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Changing your committee.

Changing the members of your special committee requires approval from all members of the newly formed committee. It does not require approval from members who are leaving the committee. File these changes immediately in Student Center .

For master’s students: you may make changes at any point prior to three months before the final examination by visiting your Student Center .

For doctoral students: you may make changes to your special committee at any time prior to your A exam. Committee changes after your A exam require the dean’s approval. Additionally, you may not schedule your B exam within three months of a committee change.

Changing Your Special Committee Chair

Changing your committee chair is the same as changing any other committee member. Your director of graduate studies may ask to meet with you if you request a change of your chair, especially if such a change is requested after the A exam.

Committee-Member Resignations

Any member, including your chair, may resign at any time from a special committee. It is your responsibility to reconstitute your special committee. If you fail to reconstitute a committee, you will not be permitted to continue registration in the Graduate School.

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Forming Your Committee

Students should not schedule the proposal defense prior to their committee being finalized and their appointment form being approved by the Graduate School.

It is necessary to have the form approved in advance of the proposal defense, as there are instances in which committee members are not approved (for example, if someone is listed as the Graduate Faculty Representative who the Graduate School does not deem  qualified to serve in this capacity).

The Graduate School's requirements for everything from committee formation to graduation clearance can be found under the Current Students tab on the Graduate School website. 

Composition of the Doctoral Committee: Roles and Responsibilities

The Graduate School requires that doctoral committees consist of no less than four members. These four members must be regular members of the Graduate Faculty or must be granted an exception by the Dean of the Graduate School.  All committees must include a chair and a Graduate Faculty Representative. Assistant Professors are usually not approved to serve as chair unless they have served as a committee member first. Exceptions are granted on a case-by-case basis. 

Graduate Faculty Representative

The primary role of the Graduate Faculty Representative is to ensure that the student is treated fairly and that Graduate School policies are upheld. Expertise in the student's area of research is not a requirement. The Graduate Faculty Representative's responsibilities are explained in greater detail here . Assistant Professors are not eligible to serve as Graduate Faculty Representative. 

The requirement to include an outside member on all dissertation committees is not uncommon among institutions of higher education and is in keeping with best practices in doctoral support. 

Committee Members

Committee members are often chosen to provide topic or methodological expertise. Even without contributing their expertise, committee members may be chosen based on faculty with whom the student has a good professional relationship or who could offer a helpful outside perspective. Committee members are generally not as involved as the committee chair in the everyday progression of the dissertation.  Typically, they read the dissertation only in its final form before the defense, although they should be available for consultation throughout the process and may be more closely involved in sections or chapters in which they have particular expertise. 

The committee members and Graduate Faculty Representative will:

  • Approve of the subject matter and methodology of the thesis or dissertation research
  • Review and comment on drafts of the thesis or dissertation prior to submission to The Graduate School
  • Verify, to the best of their ability, the quality of the data collection and evidence, data analysis, and logical reasoning or interpretation in light of the proposal aims
  • Evaluate whether the student’s thesis or dissertation fulfills the requirements of the degree

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Change Committee Members

Do you need to make a change to your thesis or doctoral committee? Fill out the appropriate form and have it signed by your committee members and department chair/ authorized faculty departmental graduate adviser.

Master’s Thesis Committees

  • Reconstitution of Master’s Committee Change master’s committee members. Any changes in committee membership are requested after consultation with the chair of the committee, all committee members (incoming, outgoing, and continuing members), and the student.

Doctoral Dissertation Committees

  • Reconstitution of Doctoral Committee, Certifying Members, or Change in Final Oral Examination Requirement Change doctoral committee members, change certifying members, or change the final oral exam requirement. Recommendation for reconstitution of a doctoral committee is made jointly by the chair of the department and the chair of the doctoral committee after consultation with the members of the committee who are in residence and the student.

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Dissertation Committee: Roles, Functions, and How to Choose

The path to a dissertation is filled with choices that determine the quality of your experience as a student as well as the future strength of your professional network. 

Choosing your dissertation committee is one of the most important decisions–and one of the most fraught–that you’ll make as a graduate student. With the stakes being so high, many doctoral students worry about making a misstep and getting it wrong. 

Fear not! Putting together your dissertation committee becomes easier once you know the right questions to ask: of potential committee members, of your dissertation chair, and of yourself. While forming your dissertation committee can be challenging, striking the right balance will lead to a richly rewarding academic experience that will pay dividends throughout your career. Do your homework, and you’ll be just fine. 

Dissertation Committee Questions

  • What does a dissertation committee do?
  • Who serves on your dissertation committee?
  • How do you choose dissertation committee members?
  • What can you expect from your dissertation committee? 

What Does a Dissertation Committee Do?

The basic function of your dissertation committee, which typically consists of five members, is to guide you through the process of proposing, writing, and revising your dissertation.  

