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Selecting a Faculty Graduate Advisor

Within the first year, students will select a faculty member to serve as their advisor and participate in their dissertation committee. The student and advisor will develop a research topic that will lead to the completion of a master’s thesis or Ph.D. dissertation. Selecting the right advisor is critical to success in graduate school, and students should begin their decision process as early as possible. Generally, students are given the opportunity to rotate with multiple faculty to facilitate finding a good match.

Several elements go into selecting an advisor appropriate for a student’s research interests, working style and leadership needs. Gather information by interviewing potential advisors and fellow graduate students who have worked with those faculty members. Questions to consider include:

Shared enthusiasm about your thesis or dissertation topic

  • Is this faculty member an expert on my topic?

Availability of faculty

  • Is this faculty member willing and available to work with me?
  • Does this faculty member have an upcoming sabbatical or other time away from campus that could affect my progress?

Complementary working styles

  • Does this faculty member’s working style fit with the kind of support I need to excel?
    • What are their expectations for working with them?
  • What kind and level of direction and personal support most helps me fulfill my potential?
    • Do I need frequent guidance and feedback from my advisor?
    • Do I prefer the independence to figure out and work on assigned tasks at my own pace?
  • What style of communication maximizes my productivity?
    • Am I willing to ask for help or clarification when I need it?
    • Is this faculty member’s communication style direct or indirect? Do they manage conflict by accommodating, avoiding, compromising, collaborating or competing?

Leadership and collaboration potential

  • Is this faculty member well respected by their peers?
  • Will they be a strong advocate for me?
  • Am I confident with this faculty member being responsible for facilitating my dissertation defense?
  • What is the average time to completion of their advisees?