The success of every graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences depends in part upon the role of the student’s advisor. Whether they work together in a lab or a research team, meet in a seminar, or consult periodically in office hours or online, the advisor and the student together establish a plan for the graduate student’s research, work to identify and remove obstacles to success, and ensure that the student has opportunities to develop professional experience. Most of these interactions take place outside the classroom, often in informal interactions. To ensure that these interactions are as productive as possible, the College offers these guidelines.
We recognize that the advisor-student relationship is a unique relationship that requires trust, good will, and communication. It can have great positive impact on the future career of students, and all sides should be mindful of the importance of this relationship. It is also by its nature a voluntary relationship that can be ended by both sides at any time. The list below is not exhaustive, and should serve as a starting point for advisors and students to discuss expectations of each other for students’ success and for the benefit of the labs and research groups. Individual agreements and expectations can vary in many respects. We encourage all advisors and students to make expectations explicit and to maintain open conversations. At all levels, there is a need for continuing to learn how best to support grad students in their labs, and how to help them thrive in the academy and beyond. These guidelines embody many of the best practices used by other institutions and professional societies. They are intended to provide principles for establishing an effective and productive advisor-student relationship that relies on trust, courtesy, clear communications, and shared expectations.
These guidelines from the College of Arts and Sciences and adapted by Cognitive Science provide a general framework for interactions; these guidelines supplement the IU Student Code, which addresses primarily formal academic matters, by attending to the faculty’s role in the student’s research process.
Faculty Research Advisors should:
- promote an environment that is intellectually stimulating and free of harassment;
- be supportive, equitable, accessible, encouraging, and respectful;
- recognize and respect the cultural backgrounds of students;
- be sensitive to the power imbalance in the student–advisor relationship;
- set clear expectations and goals for students regarding their academic performance, research activities and progress;
- have the best interest of their students in mind;
- accommodate mental and physical health needs of their students;
- discuss policies and expectations for work, including as teaching assistants, research assistants, and members of labs, covering work hours, vacation time, health contingencies, participation in advisors’ research activities, etc.
- communicate explicitly and in appropriate ways with the students when they consider that the students are not acting according to these guidelines, policies, or expectations; also communicate explicitly with the students if they choose to end the advising relationship to make this a positive learning opportunity; this may include involving third parties, such as the officers of the program;
- establish mutually agreed upon expectations for frequency and format of communication that will provide students with regular, clear feedback on research activities, performance, and progress;
- promote and help manage productive and collaborative relationships for students, which can include working on lab-group projects, working in large external research groups, and collaborations with other faculty and students;
- provide students with training and oversight in all relevant aspects of research, including the design of research projects, the development of necessary skills, and the use of rigorous research techniques or procedures;
- provide and discuss clear criteria for authorship at the beginning of all collaborative projects and revisit authorship throughout project development as contributions may change;
- foster a safe work environment by discussing and mitigating potential hazards associated with a student's research activities;
- encourage participation in professional meetings and try to secure funding for such activities;
- ensure students receive training in the skills needed for a successful career in their discipline, including oral and written communication and grant preparation as appropriate;
- recognize that some students will pursue careers outside of academia and/or outside their research discipline and assist them in achieving their chosen career goals;
- be a role model by acting in an ethical, professional, and courteous manner toward other students, staff, and faculty and by promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Graduate Students should:
- recognize that they bear the primary responsibility for the successful completion of their degree;
- complete all tasks assigned by the department, including teaching, grading, and other assistantship responsibilities;
- know the policies governing graduate studies in the department and the graduate school and take responsibility for meeting departmental and graduate school deadlines;
- be proactive in communicating with the advisor and research committee about progress and challenges associated with research and program trajectory;
- recognize that in addition to their role as a student, they have rights and responsibilities as employees of the university, and expect that these are clearly conveyed to them;
- clearly communicate with their advisor(s) regarding their career preferences and any changes to them during the course of their program;
- be proactive about improving research skills, including written and oral presentation;
- be proactive about teaching professionalization and preparation through exploring workshops and training opportunities;
- seek out appropriate professional service opportunities and take advantage of career planning support in the Walter Center for Career Achievement;
- participate actively in departmental activities such as colloquia, brown-bags, reading groups, etc.;
- seek mentoring and support resources beyond their faculty advisor(s), including other faculty members and peers as well as individuals external to the university;
- take on mentoring roles with respect to other students in their labs and elsewhere;
- seek professional help for matters of health as needed, and inform their advisors or the program when their health interferes with with their work;
- inform faculty advisors of potential and/or existing conflicts and work toward their resolution, following departmental guidelines;
- if possible, communicate explicitly with their advisors when they consider that the advisors are not acting according to these guidelines, policies, or expectations, or obtain outside help from the director of graduate studies, the director of the program, or an officer of the program.
- be aware that if they feel compelled to change advisors or research direction, they have options and should consult with their advisor, other mentors, or department officers, recognizing that such options may include changing programs;
- always act in an ethical, professional, and courteous manner toward other students, staff, and faculty, respecting the value of their time and responsibilities, and report problems of unethical or discriminatory behavior;
- work to build communality and team spirit in their labs, groups, and the program and promote diversity, equity and inclusion.
Departments and Programs will:
- provide students with up-to-date information that includes policies, practices, resources, degree requirements, and expectations for progress;
- assist students with selection of their advisors as needed, providing general guidance on expectations for effective mentoring;
- ensure that all students have a faculty member with responsibility for advising them;
- proactively monitor graduate student progress toward their degrees and professional development, including mentoring meetings, committee meetings, exam completions, and other benchmarks toward the degree. Opportunities should be provided to examine the effectiveness of the student-advisor relationship and offer advice on addressing issues that arise.
- provide students and faculty with contacts, resources, and a clear process for potential conflict resolution (director of graduate studies, program director, ombudsperson, etc.). Interdisciplinary programs are responsible for coordinating among the home departments of faculty and students.
- assist students who wish to change advisors or research groups in identifying new advisors within the department or program who are receptive to accepting the student, and advising the student on options should no placement be found;
- provide appropriate infrastructure to allow students to complete their education and research in a timely and productive manner;
- provide opportunities for professional development that will be relevant to students seeking careers outside academia and/or their research discipline;
- promote an environment that is intellectually stimulating, safe, and free of harassment;
- provide students with contacts for campus resources that promote health and wellness;
- incorporate these guidelines and recommendations into their departmental policies or handbooks and actively promote their observance.