Hours
    A minimum of 30 graduate credit hours are required for any Master's degree. Many schools require more than 30 hours. A minimum of 18 credit hours must be taken in courses numbered 600 or above. No more than 6 hours of thesis (698) can be counted toward the degree. Specific school requirements should be consulted for additional information.
  2. Time Limitation
    A Master's degree must be completed within 5 years from the semester of initial enrollment in a Master's program. Five years is the maximum age allowed for graduate coursework toward a Master's degree. A student must meet the requirements and adhere to the policies described in the Graduate Bulletin that is current the first semester of enrollment through the fifth year in the program. If a student's degree progress is slowed due to an extreme hardship, they may petition the school for a limited extension, which must be reviewed by the Dean of the Graduate School. If an extension is granted, the student will become subject to the Graduate Bulletin that is current the semester the extension is granted and will be responsible for meeting any new requirements of the degree and/or school or university policies. Course revalidation will be required.
  3. The Master's Committee
    The student's work toward the Master's degree is supervised by a school committee comprised of the major professor/committee chair and 2-3 additional graduate faculty members for thesis or project programs. For some non-thesis or non-project programs, an experienced faculty advisor may supervise the student's work. Qualified individuals from outside the school may serve on a graduate committee if the individual has specialized knowledge that enhances the committee and is approved by the Graduate Council and the Dean of the Graduate School. A Graduate Committee Request Form must be submitted to the Graduate School early in the student's degree program, prior to defense of proposal or the comprehensive exam, whichever comes first. When voting on a student's performance on the qualifying exam, comprehensive exam, thesis proposal, or defense of theses/projects, a simple majority of the committee determines a pass.
  4. The Minor Field
    If a minor field is required in the Master's program, it shall consist of at least 9 semester hours of graduate coursework and may consist of courses from a number of related areas. Some disciplines define their own minor and may require more than 9 semester hours to complete the minor. The minor school must be consulted to determine specific requirements.
  5. Examinations
    1. The Comprehensive Examination
      A comprehensive examination is required of all Master's students to assess students' knowledge of the major field of study. The comprehensive exam must be taken after all coursework has been completed. The major school will determine whether the comprehensive exam will be written, oral, or both. It is prepared, administered, and assessed by the student's graduate committee. A student who fails the comprehensive examination may retake it no sooner than 3 months after the first attempt. A student being examined as a part of a cohort or group may repeat the comprehensive examination at the next scheduled administration if at least 3 months have passed since the first attempt. A student may repeat the comprehensive examination only once; failure to complete the comprehensive examination successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program. Students must register for a minimum of 1 credit hour the semester the comprehensive exam is taken. The Results of the Comprehensive Exam form must be submitted by the major professor/committee chair to the Graduate School immediately after completion of the exam.
    2. Oral Defense of Thesis
      A defense of the thesis cannot occur until after the student successfully completes the comprehensive examination. The thesis must have been submitted by the student to the graduate committee with ample time for their review. The oral defense will be conducted by the graduate committee and any other faculty member(s) designated by the Dean of the Graduate School. A final seminar, if required by the school as a part of the defense, will be open to the public. The examination part of the defense will be closed to the public, but open to any member of the graduate faculty. Only members of the graduate committee will vote on the results of the examination. A simple majority will designate a pass. The major professor/committee chair must submit the Results of the Oral Defense form to the Graduate School immediately following the defense. If the student fails the defense on the first attempt, he/she has one additional attempt to defend the thesis successfully. Failure to defend the document successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program. Following a successful defense any required revisions should be completed in a timely manner, and the finalized thesis must be submitted to the Graduate School.
  6. The Master's Thesis
  • A student in a thesis-option Master's program must submit a thesis in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree.
  • The thesis committee must be assembled before the student can defend the thesis proposal/prospectus. Any change to the membership of this committee at any time requires that the major professor/committee chair submit a new Graduate Committee Request Form to the Graduate School.
  • A thesis proposal/prospectus should describe an original project that contributes new information to the field of study. It should be defended early in the degree program and no later than one semester before the thesis defense. The Thesis, Dissertation, or Doctoral Project Proposal Approval Form must be submitted by the major professor/committee chair immediately after the proposal defense.
  • As appropriate, the Institutional Review Board (IRB) or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) must approve the thesis methodology before any research begins.
  • Guidelines and templates for the preparation of the thesis must be followed.  These documents are available on the Graduate School website.
  • The Communications and Documents Specialist ensures that theses meet the university requirements, including formatting and originality. The specialist will assist students with formatting questions. Students must allow ample time to make revisions.
  • Students are responsible for meeting the thesis deadlines listed on the Graduate School website. If a student fails to submit the thesis in accordance with the published deadlines, the degree will be awarded the following semester, and the student must submit a new application for graduation and enroll in 1 hour of 698 during the final semester. Deferment of graduation requires submission of a new application for graduation.
  • Prior to the submission of the thesis to the Communications and Documents Specialist, the committee chair must contact the Documents Specialist to verify that the thesis has been checked to ensure originality and that the student has made all requested revisions to content and grammar.
  • Students must meet the credit hour requirement for thesis  (698) during the degree program. No more than 6 hours of credit for this course may be included in the program of study, although additional hours may be taken. Students must enroll in at least 1 semester hour of 698 the semester they defend and remain enrolled in 1 hour of 698 until the final document is submitted to the Graduate School.  Individual programs may develop more stringent policies. Graduate students must be enrolled for 1 credit hour of 698 or other approved course during their graduating semester.

