Ask the Dean
Ask the Dean is an advice column/FAQ based on questions from graduate students, faculty and staff members about graduate education and the UA, with responses by the Dean. Click on the button below to submit a question for consideration. Questions will be made anonymous before publication and will be edited for brevity and clarity.
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Recommendation Letters from Professors
Dear Dean: I received my undergraduate degree several years ago, and now I wish to return to university and get a graduate degree. I am aware that recommendation letters are needed but what is the best way to obtain these after a two-year gap? -- Prospective Grad Student
Dear PGS: Many undergrads complete their degrees and go off into the world for a few years before deciding that they wish to go to grad school. I suggest that you simply email professors from whom you wish to request letters of reference. Because these are references for grad school, they should be individuals who can provide some judgment of your potential to do well in a graduate program. So, that means you should pick professors for whom you did a good term paper or project, or where you excelled in some other way that illustrates in-depth work, and of course if the topic is close to your intended graduate major, so much the better. It is less useful to have your supervisor at an off-campus job write a letter. Professors are used to getting these requests, so don't worry about that, but do take care to remind the professor about who you are, which class it was, and any relevant grades. If you include some information about your plans for grad school in your request, that will also help.!
Dear Dean: I am a prospective grad student wanting to attend the UA. Where can I find a list of off-campus housing rental information? -- Student Looking to Rent
Dear SLR: The UA has a really useful website that lists off-campus housing at http://offcampus.arizona.edu/. You can search by how much you want to pay, how many beds, and get advice on leases etc. There are also links for finding roommates and for on-campus housing. You'll see that Tucson is relatively affordable, although like all campuses you'll pay more to be within walking distance of campus. if you are able to drive or bike, there is a large range of choices of apartments and houses/rooms in many neighborhoods across town. I hope you find what you need!
Dear Dean: I have heard from other grad students that when you are planning to publish part of your thesis/dissertation with other authors besides yourself it is good etiquette to ask your committee members if they wish to co-author with you. Should I ask them if they would like to co-author? If they feel the content would be out of their disciplinary realm, they could decline, correct? -- Who's A Co-author
Dear WAC: The listing of anyone as an author on a paper should only occur if he or she is directly related to the publication and, most importantly, if that person has made real contributions to the actual work in the paper. Did they do real work on the analysis or in actually contributing to the writing? Just doing a quick read-through or providing "dissertation comments" may be sufficient for an acknowledgement but not authorship. Contributing to analyses, actual written content and/or very close editing of the manuscript is more typical of an author-level role. Conventions differ a bit by discipline too, so ask around in your field; here's a useful summary of academic authorship. Obviously this can be a grey area, but for authorship, actual contribution to the paper is always the test. The real no-no is to add a PI or other adviser who is a figurehead but who did not make direct contributions to the actual paper itself. This happens sometimes where a lab PI is responsible for the lab funding in general, but that does not mean that he/she becomes an author on everything that lab members write. However, a PI may have provided much of the groundwork, conceptual content or analytical insight that forms the basis of a paper, in which case authorship may be appropriate. It is always best to communicate clearly among potential co-authors regarding authorship and author order as the paper is being written.
Dear Dean: I attended the GATO teaching assistant orientation when I first started as a TA and now that I have a semester of experience I'd like to get a bit more background to improve my teaching. My department doesn't offer any courses on teaching and my schedule is packed. Where can I go to get advice and tips for teaching without making a huge time commitment? -- TA Wanting Training
Dear TAWT: I'm glad you are interested in being a better teacher. Teaching and presentation skills for any audience are a critical part of professional preparation in a graduate degree. In fact, recent research shows that grad students who teach also make better researchers! I am happy to say that there is a range of options available to you. An easy place to start is to look through the modules in TATO, our TA Training Online. It includes self-paced modules on topics including learning objectives, discussion sections, rubrics and copyright issues. If you want a little more, the Office of Instruction and Assessment (OIA) is the campus resource for all instruction and they have a set of resources for TAs such as brownbags, workshops and a graduate certificate in teaching. OIA also has information on D2L, blogging, and other tech tools. They will even offer workshops by special request if you can get a group together, such as other TAs in your department.
Dear Dean: Why am I limited to 12 units of graduate non-degree credits that can be applied towards a degree? If I could get more credits accepted it would make it easier for me to complete my degree later. -- Non-Degree Student
Dear NDS: There are lots of reasons why we limit the number of non-degree credits that can count toward a degree. Of course, the main reason is in the name itself -- credits taken like this are for people not seeking a degree. This status is also an opportunity for students with poor undergraduate records to be given a second chance, in which case 12 credits are enough to demonstrate their academic ability for admission to a regular graduate program. I should add that the UA is already lenient compared to our peers who have lower limits. Non-degree status is not a back door to admission and a degree, so students can't take courses as non-degree until they reach a 3.0 GPA and then expect a degree. That's because a graduate degree should include advising, annual evaluation and professional socialization and is more than just earning credits. Successful high-quality graduate programs are often built around cohorts of admitted students that interact as part of their graduate education, with a limited number of slots given the available resources. One cannot participate in these important aspects of graduate education without being a formal part of a graduate major.
Dear Dean: I was wondering if a current staff member at UA can get a Master's degree while still working at the UA? -- Wanting to do more.
Dear WTDM: Yes, indeed you can! In fact, depending upon your current work situation, you may even be eligible for a special reduced tuition rate: http://hr.arizona.edu/qualified_tuition_reduction.
There is one special proviso, however, if you want to pursue your degree in the area offered by the unit you currently work in. Special arrangements may need to be made to avoid conflict of interest if your work and graduate program are in the same academic unit. But such situations are rare, and in most circumstances you can just apply for the program you want to attend.