UW Graduate School

Memo 5: Interdisciplinary Committees and Degree-Offering Groups

Overview

Certain fields of knowledge or inquiry may be of interest to members of the graduate faculty associated with two or more academic units across different schools, colleges, or campuses. To facilitate collaboration, the Dean of the Graduate School may establish two types of faculty organizations under the Graduate School’s administrative structure: non-degree-offering interdisciplinary committees or degree-offering interdisciplinary groups.

Deans of colleges or schools other than the Graduate School may support interdisciplinary activities within those units according to local policies and established faculty governance. The current memo applies exclusively to interdisciplinary committee and degree-offering groups within the Graduate School.

The Dean of the Graduate School appoints Graduate School interdisciplinary committees and Graduate School interdisciplinary groups at the request of a group of graduate faculty. Interdisciplinary committees and groups may be established when the interests of participating faculty cannot easily be represented by a single chair, dean, or chancellor, and when a single college, school, or campus cannot provide the administrative structure required to support related educational activities. Interdisciplinary committee and group membership is limited to members of the graduate faculty. These faculty serve as committee or group members, nominate a chair who is appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School, and identify additional members. Faculty members active in these committees and groups retain their primary associations and faculty appointments in their home academic units.

Graduate School interdisciplinary committees do not offer graduate degrees or certificates, while Graduate School interdisciplinary groups serve as qualified academic units that have been authorized to offer a graduate degree and/or graduate certificate. The Graduate School serves as the college-level administrative location for any resulting academic programs.

Interdisciplinary Committees

Graduate faculty members from more than one school, college, or campus who wish to establish an interdisciplinary committee concerned substantially with research or graduate education may ask to be designated as a Graduate School interdisciplinary committee. Among the purposes of such committees may be to formalize coordination across institutional boundaries of research projects, proposal submissions, graduate student recruitment, consulting, seminars, or graduate curricula. An interdisciplinary committee does not offer its own graduate degree, certificate, coursework, or independent curriculum; graduate students associated with such a committee must be enrolled in and meet all requirements of an authorized degree program. Interdisciplinary committees may initiate development of a new graduate degree or graduate certificate program.

A request to establish an interdisciplinary committee is made by letter from participating graduate faculty to the Dean of the Graduate School. The letter should describe the purpose of the committee and list the proposed members along with faculty ranks and units of primary appointment. The letter should also identify the committee chair or co-chairs who will serve for the duration of the committee’s activities or until the committee formally elects another chair. The committee chair leads the committee and reports to the Dean of the Graduate School regarding committee activities.

Committees are initially appointed for up to three years, coinciding with the academic calendar. At the end of the appointment period, the committee chair must inform the Graduate School as to whether reappointment of the committee is desired. Changes to either committee membership or the committee chair are by the following process: (1) nomination by a committee member or chair; (2) quorum majority vote endorsing the new chair or committee member (in person, electronic, or paper); (3) submission of vote results from the committee chair to the Dean of the Graduate School via the Office of Academic Affairs and Planning; and (4) confirmation from the Graduate School. Members are removed from the committee when: (1) the faculty member resigns from the committee; (2) the faculty member’s graduate faculty appointment ends; (3) the defined appointment term on the committee ends; or (4) the committee members vote to remove the member according to the voting process described above.

The Graduate School normally does not offer financial support for committee activities.

Interdisciplinary Groups

If faculty wish to create an interdisciplinary graduate degree or certificate program under the Graduate School Dean’s Office, the first step is formation of an interdisciplinary committee. Following approval of the interdisciplinary committee, its faculty may propose a graduate degree or certificate program following the same process as a new degree or certificate proposal from any department, school, college, or campus. If the Board of Regents grants authority to offer the new degree, the interdisciplinary committee is designated as a qualified degree-offering interdisciplinary “group” and is administered through the Graduate School. The chair of the interdisciplinary committee becomes chair of the newly formed interdisciplinary group on an interim basis. The chair’s appointment must be re-confirmed by vote of the faculty group according to the procedures below and be submitted to the Dean of the Graduate School for formal appointment.

A Graduate School interdisciplinary group functions as the degree-offering academic unit authorized to offer a graduate curriculum and to supervise graduate students associated with its graduate degree program. The interdisciplinary group recommends admission to and graduation from its degree program. It may administer an operating budget and space when these are available from cooperating schools and colleges; normally the Graduate School does not allocate such funds or facilities. A group may administer research grants and contracts associated with the graduate program.

A group does not maintain primary appointments of its faculty; these are held in departments, schools, colleges, or campuses. Members of an interdisciplinary group must be members of the University graduate faculty (see Graduate School Memorandum No. 12: Membership in the Graduate Faculty). Changes to group membership, group chair, or academic program director are by the following process: (1) nomination by a group member or group chair; (2) quorum majority vote by the faculty group regarding endorsement of the new member, chair, or director (in person, electronic, or paper); (3) submission of vote results from the group chair to the Dean of the Graduate School via the Office of Academic Affairs and Planning; and (4) confirmation by the Graduate School of new group members or formal appointment by the Dean of the Graduate School for a new chair or director. Members are removed from the group when: (1) the faculty member resigns from the group; (2) the faculty member’s graduate faculty appointment ends; (3) the defined appointment term on the group ends; or (4) the group votes to remove the member according to the voting process described above.

The interdisciplinary group chair reports to the Dean of the Graduate School in the same manner that the chair of a department reports to the dean of a departmentalized school or college with regard to the academic program offered by the interdisciplinary group (Executive Order I.4). The chair has the additional responsibility of furnishing information regarding program details and coordinating support for the program with other chairs, directors, and deans who are directly concerned with the operation of the program. The interdisciplinary group chair is responsible for monitoring the program’s budget and resources in coordination with program staff and the Graduate School.

The interdisciplinary group chair normally serves as the academic program director and Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC). In some cases, the role of the interdisciplinary group chair may be separate from the role of the academic program director. When these roles are distinct, either the chair or the program director may serve as the GPC. The academic program director must be a member of the graduate faculty and a member of the interdisciplinary group.

An interdisciplinary group may be continued indefinitely in the Graduate School, subject to periodic review by the Graduate School in the same manner as all graduate degree programs and at least once every ten years, or the degree program may be moved to another degree-offering unit following the appropriate university-level process. If the degree program is moved to another academic unit, the graduate faculty of that unit will have oversight of the degree program and the Graduate School interdisciplinary group will be dissolved.

Revised: December, 1985; Updated: June 2010, October 2014;Revised: September 2017