Requirements for a Specialist's Degree

  1. Credit Hours
    A minimum of 33 graduate semester credit hours are required for any specialist degree. Certain schools require more than the minimum. Consult specific program requirements for additional information.
  2. Time Limitation
    A specialist degree must be completed within 6 calendar years from the date of initial enrollment in a specialist program. Six years is the maximum age allowed for graduate credits toward a specialist degree. A student must meet the requirements and adhere to the policies described in the Graduate Bulletin that is current the first semester of enrollment through the sixth year in the program. If a student's degree progress is slowed due to an extreme hardship, he/she may petition the school for a short extension, which must be reviewed by the Dean of the Graduate School. If an extension is granted, the student will become subject to the Graduate Bulletin that is current the semester the extension is granted and will be responsible for meeting any new requirements of the degree and/or school or university policies. Course revalidation will be required.
  3. The Specialist Committee
    The student's work toward the specialist degree is supervised by a school committee comprised of the major professor/committee chair and 2-3 additional graduate faculty members. For some non-thesis or non-project programs, an experienced faculty advisor may supervise the student's work. Qualified individuals from outside the school may serve on a graduate committee if the individual has specialized knowledge that enhances the committee and is approved by the Graduate Council and the Dean of the Graduate School. A Graduate Committee Request Form must be submitted to the Graduate School early in the student's degree program, prior to the qualifying or comprehensive exam. When voting on a student's performance on the qualifying exam, comprehensive exam, or projects, a simple majority of the committee determines a pass.
  4. The Minor Field
    If a minor field is required in the specialist program, it shall consist of at least 9 semester hours of graduate coursework and may consist of courses from a number of related areas. Some disciplines define their own minor and may require more than 9 semester hours to complete the minor. The minor school must be consulted to determine specific requirements.
  5. Examinations
    1. The Comprehensive Examination
      A comprehensive examination is required of all specialist students to assess students' knowledge of the major field of study. The comprehensive exam must be taken after all coursework has been completed. The major school will determine whether the comprehensive exam will be written, oral, or both. It will be prepared, administered, and assessed by the student's graduate committee. A student who fails the comprehensive examination may retake it no sooner than 3 months after the first attempt. A student being examined as a part of a cohort or group may repeat the comprehensive examination at the next scheduled administration if at least 3 months have passed since the first attempt. A student may repeat the comprehensive examination only once; failure to complete the comprehensive examination successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program.  Students must register for a minimum of 1 credit hour the semester the comprehensive exam is taken. The Results of the Comprehensive Exam form must be submitted by the major professor/committee chair to the Graduate School immediately after completion of the exam.
    2. Oral Defense of Thesis
      A defense of the thesis cannot occur until after the student successfully completes the comprehensive examination. The thesis must have been submitted by the student to the graduate committee with ample time for their review. The oral defense will be conducted by the graduate committee and any other faculty member(s) designated by the Dean of the Graduate School. A final seminar, if required by the school as a part of the defense, will be open to the public. The examination part of the defense will be closed to the public, but open to any member of the graduate faculty. Only members of the graduate committee will vote on the results of the examination. A simple majority will designate a pass. The major professor/committee chair must submit the Results of the Oral Defense form to the Graduate School immediately following the defense. If the student fails the defense on the first attempt, they have one additional attempt to defend the thesis successfully. Failure to defend the document successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program. Following a successful defense, any required revisions should be completed in a timely manner and the finalized thesis submitted to the Graduate School.
  6. The Specialist Thesis
  • The specialist degree entails the writing of a thesis or completion of a field-based project.
  • The graduate committee must be assembled before the proposal can be defended. Any change to the membership of this committee at any time requires that the major professor/committee chair submit a new Graduate Committee Request Form to the Graduate School.
  • A thesis proposal/prospectus should describe an original project that contributes new information to the field of study. It should be defended early in the degree program and no later than one semester before the thesis defense. The Thesis, Project, Dissertation, or Doctoral Project Proposal Approval Form must be submitted by the major professor/committee chair immediately after the proposal defense.
  • Students must meet the credit hour requirement for thesis (798) during the degree program. No more than 6 hours of credit for this course must be included in the program of study, although additional hours may be taken. Students must enroll and remain enrolled in 1 hour of 798 until the final document is submitted to the Graduate School. . Individual programs may develop more stringent policies. Graduate students must be enrolled for 1 credit hour of 798 or other approved course during their graduating semester.
  • As appropriate, the Institutional Review Board or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee must approve the thesis methodology before any research begins.
  • Guidelines and templates for the preparation of theses are available on the Graduate School website.
  • The Communications and Documents Specialist ensures that theses meet the university requirements, including formatting and originality.  The specialist will assist students with formatting questions. Students must allow ample time to make revisions.
  • Prior to the submission of the thesis to the Communications and Documents Specialist, the committee chair must contact the specialist to verify that the thesis has been checked to ensure originality and that the student has made all requested revisions to content and grammar.
  • Students are responsible for meeting the thesis deadlines that are listed on the thesis/dissertation deadline schedule on the Graduate School website. If a student fails to submit the thesis in accordance with the published deadlines, the degree will be awarded the following semester, and the student must submit a new application for graduation and enroll in 1 hour of 798 during that semester.