Dissertation committee members serve in a mentoring capacity, offering constructive feedback on your writing and research, as well as guiding your revision efforts. They are also the gatekeepers of the ivory tower, and the ultimate judges of whether or not your dissertation passes muster. 

The dissertation committee is usually formed once your academic coursework is completed. It is not uncommon in the humanities and social sciences for dissertation committee members to also write and evaluate qualifying exams, and of course serve as faculty. By the time you begin working on your dissertation, you may know the faculty members who will serve on your dissertation committee quite well. 

Dissertation Committee Member Mentoring Student

Who Serves on Your Dissertation Committee? 

To a degree, who serves on your dissertation committee is up to you. Dissertation committees usually consist mostly of faculty members from the doctoral student’s home department, though this can vary due to the rise of interdisciplinary programs. 

Some universities also allow an outside expert–a former professor or academic mentor from another university–to serve on your committee. It’s advisable to choose faculty members who know you and who are familiar with your work. 

While it’s a good idea to have a mix of faculty members, it’s also important to be mindful about the roles they can play. For instance, I always advise graduate students working in quantitative fields to have a statistician on their committee. When there’s big data to crunch, it never hurts to have a stats expert in your corner. You’ll also want at least one faculty member–besides your chair–whose research is in the same relative area as yours, or adjacent to it. 

How to Choose Dissertation Committee Members

Think Carefully. It’s tempting to approach a faculty member who is a superstar in their field (if not, necessarily, in yours) to lend a little extra sparkle to your own academic credentials. Or perhaps the kindly professor you can always count on for an easy A. Or even the faculty member you’d like to be friends with after graduate school. Right? 

Not so fast. Here are some things to keep in mind when building your dissertation committee dream team: 

  • Avoid Superstars. Though the prospect of having your department’s most eminent name on your committee sounds exciting, their star power comes with a price. Between guest lectures, books, keynotes, and conference travel, their time is not their own, and it won’t be yours, either. Choose dissertation committee members who have time for you. 
  • Choose faculty members you know, like, and can learn from. It’s not a bad idea to approach a professor whose coursework challenged you. One of the professors who served on my committee was such an exacting grader that my term papers for her courses were accepted for publication without revision (academia’s most coveted mythical creature). 
  • Keep your eyes on the future. Members of your dissertation committee can be your mentors, co-authors, and research collaborators throughout your career. Choose them wisely. 

Forming Your Dissertation Committee

Asking a professor to be on a dissertation committee

Reaching out to potential dissertation committee members and formally asking them to serve on your dissertation committee can be a surprisingly taxing process. It takes some planning, and you’ll want to put some thought into it before making the big ask. While being asked to serve on a dissertation committee won’t come as a surprise to most faculty–they know the drill–these are some considerations to know going in:

  • Talk to your advisor before approaching anyone to be on your committee. Remember, your advisor knows their colleagues in a way that you don’t, and is also aware of departmental politics, potential personality conflicts, and which faculty members are a good fit on a dissertation committee. Trust your advisor’s judgement. 
  • Know what you’re asking. Serving on a dissertation committee is a big time commitment for any faculty member. If they say yes to being on your committee, it means they are invested in you and your research, and they want to play a role in your future. It doesn’t hurt to send a thank-you note. 
  • Don’t sweat it if they say no. It does not reflect on you as a student or a scholar. A good faculty member is aware of their limitations, and they probably just don’t have the time or bandwidth to take on another big commitment. Thank them and move on. 


Once your dissertation committee is formed, it’s time to get down to business. As a faculty member, I love serving on dissertation committees because doing so gives me the chance to work with grad students one on one as they journey into new frontiers and carve a place for themselves in academia. It is a deep, rich learning experience, and it’s thrilling to watch students transform into scholars. 

Even though researching and writing a dissertation is the most challenging work you’ll ever do, recognize this time for the opportunity it truly represents. In your dissertation committee, you have a panel of experts all to yourself, and they’re eager to help you knock your dissertation out of the park. This is the experience of a lifetime; take advantage of your dissertation committee’s time and talent, and channel that energy and goodwill into your development as a scholar. 

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Courtney Watson, Ph.D.

Courtney Watson, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of English at Radford University Carilion, in Roanoke, Virginia. Her areas of expertise include undergraduate and graduate curriculum development for writing courses in the health sciences and American literature with a focus on literary travel, tourism, and heritage economies. Her writing and academic scholarship has been widely published in places that include  Studies in American Culture ,  Dialogue , and  The Virginia Quarterly Review . Her research on the integration of humanities into STEM education will be published by Routledge in an upcoming collection. Dr. Watson has also been nominated by the State Council for Higher Education of Virginia’s Outstanding Faculty Rising Star Award, and she is a past winner of the National Society of Arts & Letters Regional Short Story Prize, as well as institutional awards for scholarly research and excellence in teaching. Throughout her career in higher education, Dr. Watson has served in faculty governance and administration as a frequent committee chair and program chair. As a higher education consultant, she has served as a subject matter expert, an evaluator, and a contributor to white papers exploring program development, enrollment research, and educational mergers and acquisitions.

