Guidelines & Resources for Graduate School Programs

This page contains guidelines and expectations specifically for Graduate School interdisciplinary programs. It includes additional guidance and resources for program implementation.

Faculty and Graduate Faculty

Graduate School Dean’s Office Oversight

Functional oversight and management of the Graduate School’s interdisciplinary programs occurs through the Office of Academic Affairs & Planning. Both the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs & Planning and the Director Interdisciplinary Programs work directly with the programs on an ongoing basis.

The Director of Interdisciplinary Programs serves as the first point of contact for most issues and works closely with the Graduate School’s Dean, Associate Dean, Director of Finance, Director of Resource Management, and other staff in the Graduate School to support the interdisciplinary programs.

Status within the University

For most administrative purposes, the interdisciplinary faculty group functions as the “department,” the interdisciplinary group chair as the “department chair” or “unit head,” and the Dean of the Graduate School as the “dean.”

Faculty appointments

Faculty payroll appointments must be made by an academic unit outside the Graduate School. Policies governing program faculty align with the appointing unit, including expectations around teaching, research, service, promotion and merit increases, all of which follow policies of the appointing unit. Program directors are encouraged to be closely involved and provide feedback to the appointing unit. Fee-based programs that fund faculty lines will provide the resources for any salary increases and may recommend these to the appointing unit.

Program directors normally receive an administrative supplement (ADS) from the Graduate School to recognize activity directly related to program oversight. Fee-based programs pay for the ADS through program funds.

Program directors and interdisciplinary group chairs going on leave (e.g., sabbatical) must assure an interdisciplinary group member with active faculty appointment is appointed to lead the program during the leave. According to academic HR policies, faculty are not eligible to receive an ADS while on sabbatical.

Graduate Faculty appointments

As outlined in Graduate School Policy 4.1, graduate faculty appointments must be initiated by the unit where the faculty member has the primary faculty appointment. In cases where the appointing unit is not qualified to offer a graduate degree and thus cannot nominate for graduate faculty status (Department of Pathology, Department of Medicine, etc.), the interdisciplinary group may nominate a faculty member to the Graduate Faculty.

Central staff support for issues related to graduate faculty appointments is provided by the Graduate School’s Office of Academic Affairs & Planning (OAAP). Interdisciplinary programs work with OAAP staff, currently the Assistant to the Associate Deans, to make changes to graduate faculty appointments within the program.

Maintaining faculty participation and lists

The Graduate School maintains on its website a list of the formal (core, voting) membership of the interdisciplinary group. The interdisciplinary group chair/director is responsible for sending updates to the Director of Interdisciplinary Programs following vote by the current interdisciplinary group.

In addition, the interdisciplinary program is responsible for maintaining a current list of faculty actively engaged in the interdisciplinary program and publishing the faculty list on the program website. This unit-managed list may include affiliated faculty who are not voting members of the interdisciplinary group.

New interdisciplinary group or interdisciplinary committee members (core/voting members) are endorsed by quorum majority vote of the current members and subsequently appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School.  In practice, the faculty’s endorsement and the chair/director’s notification to the Graduate School, followed by posting on the Graduate School website, completes the appointment of new members to the interdisciplinary group or interdisciplinary committee.

Appointment of the interdisciplinary committee chair or interdisciplinary group chair/director follows the process outlined in Graduate School Policy 4.4.

Representation on the Graduate School Council

As described in the Charter of the Graduate School Council, the Graduate School Council includes one representative from each college or school on the Seattle campus, and two representatives each from UW Bothell and UW Tacoma.

Term and responsibilities of Graduate School Council representatives from the Graduate School

  1. The Graduate School Council member will represent the interests of the Graduate School’s interdisciplinary programs.
  2. As articulated in the Charter of the Graduate School Council, members serve for three year terms. If a representative takes a leave of absence or is unable to complete the three-year term, the Dean of the Graduate School will appoint a representative to complete the term.
  3. Responsibilities of members are listed on the Graduate School Council page on the Graduate School website, specifically in the documents “What is Graduate School Council?” and “Council Role in Academic Program Reviews.” Council members are expected to attend meetings which are held twice per month during instructional periods (autumn, winter, spring only).