Requirements for a Doctoral Degree

  1. Credit Hours
    All doctoral degrees entail a minimum of 54 semester hours of coursework beyond the bachelor's degree. Individual departments may have additional requirements. Students must enroll in a dissertation course (898) during the degree program. No more than 12 hours of this course may be included in the program of study, according to requirements of the degree program, although additional hours may be taken. Consult specific school requirements for additional information.
  2. Time Limitations
    A doctorate must be completed within 8 years from the date of initial enrollment in a doctoral program. Eight years is the maximum age allowed for courses taken toward a doctoral degree. A student must meet the requirements and adhere to the policies described in the Graduate Bulletin that is current the first semester of enrollment through the eighth year in the program. If a student's degree progress is slowed due to an extreme hardship, they may petition the school for a time-limited extension which will be reviewed by the Dean of the Graduate School. If an extension is granted, the student becomes subject to the Graduate Bulletin that is current the semester the extension is granted, including responsibility for any changes in the requirements of the degree and/or school or university policies. Course revalidation will be required.
  3. Residency
    The purpose of academic residency is to provide doctoral students with significant time for extensive and direct interaction with faculty, professional colleagues, and peers and to provide a period of time for concentrated study and coursework. It is structured as a full-time experience. The following are options for satisfying the residency requirements: (a) 2 consecutive terms of 12 hours each, (b) 2 consecutive summer terms of 12 hours each with continuous enrollment during intervening terms, or (c) 3 consecutive terms of 9 hours each. Students must consult with individual programs regarding which of these options are approved and whether online or off-campus courses can be used to establish residency. This policy differs from Mississippi residency for in-state tuition purposes.
  4. Research Tools
    Each doctoral degree program has a research tool requirement that is determined by the school. Consult the school for the specific requirements. Verification of the research tool requirement occurs on the Degree Progress Report (DPR).
  5. The Minor Field
    If a minor field is required in the doctoral program, it shall consist of 12 semester hours of graduate coursework and may consist of courses from a number of related areas. Some disciplines define their own minor and may require more than 12 semester hours to complete the minor. The minor school must be consulted to determine specific requirements.
  6. The Doctoral Committee
    The student's work toward the doctoral degree is supervised by a school committee comprised of the major professor/committee chair and 3-4 additional graduate faculty members. Qualified individuals from outside the school may serve on a graduate committee if the individual has specialized knowledge that enhances the committee make up and is approved by the Graduate Council and the Dean of the Graduate School. A Graduate Committee Request Form must be submitted to the Graduate School early in the student's degree program, prior to defense of proposal or the comprehensive exam, whichever comes first.  When voting on a student's performance on the qualifying exam, comprehensive exam, proposal/prospectus defense, and defense of dissertation, a simple majority of the committee determines a pass.
  7. Examinations
    1. The Qualifying Examination
      At or near the beginning of the student's work, the school may require a preliminary examination to determine the student's qualification to pursue a doctoral degree and to assist the student's advisory committee in planning the degree program. The expectations for the qualifying examination are determined by the school, and information should be obtained from those units. The Results of the Comprehensive and/or Qualifying Exams Form should be submitted to The Graduate School immediately after the exam.
    2. The Comprehensive Examination
      A comprehensive examination is required of all doctoral students to assess students' knowledge of the major field of study. The comprehensive exam must be taken after all coursework has been completed. The major school will determine whether the comprehensive exam will be written, oral, or both. It is prepared, administered, and assessed by the student's graduate committee. A student who fails the comprehensive examination may retake the examination no sooner than 3 months after the first attempt and may repeat the examination only once. A student being examined as a part of a cohort or group may repeat the comprehensive examination at the next scheduled administration if at least 3 months have passed since the first attempt. Failure to complete the comprehensive examination successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program. The Results of the Comprehensive Exam form must be submitted by the major professor/committee chair to the Graduate School immediately after completion of the exam. Students must register for a minimum of 1 credit hour the semester the comprehensive exam is taken. Doctoral candidates should complete the comprehensive examination at least 1 semester prior to the defense of the dissertation or capstone project.