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Committee Member

Committee chair.

The chair schedules the comprehensive exams, delivers feedback and results of the comprehensive exams, acts as an instructor, oversees the production of the thesis/dissertation, communicates feedback from the subject matter expert and committee member, schedules the dissertation defense, meets monthly via Zoom with the student/candidate throughout the research courses, and reviews work for publication quality.  The chair deals directly with the student on the quality of the paper, the presentation, the flow, the sequence, and the conclusions.  

The role of the committee chair includes the following responsibilities:

  • scheduling the comprehensive exams,
  • communicating the grades and feedback from the doctoral comprehensive exam,
  • overseeing the production of the dissertation,
  • managing the timeline and schedule for completion of each phase of the dissertation in the courses.
  • acting as an instructor in the courses,
  • contacting the student/candidate regarding setting and meeting deadlines in the dissertation process,
  • directing the timely and successful completion of each assignment,
  • working directly with the SME and committee member to garner added perspective, feedback, and constructive criticism to strengthen the dissertation,
  • communicating with the student/candidate to convey feedback, insights, added perspective, and constructive commentary provided by the committee member and SME,
  • confirming with the SME that the content of the dissertation is factual and accurate,
  • advising the student on formatting, sequencing, and organizing the thesis/dissertation,
  • ensuring the academic quality of the thesis/dissertation, including each of the assignments in courses.
  • facilitating final approval of the thesis/dissertation by making sure that all committee members sign the approval form, and
  • scheduling and leading the thesis/dissertation oral defense and publication.

Subject Matter Expert (SME)

All members of the committee are subject matter experts (SMEs). The title of this particular member of the committee emphasizes and highlights specific responsibilities within the committee dynamic.  The SME should be in constant contact with the student regarding  content  of the dissertation.  This is the person the student turns to in order to test ideas and conclusions and to ensure the appropriateness, relevance, significance, and accuracy of the dissertation’s content in order to meet university and academic standards.

The SME also certifies the accurate reporting of that material to the chair and determines the factual nature of the work.  The SME knows the subject closely and acts as the student’s sounding board.  The SME does not establish timelines, length of the thesis/dissertation, etc.  The role of SME includes the following responsibilities:

  • consistently consulting with the student/candidate regarding the relevance and significance of the research content,
  • regularly discussing content with the student/candidate to test ideas and conclusions,
  • updating the committee chair about discussions with the student/candidate and about any suggestions or recommendations resulting from those discussions, and
  • confirming the accuracy, appropriateness, relevance, and significance of the research focus and content with the committee chair.

One additional committee member works for the committee chair.  The committee member advises and assists the committee chair in every aspect of the project.  The committee member interacts directly with the chair, not the student.  This prevents conflicting information from being sent to the student and presents a unified stance during the process.  The chair and the committee member work out all responses presented to the student and resolve any conflicting guidance before the student is contacted.  If conflicts cannot be resolved, the chair makes the ultimate decision.  The chair and the committee member work together constantly, but the chair is the face of the university to the student.  The role of the committee member includes the following responsibilities:

  • interacting with the chair to provide added insight, perspective, and feedback to be shared with the student, and
  • determining responses, suggestions, and constructive criticism that will be shared with the student through the chair.
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The Role of the Dissertation Committee

Choosing a dissertation committee, give some warning, make your intentions known, explain their role, dealing with rejection.

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Graduate study can best be explained as a series of hurdles. First is getting in. Then comes coursework. Comprehensive exams typically are the culmination of coursework in which you demonstrate that you know your stuff and are ready to begin your dissertation. At this point, you are a doctoral candidate, unofficially known as ABD. If you thought coursework and comps were difficult you’re in for a surprise. Most students find the dissertation process to be the most challenging part of graduate school. It’s how you show that you are an independent scholar capable of generating new knowledge. Your mentor is critical to this process, but your dissertation committee also plays a role in your success.

The mentor is highly invested in the dissertation’s success. The committee serves as an outside consultant, offering a more broad perspective as well as support for the student and mentor. The dissertation committee can serve a checks and balances function that can boost objectivity and ensure that university guidelines are adhered to and that the product is of high quality. Members of the dissertation committee offer guidance in their areas of expertise and supplement the student and mentor’s competencies. For example, a committee member with expertise in specific research methods or statistics can serve as a sounding board and offer guidance that is beyond the mentor’s expertise.