Guidelines for election of a Graduate School representative to the Graduate School Council

  1. The Graduate School Council representative will be elected by vote of the current members (at time of election) of the core/voting members of the Graduate School’s interdisciplinary groups that offer a master’s degree and/or doctoral degree. Core/voting members for each interdisciplinary group are listed on the Graduate School’s website.
  2. Candidates may be nominated by any core/voting member of a Graduate School interdisciplinary group that offers a master’s degree or doctoral degree.  Self-nominations are possible.
  3. Selection of the representative will be by majority vote. If no candidate receives a majority of votes during the first round, a run-off election is held between the two candidates receiving the most votes in the first round.
  4. The election is managed by the Office of Academic Affairs & Planning in the Graduate School.

Hiring and managing staff

Staff supporting an interdisciplinary program may be directly appointed and dedicated to the program, may be shared among interdisciplinary programs, or may be “in-kind” resources provided by units outside the Graduate School. Staff appointments may be made within the Graduate School, in which case the staff member will report directly to the interdisciplinary group chair or program director, with HR support provided by the Graduate School.

Staff support dedicated to specific programs is normally limited to existing, “legacy” interdisciplinary programs and programs generating their own revenues such as fee-based programs.

Interdisciplinary groups typically require staff support in the following areas:

  1. program management (budget and planning)
  2. advising
  3. operations (scheduling, communications, website updates, etc.)

When interdisciplinary program support staff is appointed through the Graduate School, whether using state or self-sustaining resources, the interdisciplinary program director has managerial responsibility for the staff. The Graduate School provides HR support for these appointments.

When staff supporting an interdisciplinary program has a payroll appointment in a unit outside of the Graduate School, the faculty program director is responsible for providing performance feedback to the supervising manager in the appointing unit.

Administrative Issues

MoA, MoU, Governance Documents, Departmental Agreements

The interdisciplinary group chair/director is responsible for developing and maintaining administrative documents related to the program in coordination with appropriate administrators and staff in the program, supporting units, and the Graduate School.  These documents may include the following.

Governance Document: a document describing program-internal governance. Includes roles and expectations of program chair/director; academic committees; advisory boards; program staff; etc. The interdisciplinary group creates a governance document in coordination with the Graduate School’s Office of Academic Affairs & Planning. Updates to the governance documents are by vote of the interdisciplinary group and subsequent notification to the Dean.

Memorandum of Understanding (MoU): a general agreement between the program and the Graduate School that outlines program scope, expectations, and resource commitments. The MoU may include other UW units providing financial or in-kind resources for the program.

Memorandum of Agreement (MoA): a formal agreement between the program, the Graduate School, and other UW units that outlines resource commitments to the program as well as the underlying budget model. Fee-based programs are required to have a current MoA. The MoA process is managed by UW Continuum College/PCE, but requires active participation from the Graduate School as the administrative unit with program oversight, as well as from other units providing support for the program. The MoA is signed by the Dean of the Graduate School in addition to the Vice Provost for Educational Outreach and other stakeholders.

Departmental Agreements: written agreements between the interdisciplinary program and participating units committing support to the interdisciplinary program (faculty/staff support; access to classes; in-kind commitments).

Relationships to other units

The interdisciplinary group chair/program director is responsible for coordinating on an ongoing basis with faculty, chairs, and deans who are directly concerned with the operation of the program and who provide direct or in-kind resources to the program. This includes working with the interdisciplinary group to assure appropriate faculty teaching and mentoring in the program.

Budget and resources

Interdisciplinary program budgets are directly managed by the program director and support staff, with oversight by the Graduate School Dean’s Office. Oversight is provided by the Graduate School’s Director of Finance in coordination with the Director of Interdisciplinary Programs, as well as with PCE for fee-based programs.

The interdisciplinary program is responsible for assuring resources are used in support of program delivery and support. Direct Graduate School investment in its programs comes primarily in the form of the director’s administrative supplement (ADS), for student support (TA/RA), and for student travel. Programs receiving direct student travel support are not eligible for GSFEI travel grants. The Graduate School may also provide some administrative support (e.g., HR, IT) according to the needs of each program. Self-sustaining programs are responsible for funding all activities with revenues generated through fees, and with administrative support covered as articulated in the program-specific MoA.

Each program will provide a report on resources as part of its annual update to the Graduate School’s Director of Interdisciplinary Programs (see below).

In general, the Graduate School does not provide significant state support for new interdisciplinary programs. Any new investments respond to innovative programs that include strategic partnerships and resource investments by other schools and colleges. For its existing programs, discussions around increased support will be tied to conversations about strategic program growth and vision, including growth in student enrollments or other revenue streams. Ad hoc funding requests may be appropriate for one-time expenses that respond to emergent needs or target strategic growth.

