Guest Post by Anu (PhD Student at University of New Mexico).
Each step of PhD program offers a new challenge. One of which is appointment of committee on studies. With huge variability in the conditions applied by different universities, I am providing a much generalized view of committee formation for PhD studies.
Need for committee
PhD aspirants need constant guidance, evaluation and criticism as a part of their training. Hence 3-5 Professors working in your area or outside your area are selected to be a part of your committee for your PhD studies.
These professors are the members of the committee who decide if you are eligible to take comprehensive exam (proposal defense) or graduate (thesis defense).
Size of the committee
Most universities ask for a minimum 3 members, with one chair. The chair or head of the committee can be your mentor. Often university wants the student to have members from different departments for better evaluation of the student.
A committee can have as many as 7 members as maximum. Some university wants 5 members as maximum. Few of the universities that expect a larger size of the committee ask for the presence of 50-60% of the members.
Often documentation is required for showing unavailability for the meeting by the member. The university which recommends smaller size of the committee wants 100% availability of the members during any meeting. Some committees have no chairs.
Selection of committee members
It is advisable that a student selects members of the committee in conjugation with the mentor on the basis of relationship with the professor and help expected in future for the PhD work. A wider critique is obtained by selecting members from different departments.
Appointment of committee for PhD
It is a formal documentation process which lists all the names of the committee members with their signatures. It is always good to write emails to Professors to seek permission from them to be a part of your committee.
A personal talk is appreciated to provide them information with the area you are working on.
Organizing a committee meeting
Write emails to Professors asking for their schedule during the day/week you are planning to organize the meeting. Meet in person to get the schedules if you need to negotiate with the day and time of the meeting.
Select a day and time when everyone is available. It is always appreciated if you pre-pone or post-pone the date and time of meeting according to the availability of Professors for the meeting.
If you ensure everyone is available by being extremely flexible with the date and time of the meeting, documentation after the meeting becomes easy.
Changing Committee Members
It is not advised. However, under unavoidable circumstances where one of the committee member is giving you a hard time, you can replace him/her with other member and redo the process of appointment of committee.
Good luck with the selection of the committee. It is very important for smooth academic progress during the PhD training.