Choosing a helpful dissertation committee isn’t easy. The best committee is composed of faculty who share an interest in the topic, offer diverse and useful areas of expertise, and are collegial. Each committee member should be carefully selected based on the project, what he or she can contribute, and how well he or she gets along with the student and mentor. It’s a delicate balance. You don’t want to argue over every detail yet you need objective advice and someone who will offer insightful, and tough, critiques of your work. Ideally, you should trust each committee member and feel that he or she has your (and your project’s) best interests in mind. Choose committee members whose work you respect, who you respect, and who you like. This is a tall order and finding a handful of faculty who meet these criteria and also have the time to participate on your dissertation committee is a daunting task. It’s likely that not all of your dissertation members will fulfill all of your professional and personal needs but each committee member should serve at least one need.

Work with your mentor to select committee members. As you select potential members, ask your mentor if he or she thinks the professor is a good match to the project. Aside from seeking insight – and making your mentor feel valued – professors talk to each other. If you discuss each choice with your mentor beforehand he is she is likely to mention it to the other professor. Use your mentor’s reaction as an indicator of whether to move forward and approach the potential committee member. You may find that the professor is already aware and may have already implicitly agreed.

At the same time, don’t assume that each professor knows that you’d like them as a committee member. When the time comes, visit each professor with that as your purpose. If you haven’t explained the purpose of the meeting by email then when you enter, sit and explain that the reason you’re asked to meet is to ask the professor to serve on your dissertation committee.

No professor will agree to participate in a project without knowing something about it. Be prepared to explain your project. What are your questions? How will you study them? Discuss your methods. How does this fit with prior work? How does it extend prior work? What will your study contribute to the literature? Pay attention to the professor’s demeanor. How much does he or she want to know? Sometimes a professor might want to know less – pay attention.

In addition to discussing your project, be prepared to explain why you are approaching the professor. What drew you to them? How do you think they will fit? For example, does the professor offer expertise in statistics? What guidance do you seek? Know what the professor does and how they fit in with the committee. Likewise, be prepared to explain why you think they are the best choice. Some faculty might even ask, “Why me? Why not Professor X?” Be prepared to justify your choice. What do you expect expertise-wise? Time-wise? How much or little time and effort will you require? Busy faculty will want to know whether your needs outstrip their time and energy.

If a professor declines your invitation to sit on your dissertation committee, don’t take it personally. Easier said than done but there are many reasons people decide to sit on committees. Try to take the professor’s perspective. Sometimes it’s that they’re too busy. Other times they may not be interested in the project or may have issues with other committee members. It’s not always about you. Participating on a dissertation committee is a lot of work. Sometimes it’s simply too much work given other responsibilities. If they are not able to meet your expectations be grateful that they’re honest. A successful dissertation is the result of a great deal of work on your part but also the support of a helpful committee that has your interests in mind. Be sure that the dissertation committee you build can meet these needs.

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Dissertation committee request: sample email and guide, published by steve tippins on june 26, 2019 june 26, 2019.

Last Updated on: 2nd February 2024, 02:34 am

Having found your Chairperson to work with, now it is time to fill you committee. Regardless of the number of additional committee members that you need, it is important to go about this process strategically. As with the beginning of any relationship, how you begin is important. 

In this article, I cover:

  • How to find members for your dissertation committee
  • A sample email for a dissertation committee request
  • How to evaluate potential committee members
  • How to ask them to be on your committee

Finding and Choosing Dissertation Committee Members

Ask your committee chair.

Talking to your chair is a good place to start in looking for additional dissertation committee members . Who do they recommend for your specific project? You can ask who they don’t work well with, but most people won’t answer this question for obvious reasons.

Talk to Other Students

You probably have a network of fellow students. Ask for their input on potential committee members . I suggest you do this through private emails or in conversation rather than on group message boards so that people can speak freely about their experiences.

Do Your Research

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Once you get a list of names either from your Chair, a university list, or from fellow students do some research. Find the CV of each person (most schools have this type of information available). See what types of research they have done. 

Where have they published? How recently have they published? What types of methodology have they used? You may also find people with whom you share an interest which helps when making a connection.

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Look at previous dissertations that they have worked on. What were the topics? What methodologies were used? Were they acknowledged by previous students?

Dissertation Committee Request: Sample Email

Once you have come up with a final list of potential candidates, email them to gauge their interest. Many students wonder how to ask someone to be on their dissertation committee. I have included a sample email for a dissertation committee request below.

Dear Dr. ____

Please let me introduce myself. My name is ___ ___ and I am a doctoral student at ___ University working on my dissertation. My topic is ___. I am searching for an additional committee member for my dissertation committee.

I know that you are busy but I have looked at the committees that you have worked on and your research [it is flattering to include a specific example] and think that your membership on my committee could be very beneficial for me.

If you have an interest in filling this position please let me know so that we can set up a time to talk and get to know each other.