Fee-based programs should include all recurring expenses in the budget and should maintain a reserve that allows the program to respond to emergent needs and to target strategic growth within the program. Graduate School investment in a fee-based program would only occur if an initiative reaches beyond the scope of the individual program.

Distribution of net revenues generated by a fee-based program is governed by the language in the program-specific Memorandum of Agreement (MoA). In general, program fees should be structured to sustain and grow the program through reinvestment of net revenues.

The Graduate School’s general approach to resources for fee-based programs is the following:

  1. The interdisciplinary faculty group has direct oversight of the academic program and controls the resources it needs to sustain and grow the degree program.
  2. The program will collaborate closely with units that support the program, especially those providing faculty or other resources.
  3. Direct support to the program (faculty, staff, administrative) from participating units will be written into the budget and compensated as program expenses.
  4. Commitments of in-kind support will be written into the MoA.
  5. Resources and net revenue distribution will be described in the MoA.
    • The program should maintain a significant ongoing reserve which may be reinvested in the program or used for larger one-time expenses (equipment, services, etc.).
    • The program fee structure should be designed primarily to support program activities and to directly sustain and grow the degree program.
    • Net revenues may be distributed to participating academic units and will include the Graduate School, as described in the MoA.

Annual reports

The Graduate School’s Director of Interdisciplinary Programs will schedule an annual update meeting with the interdisciplinary group chair/program director, normally during Winter Quarter for fee-based programs and Spring Quarter for state-based programs. At this meeting, the program will provide a review of student numbers (applications, enrollments, completion), resources, and the budget, all in the context of larger program activities during the previous year and looking ahead to goals for the coming year. In addition, the program will address any coming leadership transitions and will provide an update of interdisciplinary faculty group membership.

For fee-based programs through UW Professional & Continuing Education (PCE), the annual meeting will generally serve as the required budget review prior to submission to PCE.

Courses and degree codes

Interdisciplinary program may create a course prefix dedicated the program and offer its own courses overseen by the interdisciplinary group. These courses are administratively located in the Graduate School.

For the purpose of course and curriculum approval, the interdisciplinary faculty group functions as the “department,” the interdisciplinary group chair as the “department chair” or “unit head,” and the Dean of the Graduate School as the “dean.” All course proposals receive sign-off from the Graduate School Dean prior to submission to the UW Curriculum Office. The interdisciplinary group should work with the Graduate School Director of Interdisciplinary Programs when submitting paperwork to the Graduate School for the Dean’s signature.

Central Support

The Graduate School provides some administrative support for its interdisciplinary programs, including:

General. The Director of Interdisciplinary Programs provides general oversight and support of the programs, working with the director and staff to advise on administrative and academic issues; serve as a liaison to the Dean and Associate Dean; advocate for the programs with administrative offices within the Graduate School and across the UW.

Website. The Graduate School can host interdisciplinary program websites, providing limited support and consultation. This generally involves a preliminary meeting with the Graduate School’s web content strategist and possibly the director of communication and marketing to create a plan for the website. After website creation, interdisciplinary program staff is responsible for ongoing website maintenance, with ad hoc consultation provided by the web content specialist.

Communication and Marketing. The Graduate School’s director of communication and marketing is available to work with programs to develop a general communication plan, as well as provide consulting on specific communication items.

Advancement. The Graduate School’s director of advancement and assistant director of advancement provide fundraising support for interdisciplinary programs in the Graduate School, in addition to general advancement support for UW graduate education.


The Graduate School generally does not provide space for interdisciplinary program faculty or staff. Office and classroom space must be negotiated with participating units and written into the budget, if appropriate.

The Graduate Student Lounge in Loew Hall 322 is available to students in Graduate School interdisciplinary programs Monday to Friday from 8 a.m.–5 p.m.

Interdisciplinary programs may use the Graduate School conference room on the third floor of Loew Hall, pending availability. Scheduling is through the Office of Academic Affairs & Planning.

Academic and Behavioral Misconduct

Student academic or behavioral misconduct for a student enrolled in a Graduate School interdisciplinary program is reported through the reporting tool managed by the Office of Community Standards and Student Conduct (CSSC). This is independent of the departmental home of the faculty teaching a course.

CSSC will serve as the conduct officer for student academic or behavioral misconduct as described on the CSSC website that includes a link to the detailed process.

CSSC also provides information on preventing student misconduct.