    3. Oral Defense of Dissertation or Doctoral Project
      A defense of the dissertation/doctoral project cannot occur until after the student successfully completes the comprehensive examination. The dissertation/doctoral project must have been submitted by the student to the graduate committee with ample time for their review. The oral defense will be conducted by the graduate committee and any other faculty members designated by the Dean of the Graduate School. A final seminar, if required by the school as a part of the defense, will be open to the public. The examination part of the defense will be closed to the public, but open to any member of the graduate faculty. Only members of the graduate committee will vote on the results of the examination. A simple majority will designate a pass. The major professor/committee chair must submit the Results of the Oral Defense Form to the Graduate School immediately following the defense. If the student fails the defense on the first attempt, they have one additional attempt to defend the document successfully. Failure to defend the document successfully on the second attempt will result in dismissal from the program. Following a successful defense, any required revisions should be completed in a timely manner and the finalized document submitted to the Graduate School.
  8. The Doctoral Dissertation or Doctoral Project
  • The dissertation/doctoral project committee must be assembled before the proposal can be defended. Any change to the membership of this committee at any time requires that the major professor/committee chair submit a new Graduate Committee Request Form to the Graduate School.
  • A dissertation/doctoral project proposal/prospectus should describe an original project that contributes new information to the field of study. It should be defended early in the degree program and no later than one (1) semester before the defense. The Thesis, Project, Dissertation, or Doctoral Project Proposal Approval Form must be submitted by the major professor/committee chair immediately after the proposal defense.
  • As appropriate, the Institutional Review Board (IRB) or the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC) must approve the project methodology before any research begins.
  • Guidelines and templates for the preparation of the dissertation/doctoral project must be followed.  These documents are available on the Graduate School website.
  • The Communications and Documents Specialist ensures that dissertations/doctoral projects meet the university requirements, including formatting and originality. The specialist will assist students with formatting questions. Students should allow ample time for required revisions to be done as required by the Communications and Documents Specialist.
  • Students are responsible for meeting all published deadlines found on the Graduate School website. If a student fails to submit the document prior to the published deadlines, the degree will be awarded the following semester, and the student must submit a new application for graduation and enroll in 1 hour of 898 during that semester.
  • Prior to the submission of the dissertation/doctoral project to the Communications and Documents Specialist, the committee chair must contact the specialist to verify that the document has been checked to ensure originality and that the student has made all requested revisions to content and grammar.
  •  Students must meet the credit hour requirement for dissertation (898) during the degree program. Students must enroll and remain enrolled in 1 hour of 898 until the final document is submitted to the Graduate School. Individual programs may develop more stringent policies. Graduate students must be enrolled for 1 credit hour of 898 or other approved course during their graduating semester.

Dissertation, Doctoral Project and Thesis Deadline Schedule

The Graduate School maintains a schedule of deadlines for students writing theses, doctoral projects, and dissertations. The schedule is available at www.usm.edu/graduate-school. Generally, students should be aware that applications for degree must be submitted one (1) semester in advance of the semester or term in which they plan to graduate. The proposal must be defended at least 1 semester before the thesis/doctoral project/dissertation defense. See the deadlines for more detail.

Leave of Absence for Graduate Students

Under special circumstances (illness, family hardship, military service, etc.) a student may request a leave of absence from his or her graduate program. A leave of absence will be granted for one (1) semester or longer as circumstances warrant. Requests for a leave of absence should be submitted via the Leave of Absence Request Form to the school director. The form is available on the Graduate School website. The director should forward the Leave of Absence Form to the Graduate School indicating the school's recommendation regarding leave. Upon final review by the Dean of the Graduate School, the student and director will be notified of the final decision.