Ima Student

Interviewing Potential Dissertation Committee Members

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After you get responses you should write to set up phone calls with interested potential committee members. I suggest that you prepare a list of questions to ask each person. Example questions include:

  • Do you like to see work in pieces as it’s completed or in finished chapters?
  • Do you prefer direct communication or for all communication to go through the Chair?
  • How long do you usually take to do reviews?
  • Are there faculty members that you work well with and don’t fit well with?
  • What attributes do you see in students who succeed?
  • Do you have any initial ideas based up what I have shared with you about my topic?
  • Do you have any questions that you want to ask me?

Students often forget that they can interview potential committee members. Doing so tends to impress faculty, as it indicates your seriousness and commitment. I can say that very few people have interviewed me to be a member of their committee, and those that have have been especially successful in navigating the challenges of writing a dissertation .

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How to Ask Someone to Be on Your Dissertation Committee

If you’ve followed all of the above steps, the rest should be pretty simple. The professor knows that you’ve taken the time to see if they’re a good fit, and that you are conscientious enough to do your research and respect their time. A simple email telling them that you would be honored if they would serve as your committee member is just fine. Remember, though, it’s still an ask –you’re not telling them they’re on your committee.

How to Request a Dissertation Committee Member: Summary

Choosing committee members is important. You want a committee where everyone is pulling for you to reach your goal. It doesn’t take a lot of time to explore potential committee members, and in the long run that small time investment can pay off.

For additional support, you can also consider a dissertation coach . They can help guide you through the process and even finish more quickly, as you will avoid unnecessary pitfalls and delays. Read more about how to choose a dissertation coach here.

Steve Tippins

Steve Tippins, PhD, has thrived in academia for over thirty years. He continues to love teaching in addition to coaching recent PhD graduates as well as students writing their dissertations. Learn more about his dissertation coaching and career coaching services. Book a Free Consultation with Steve Tippins

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The Professor Is In

Guidance for all things PhD: Graduate School, Job Market and Careers

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How To Fire a Professor

By Karen Kelsky | August 8, 2011

Today’s post is a Special Request post. This one is for Jenn, who asks, “how do you replace one professor with another on your committee?”

This is a delicate matter, as I’m sure Jenn is aware. There are all kinds of reasons that committee members end up needing to be replaced, not all of them bad. But it is always delicate because there are professorial egos involved. And where professorial egos are involved, nothing is easy or painless.

In my own case, I decided to “switch out” a committee member between my MA committee and my doctoral committee at the same institution. I actually really liked committee member #1, we had a good relationship, and he’d been helpful. But I was moving in new directions, and I realized that for my external member I needed someone versed in postcolonial studies and post-marxist theory far more than I needed a second Japan-focused social scientist.

So I left him a jaunty little message on his answering machine, basically “firing” him from my committee. Of course I didn’t intend it that way. I explained my reasons, which were entirely scholarly, and indeed sound, and assumed that he’d understand them.

Well, he didn’t. He was furious. He was offended. His feelings were hurt. And he refused to  engage with me any further in my academic career.

Now, this was a juvenile and unprofessional response on his part. But for my part, I had totally failed to anticipate his feelings.

Indeed, until that moment it had actually never occurred to me that professors have feelings. Feelings, that is, about graduate students. I thought they mostly viewed us as burdens, and would welcome the opportunity to jettison one. I had absolutely no idea that in fact they might feel intellectually invested in one of us, and feel intellectually insulted if dropped.

Chalk that up to youthful ignorance.

In any case, I did learn my lesson. I was very sorry to have hurt the feelings of this man, who had only done right by me. And I made sure that in the future, I took far better care to try and anticipate the feelings of the committee members who had invested their time and energy in me, and later, in my students.

I have advised quite a few students in ways to negotiate this mine field.

While there is no one method of doing this that fits every personality and set of circumstances, the best way to proceed is probably a combination of email and personal meeting, for both the departing (fired) member #1, and the new (recruited) member #2.

To remove Professor #1, your initial email should read something like this:

Dear Professor #1,

First off, I want to thank you for serving on my thesis/dissertation committee. I have appreciated your efforts to improve my writing/scholarship/etc., your good advice, and your generosity with your time.

I am writing today because I’ve been making plans for the next stage in my work on the thesis/dissertation project, and I’ve been rethinking some of the intellectual directions I hope to take. In that context, I have realized I may need to reorganize my committee.

I am hoping that we can meet sometime in the next few days to discuss this in person. Would you have any time to meet with me? I’d appreciate it.

Once you meet in person, it is probably best to conduct the conversation something like this:

“I want to thank you again for everything you’ve done for me. You’ve been a great mentor and supporter, and I really appreciate how generous you have been in introducing me to new scholarship on xxx/editing my writing/discussing my ideas/etc.

