Policy on Professional Staff Graduate Advisement for Professional Master's Programs

Professional Staff Graduate Advisement Model


The Professional Staff Graduate Advisement Model is an option for professional master’s programs in which they hire a qualified staff member to serve as a professional and academic advisor to master’s students in their program in lieu of the Graduate Faculty Advisement Model.


Professional master’s programs may choose either the Professional Staff Graduate Advisement Model or Graduate Faculty Advisement Model. Programs wishing to adopt the Professional Staff Graduate Advisement Model must get approval from the Graduate College.

In the Professional Staff Graduate Advisement Model, staff advisors serve the important role of academic and career advisor and will work closely with the Graduate Student Academic Services counselor at the Graduate College, the program’s Director of Graduate Studies, and the program’s Graduate Program Coordinator. Professional staff graduate advisors review plans of study, facilitate students’ enrollment in required courses, ensure that students complete all required steps and provide required documentation to earn the degree in a timely manner, help students navigate other aspects of their degree program, approve master’s completion forms, and provide accurate documentation to the Graduate College for each student’s degree audit and graduation. 


Programs wishing to adopt a Professional Staff Graduate Advisement Model must petition the Graduate College for approval. Petitions will include endorsement from the academic college dean or designee, the department head, and the director of graduate studies. Petitions will include departmentally established criteria for the role relevant to the discipline, documentation of funding and support for the position, and the list of duties. The graduate program is responsible for the hiring, training, support, and evaluation of the professional staff graduate advisor. 

Moreover, in order to provide substantive career and academic counseling, professional staff graduate advisors should hold a Master’s degree or equivalent experience in a field related to the professional master’s program. Detailed criteria are determined by the program but are expected to be clear and revisited during each Academic Program Review. 

Programs that are approved to adopt the Professional Staff Graduate Advisement Model may revert to the Graduate Faculty Advisement Model with approval of the Graduate College. Additionally, if student progress is negatively impacted or the professional advising model is not facilitating student success, the Graduate College may revoke the right to use a Professional Staff Graduate Advisement Model and instead require the program to return to the Graduate Faculty Advisement Model. Changes to the advising model may be upon the request of the Graduate College or the program. 

Finally, the Professional Staff Graduate Advisement Model is an option that is only available for master’s programs with a structured curriculum in which there are no requirements for a thesis or master’s report.  In the masters’ pathways distinction, these would fall within the “Professional Master’s” pathway. Programs in the Research and Terminal Master’s pathways will continue to use the Graduate Faculty Advisement Model, as will Professional Master’s programs that choose to do so. Master’s programs should keep in mind that a change to a professional graduate advising model would mean that while Graduate Faculty members may still provide mentoring and advice to students in the professional program, they will not be listed as the student’s advisor in University records (e.g., UAvitae). 



Professional Staff Advisement Model

Graduate Faculty Advisement Model


Highly qualified staff member with subject expertise

Member of the Graduate Faculty

Option is available to:

Highly structured Professional Master’s programs that do not require thesis or report

All other programs, including Professional Master’s programs that choose not to adopt the Professional Staff Advisement Model


Previous to this policy,  all Master’s students are required to have a member of the Graduate Faculty serve as their major professor/advisor – the Graduate Faculty Advisement Model. This model does not sufficiently serve students, staff, and faculty in professional master’s programs. As part of the 21st Century Master’s Project supported by Graduate College and the Office of Strategic Initiatives, we recognize the expanding need for professional master’s programs and, importantly, the infrastructure to support them. This necessitates an addition to the current advising structure. 

In conjunction with the addition of Professional Master’s as a formal designation for degrees and sub-plans, Maggie Pitts (Senior Associate Dean, Graduate College) and the faculty fellows of the 21st Century Masters’ Project (Martha Whitaker, Diana Leonard, and Shelley McMahon) propose a second, optional advisement model for professional master’s programs – Professional Staff Graduate Advisement Model. Under this model, coursework only professional master’s programs with highly structured curricula may choose to support their students with a professional staff member who will advise master’s students in designated programs in lieu of using the Graduate Faculty Advisement model. 



Updated 10/17/2022 for minor terminology change after conversation with G-CAAC

Updated 10/26/2022 after discussion with Graduate Council 

APPROVED by evote of the Graduate Council November 14, 2022.

First term valid Spring 2023