Before completing the Leave of Absence Request Form, be sure to

  • confer with your graduate coordinator, advisor(s), and relevant offices (e.g., ISSS and Financial Aid) regarding the impact a leave of abscence will have on your financial, academic, and work-related (assistantship) circumstances; and
  • confer with your graduate coordinator, advisor(s) and the Graduate School about what, if any, conditions may be placed on your reinstatement after the leave of abscence.

If, after review, you choose to request a Leave of Absence

  • complete the Leave of Absence Request Form including supporting documentation, if requested by your graduate program and/or college;
  • obtain all appropriate signatures; and
  • submit the signed form to your graduate program coordinator for final review and forward to the Graduate School for approval.

Important Notes

  • When to submit the request:  All requests should be submitted the semester before the requested leave term except in the case of emergencies.
  • Verify approval:  Submitting a request for a leave of absence does not guarantee that the request will be approved. Be sure to obtain confirmation from the Graduate School that your leave has been approved, and verify the approved leave's start and return dates.
  • Canceling registrations:  An approved leave does not automatically cancel any registrations.  If you are enrolled for the term(s) included in the approved leave, you must cancel/withdraw your registration(s).  Failure to do so will result in billing and assigned grades for the term(s).  Please refer to www.usm.edu/registrar for withdrawal deadlines and implications.
  • Financial support (from the University): If you receive financial aid from the University, you should talk with your graduate program and/or school; Office of Financial Aid; International Student and Scholar Services office; and the Graduate School to learn about any effects a leave of absence might have.
  • Financial support (from private funding sources): If you receive funding from a source outside the University, you should talk with that agency to learn about any effects a leave of absence might have.
  • If you hold a graduate assistantship appointment: You must contact your graduate program and talk with your employing unit prior to submitting the Leave of Asbsence Request Form to the Graduate School.  If leave is granted, assistantship funds and health insurance will be terminated effective on the date of final leave approval from the Graduate School. The student will be held responsible for any remaining tuition charges if applicable.
  • If you are an international student:  You must contact the International Student and Scholar Services office to determine what, if any impact the leave will have regarding your legal status.
  • If you are a student pursuing two graduate degrees in more than one college, you will need to request a leave of absence from each college under the provisions of this policy and will need to request reinstatement from each college.

Readmission after Leave of Absence:  If you obtain an approved leave in accordance with the Leave of Absence policy, you should be eligible for readmission provided that you:

  • apply to your program for readmission;
  • apply for readmission to the same graduate degree program from which you obtained a leave of absence;
  • are readmitted and enrolled for the term/year identified in the approved leave agreement

Maternity Leave Options for Graduate Assistants

The following information identifies ways a pregnant graduate assistant can access work release during and after pregnancy as needed:

  1. Request a leave of absence for a full semester.  The leave of absence form (see below) must be completed and signed by appropriate approvers, and documentation from a healthcare provider may be required.  The student will be reinstated in the graduate assistant (GA) position upon return.  The student will not receive a stipend or tuition waiver while on leave.  There is no time penalty for the leave period, i.e. the clock stops for the approved leave period, so there is no negative impact on the time limit to degree completion. 
  2. Request to work from home.  The request must be made in writing and approved by the Graduate School, and documentation from a healthcare provider may be required.  There will be no break in stipend or tuition waiver, and the student must produce a deliverable (i.e. proof that work was done).  A release to perform such work is required from the healthcare provider. 
  3. Request a leave of absence for part of a semester with no work required.  The Leave of Absence Request Form (see below) must be completed and signed by appropriate parties, and documentation from a healthcare provider may be required.  The student will not be paid for missed time, and the tuition waiver will be prorated. 

International Students:  Please contact the International Student and Scholar Services office to determine eligibility and for additional information. 

Classroom accommodations due to pregnancy can be requested by contacting the Office for Disability Accommodation at 601.266.5024.

The Leave of Absence form may be accessed at: https://www.usm.edu/sites/default/files/groups/graduate-school/pdf/leave_form_2.pdf

External Employment Policy

Any student holding a graduate assistantship must be enrolled as a full-time student. Therefore, any employment outside the university (external employment) is discouraged, and external full-time employment is prohibited for graduate assistants. Graduate assistants who wish to participate in external employment must obtain written permission from their major professor, graduate coordinator, school director, dean of the academic college, and dean of the Graduate School. The nature and extent of the external employment may be considered in granting permission. Renewal of external employment must be requested and approved annually. If, while engaging in external employment the student is unable to maintain good academic standing or fulfill the required duties of the assistantship, the graduate assistant contract may be terminated. Failure to comply with this policy will result in loss of the assistantship.