The thing is… I’ve actually had a pretty big change of heart/direction in my research in the last few weeks/months. Instead of focusing on XXX, I am more and more interested in YYYYY. But I don’t know a whole lot about YYYY, so I’ve been working closely with Professor Q. It’s going really well, but I realized that I need to reconstitute my committee, to include Professor Q.

So… I’m really sorry, but that means I am going to have to replace you on the committee, and put Professor Q in that slot.  This is no reflection at all on my respect for your work—it’s just a reflection of the new directions that my work is moving in.  I hope you can understand.

Really? Thanks for understanding. I really appreciate that. I just want you to know that you’ve made a big difference in my studies. If it’s ok with you, I’d still like to stop by now and again and let you know what I’m up to.

Great. Thanks.”

All of this is pretty effusive in expressing appreciation and gratitude. I recommend that you operate along these lines even in the cases where you feel few of such feelings, such as when Professor #1 was a total asshole. You want to at all times preserve an aura of professionalism and probity in your dealings with faculty. As long as you couch this decision in entirely academic terms, it is difficult for Professor #1, or your other committee members, or the Department Head to take issue with it.

OK, now on to Professor #2.

The most important thing here, when communicating with Professor #2, is never, ever to criticize Professor #1. You do not want to give the impression of being a malcontent, or difficult to deal with. You must restrict your initial exchanges with Professor #2 entirely to intellectual and academic justifications. Much later, when you know Professor #2 better, and have established a relationship of trust, you might be able to express some other factors that came into play. But for now, at the beginning, again, stick closely to the academic script.

Your initial email will read something like this:

Dear Professor Q,

I hope your semester is off to a good start. I have been enjoying your class, xxx, and learning a lot.

I’m actually writing to ask if I might be able to meet with you in the next few days. As you know, I’ve been working with my committee on my thesis/dissertation project on XXXX. Since working with you, I’ve become more and more interested in moving this project in the direction of YYYY. You have opened my eyes to some fascinating scholarship that I didn’t know about, and now that I know it, I’ve really reconceptualized my entire project. It’s very exciting.

Because of that, though, I will be reconstituting my committee a bit to reflect this new direction. I would like to meet with you in person, as I said, to talk about my new committee.

Once you meet, you can simply express your excitement for the new direction of your project, and your eagerness to work more closely with Professor Q.

“Because of all of this, I was really hoping that you would be willing to serve on my thesis/dissertation committee. My timeline is to take my preliminary exams next spring, and I hope that one of them could be with you on the subject of YYY. After that, I plan to get out my funding proposals in the Fall, do coursework and finish up my dissertation proposal in Spring, and leave for fieldwork the following Fall. I’m hoping that schedule is compatible with your plans for being on campus.

You’re going to be on leave in Spring? Well, would you be open to doing my proposal defense by Skype or conference call? I know that other students have done that with no problem.

Really? Great. I’m so glad. Thank you so much. I’m really looking forward to getting into this area in more detail with you. For now, if you have any readings you want me to start on right away, let me know.”

The power of this approach to Professor Q is that it expresses genuine enthusiasm for his area of specialization. It is also highly respectful of his time. And it shows consideration for his schedule. Few, very few, professors will be able to say no to a request like this.

I realize that not all communications with faculty will go this smoothly, and that sometimes professors are just plain difficult and unreasonable. But in general, if you can refrain from personalizing conflict, and stay at the level of academic pursuits, your efforts to navigate the minefield of reconstituting your committee has a fighting chance of ending well, with your reputation intact.

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Reader Interactions

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October 3, 2011 at 2:02 am

I’m new. I agree with many points you’ve made here. Most of all, it’s the grad student’s choice whether to keep working with any advisor, which I wish people would remember.

Grad programs use a range of models though. If it’s a “welcome to graduate school we hope you find an advisor” program (often in English or History), I think your advice fits. If it’s a program organized in labs or a mentor-based program (often in Bio or Chemistry) usually the prof invests… more than profs invest from other models… to train new grad students, find them money, teach how to publish, introduce to visiting scholars, etc etc. When a grad student leaves a lab it is still the grad student’s right, but in that kind of program it costs the prof more. It raises questions. Further, it has repercussions on the new arrivals in the lab who need help from senior grad students except now the senior grad student is gone.

I’d advise a grad student who considers leaving a lab to remember it is their freedom and also to think how they can make things easier on the prof and other lab members. In my experience there are usually multiple lab members who invest resources in each student.

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October 3, 2011 at 6:58 am

This is a very valuable perspective, from the sciences. Thanks for sharing it, Since. The sciences are often quite different in their advising models in many, many respects.

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December 18, 2011 at 9:19 pm

Or you could do the Tower of Hanoi strategy. Many universities will allow you to have 4 member committees. So:

a) Add Prof. #4 to Committee #1, #2, #3, and #4 and then after a year or two of working closely with #4, ask #1 if it’s OK if #4 takes the lead as you’ve been working with them very closely. b) Committee is then #4, #1, #2, and #3 c) After a few years, drop #1.

