Committees and Exams

Public Health PhD Student Handbook

Advisor and Committee Chair

Each student must complete a Declaration of Advisor/Major Advisor/Committee Chair form and submit it to the Graduate School no later than the end of the second semester of coursework. This form is available online at Declaration of Advisor.

Although uncommon, circumstances may arise that require the change of graduate advisor. The School of Community Health Sciences (CHS) will consider the request for an advisor change for a legitimate, professional reason. All conversations and documents relevant to an advisor change are confidential, will be added to the student's file, and will not be disclosed to unrelated parties. Either the student or the faculty advisor may initiate a change. In the event that a student wishes to initiate the change, please communicate directly with the Graduate Director about your intention to change advisors and s/he will go over the required procedure and documentation.

Advisory Committee

The student's advisory is composed of at least five (5) members of the graduate faculty: the committee chair/advisor, at least two (2) faculty members from CHS, at least one (1) faculty member from a department in a field related to the student's outside area of study, and at least one (1) Graduate School representative from the graduate faculty (see UNR's Graduate Catalog). The advisor will serve as committee chairperson and subsequent chairperson of the dissertation committee and oversees the comprehensive exam process. Students must form their advisory committee before they begin their dissertation prospectus, generally at the end of the 4th semester. Formal approval of all student advisory committees is made by the Graduate Dean.

Comprehensive Exam

Students must pass a comprehensive exam. The comprehensive exam is taken after the student has completed all required coursework (typically late May/early June of the second year). The comprehensive exam includes questions related to the content of required courses and will include synthesis across multiple areas. The test is taken over 5 days. Four possible grades may be awarded: Pass with Distinction; Pass; Provisional Pass (requiring additional work on the part of the student, as determined by the Exam Committee and the Graduate Director), or Fail. No rewrites are allowed if a student fails the exam and students who fail the exam will be separated from the program. If deficiencies are identified in any exam responses, students will work with their advisor to resolve the issue (e.g., complete another statistics course or developing scientific writing). Dissertation work cannot begin unless the student has passed their comprehensive examination.

Dissertation Prospectus

Each student must develop a comprehensive written dissertation prospectus that includes a complete summary and critical evaluation of existing literature, identification of research gaps, proposed research hypotheses or questions, and detailed methodology and analysis plans. The dissertation prospectus must be approved by the dissertation committee chair prior to submission to the committee. Committee members must have a minimum of two weeks to review the prospectus and communicate with the committee chair regarding potential areas needing further development. Students must orally defend their prospectus to their full committee which may accept or reject the prospectus or require revisions.

Admission to Candidacy

Once students have successfully completed their dissertation prospectus, a Doctoral Degree Admission to Candidacy / Comprehensive Examination Report must be submitted to the Graduate School. This form is located at Admission to Candidacy.