It takes longer but is less liable to cause friction. This of course assumes that #1 and #4 actually get along, which is a HUGE assumption.

(The Other Prof) Karen

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  • LMC removes GP from...

LMC removes GP from committee amid row over attendance at meetings

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A row has broken out over a decision by a local medical committee (LMC) to remove a GP from its committee, citing her lack of attendance at its meetings.

Clare Sieber, a GP in West Sussex, said she had received the notification that she was no longer a member of Surrey and Sussex LMCs (SSLMCs) on the day of her father’s funeral, 30 April. She said that the letter told her she had been removed after failing to attend three recent LMC meetings.

SSLMCs’ confederation chair, Jeremy Harris, said that Sieber had attended three of the last 13 West Sussex LMC meetings. Its constitution states that if a member misses three meetings they are disqualified. It hopes to agree to a change to its constitution to send welfare letters in future similar cases: these are letters to check the welfare of the representative and whether there are understandable reasons for occasional absence, such as personal holidays or illness.

But Sieber said she believed that she was removed because she and other colleagues had raised “some uncomfortable truths” about leadership at the organisation. The most recent significant matter concerned potential conflicts of interest by the SSLMC chief executive, Julius Parker. He holds two other roles: deputy chair of the BMA’s General Practitioners Committee England (GPC England) and clinical representative for the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MPTS).

Last month, in his MPTS role, Parker sat on the case of the GP and climate activist Sarah Benn, who on 23 April was suspended from the medical register for breaching court orders relating to climate protests. 1

The tribunal’s decision to suspend Benn for five months has been unpopular within the profession, including medical organisations such as the BMA. 2 But there is concern that Parker had a conflict of interest—as deputy chair of an organisation that represents GPs, while also working for the profession’s regulator. The criticism is that if any LMC in the Surrey and Sussex confederation wanted to complain about the tribunal’s decision they would have to ask Parker (as chief executive) to write to the GPC (where he has a senior role) and ask it to register a complaint about a decision Parker had made while sitting on the MPTS panel.

Familiarity with processes

Sieber told The BMJ that she had been unable to attend three recent LMC meetings because of a clash with school holidays and GPC England meetings, when she sent apologies. The LMC confirmed that Sieber had sent apologies for these meetings. “I think the particular issue regarding Julius and what I believe to be a conflict of interest is what triggered the decision to see if they could shut me up by getting rid of me,” she said.

Sieber argued that, as Parker would not represent GPs within SSLMCs on a tribunal because he recognised that this could be a conflict, there was also a conflict when he had a national representative role with GPC England and he should have excluded himself from any tribunal concerning a GP in England.

Asked to comment on any potential conflict of interest, Parker told The BMJ , “I think it would be for the BMA to review, with input from GPC England and presumably the other UK GP committees. I only know what the current BMA position is.

“The SSLMCs board felt it would be a considerable advantage to have an LMC officer very familiar with GMC and MPTS processes available to advise and support GPs with performance issues that might involve the regulator or which had been referred by the GMC to the MPTS, and I think this rings true, based on feedback I have received over the years.”

A BMA spokesperson commented, “Doctors attending MPTS hearings are aware of all panel members and their declared interests. The BMA has a longstanding practice of its members sitting on tribunals in a personal capacity, unrelated to their BMA role.”

Sieber has now been co-opted to Berkshire LMC in a vote by its committee members. She has also called for an independent investigation into decision making and leadership at SSLMCs.

The BMJ understands that one LMC has called on GPC England to carry out a review into potential conflicts of interest when BMA or GPC officers/members serve on MPTS panels. No decision has yet been taken on whether a review will proceed.

Meanwhile, Parker has said that he will pause sitting on any further MPTS panels for an unspecified time. He told The BMJ , “This is a big year for GPC England and for general practice due to contract negotiations, and I don’t want this issue to be a distraction.”

Editor’s note: We amended this story on 7 May 2024 to correct a date from 30 May to 30 April.

remove dissertation committee member

remove dissertation committee member

Several antisemitism committee members resign after Northwestern makes deal with anti-Israel agitators

S even members of Northwestern University’s President’s Advisory Committee on Preventing Antisemitism and Hate announced they are calling it quits on Wednesday after the school’s response to anti-Israel protests earlier this week.

In a letter obtained by the Daily Northwestern , professors Efraim Benmelech, Martin Eichenbaum, Daniel Greene and Philip Greenland, Weinberg College senior Lily Cohen, Hillel executive director Michael Simon and trustee Paula Pretlow informed NU president Michael Schill that they would be stepping down from the committee effective immediately.

The letter cited Schill’s decision to negotiate a deal between administrators and the anti-Israel campus protesters without consulting the committee as the main factor.

"It is essential that the University develop appropriate and timely recommendations to address and prevent antisemitism and hate ," the letter read. "However, in light of the University leadership’s decision not to utilize the committee for its stated purpose, we can no longer continue to serve in this role."


In a statement to Fox News Digital , the school confirmed the members’ resignation.


"The University is disappointed that some members of the President’s Advisory Committee on Preventing Antisemitism and Hate have decided to step down. The Committee’s charge and its work remain incredibly important to our community. Our commitment to protecting Jewish students, faculty and staff is unwavering. The University has no tolerance for antisemitic or anti-Muslim behavior," the statement read.

It continued, "We will continue to engage with all members of the Committee – including the members who have resigned – and other Jewish members of our community, to ensure the vital objectives of this Committee continue."

On Monday, in a deal with the anti-Israel agitators, the university agreed to reestablish the Advisory Committee on Investment Responsibility to respond to questions from "any internal stakeholder" on the school’s financial holdings and allow "peaceful demonstrations" complying with campus policy to continue on campus until June 1.

The university also committed to "provide immediate temporary space for MENA/Muslim students," "support visiting Palestinian faculty and students at risk" and "advise employers not to rescind job offers for students engaging in speech protected by the First Amendment."

In exchange, demonstrators must remove all but one aid tent and seek approval for noise-amplifying devices. The school also emphasized that only students, faculty and staff are allowed to protest on campus.


Schill announced the Advisory Committee to combat growing antisemitism on campus back in November. The committee included 16 members from faculty, students, trustees and administrators.

As the committee began work in January, advocacy group Alums for Campus Fairness (ACF) criticized that it had expanded its mission "not just on stemming the growth of antisemitism but also hate directed to other groups such as our students of Palestinian descent."

ACF also objected to the appointment of Dean Bryan Brayboy, whose expertise is "Tribal Critical Race Theory," to lead the committee.

Original article source: Several antisemitism committee members resign after Northwestern makes deal with anti-Israel agitators

The members cited the university's decision to negotiate with the campus protesters without consulting them. Getty Images


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    remove dissertation committee member


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  1. Removing a committee member : r/GradSchool

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    Dissertation Chair/Committee Member Change Request Form. Submit the completed form to The Graduate College at [email protected] no less than. sixty (60) days. before the final defense of the dissertation. If submitted less than. sixty (60) days. before the final defense, a justification for the change must be included in the email.

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    The composition of the dissertation committee may be changed if a committee member is no longer available to participate or if the student or chair of the committee believes there are valid reasons to add or replace a committee member. The committee change must be justified and all outgoing and incoming members must agree to be removed or added.

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    Why is your advisor asking you to remove anyone from your committee. It's your committee, you get to decide, not them. My current advisor wants me to remove X from my committee. That's the key moment here. It seems that for you, having X on your committee is not a problem, and it is only your current advisor who wants to do that.

  14. phd

    You should get an extra committee member, and ask them to read your thesis. Explain that the old committee member has not evaluated your thesis and that you are concerned. With this strategy, you get the ball rolling. In case your old committee member dies, the extra member is already up to speed and ready to take over without having to restart ...

  15. Guidelines for Dissertation Committee Service » Rackham Graduate School

    Dissertation committees must have at least four members, three of whom are members of the graduate faculty ( see definition above ), and two of whom are from the doctoral candidate's home program. Furthermore, each committee: Must have a sole chair or two co-chairs. Must have a cognate member who is familiar with the standards for doctoral ...

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  18. The Role of the Dissertation Committee

    The dissertation committee plays several roles while seeing a doctoral student through the dissertation process. As a body of support to the dissertation chair, the dissertation committee provides checks and balances, a source of support and expertise, and accountability. In many cases, the disserta.

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  20. Dissertation Committee Request: Sample Email and Guide

    Many students wonder how to ask someone to be on their dissertation committee. I have included a sample email for a dissertation committee request below. Dear Dr. ____. Please let me introduce myself. My name is ___ ___ and I am a doctoral student at ___ University working on my dissertation. My topic is ___.

  21. How To Fire a Professor

    To remove Professor #1, your initial email should read something like this: Dear Professor #1, First off, I want to thank you for serving on my thesis/dissertation committee. I have appreciated your efforts to improve my writing/scholarship/etc., your good advice, and your generosity with your time. I am writing today because I've been making ...

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  25. LMC removes GP from committee amid row over attendance at meetings

    A row has broken out over a decision by a local medical committee (LMC) to remove a GP from its committee, citing her lack of attendance at its meetings. Clare Sieber, a GP in West Sussex, said she had received the notification that she was no longer a member of Surrey and Sussex LMCs (SSLMCs) on the day of her father's funeral, 30 May. She said that the letter told her she had been removed ...

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