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Pre-2016 Guidelines

 These guidelines apply to all students who were accepted into the EEB portion of the EEES program prior to 2016.

  1. General description of program
  2. Requirements for the PhD
  3. Schedule guidelines
  4. Extramural funding proposals
  5. Committees
  6. Ecology graduate group activities
  7. Teaching assistant responsibilities
  8. Stipend and research funding 
  9. Professional Meetings 
  10. Conflict Resolution

The Graduate Program in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (EEB) is one of the two graduate programs in the Department of Biological Sciences (the other being the Program in Molecular and Cellular Biology, MCB). Students are accepted for the PhD degree only; there is no Master’s program.


One of the two critical steps for an EEB graduate student to advance to Ph.D. candidacy is for the student to develop and successfully defend a written proposal of their anticipated dissertation. To complete this requirement, a student must give a public presentation of their proposed research (generally at EELunch), followed by a private meeting with the thesis committee. The student should provide a reasonably well argued defense of the future thesis project. It is expected that the actual dissertation will evolve as the student progresses. The proposal should follow the guidelines for the National Science Foundation, Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants, and be submitted to the student’s committee at least one week prior to presentation, but some committees may require a longer period. The committee should be comprised of three Dartmouth faculty, generally the thesis committee minus the outside examiner. The committee will respond with an evaluation indicating one of the following: pass, pass with minor revisions, or revise and re-present. A pass for the proposal defense will be defined as equivalent to a recommendation of “fund” or “fund-if-possible” in a DDIG panel. Decision of the committee is based on a majority vote, and should be reported in a letter for the student file’s that is written by the committee and signed by the student. A successful proposal defense and advancement to candidacy should occur by the end of the ninth quarter in the academic program (i.e., by the end of the fall quarter in year 3 for a student that enters the program in September). See Schedule guidelines

In general, the proposal presented to the EEB program should follow the guidelines set forth for National Science Foundation, Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grants. The proposal should:

  • Include Summary, Introduction, Significance, Research Plan, Feasibility, Schedule (including specific papers that are projected to result), and Bibliography.
  • Be no longer than 8 pages (single spaced, 11-12 pt font, including figures and tables, excluding summary and bibliography).
  • Develop a theoretically compelling, logically cohesive and logistically feasible line of research that would constitute a dissertation if completed.

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Qualifying Exam

This is an evaluation of students’ overall competence in ecology and evolution, both within and outside of their specific research area, with both written and oral components. The qualifying exam committee responds with a written evaluation, indicating one of the following: pass, pass with remedial work, or fail. The committee will summarize their comments, suggestions and requirements for remedial/additional work. Students who fail may be allowed to retake the exam once. A pass is required to continue with the program. See Rules for the Qualifying Exam. See Some sample focal areas and questions for written qualifying exams

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Dissertation and dissertation defense

Candidates present a public presentation of research, followed by a private meeting with the thesis committee. The final revision of the dissertation must be submitted to committee members a minimum of one week prior to the defense; committees may require a longer period. Students must arrange scheduling of the defense with the committee prior to making any final arrangements with outside examiners. The thesis committee will indicate one of the following: dissertation approved, approved with minor revision, requiring major revisions, or fail. If major revisions are required, the committee will provide a summary of the main comments and requirements, and a schedule for revisions and completion of the degree.

Content and format of the thesis should be planned in consultation with the Thesis Committee. The thesis is normally written in the form of manuscripts, which may be published, accepted for publication, submitted or in draft. Early publication of part of the thesis work (prior to thesis completion) is strongly recommended; indeed, having papers that are published or in press before the thesis defense is necessary to be competitive for the best post-doctoral opportunities. Students should be certain that their theses conform to Dartmouth College requirements for format (fonts, margins, numbering, etc.); see Office of Graduate Studies for College specifications (link to Grad Studies).

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Formal coursework is a modest component of the EEB graduate program but plays a key role in helping students gain a solid foundation in ecology and evolutionary biology writ large and a mastery of areas related to his/her field of specialty.  Ecology and evolutionary biology are vast and fast growing fields, so the coursework is designed to provide the background and skills for a lifetime of continuing self-directed learning.  By itself, coursework cannot provide the depth and breadth of knowledge successful graduate students will need.  The EEB program requires a core curriculum of four courses:  Foundations of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology I and II (Biol 133-134) and Statistics and Experimental Design I and II (Biol 128-129).  A schedule for completing this core curriculum should be approved by the Advisory Committee.  The courses should be completed as soon as possible after matriculation.  Students may either take these courses or demonstrate proficiency in the relevant subject areas; exceptions to the core curriculum are possible with the written approval of the Advisory Committee.

Additional coursework electives will be determined through consultation among the student, advisor, and student’s Advisory Committee.  The Advisory Committee makes the final decision on what is required for each student to complete the EEB course requirement. Students should be sure that all decisions on coursework are explicitly recorded in the letters that summarize committee meetings. EELunch (Biol 266), Supervised Teaching (Biol 169), or Graduate Research (Biol 197-199, 297-299) do not count as course electives.  The options for graduate course electives are diverse, dynamic, and driven by the interests of current students.  Students find many attractive options for coursework electives during a Ph.D. program and are encouraged to choose judiciously.  There is no need to complete electives early in the program.  Course offerings are not intended to serve as sufficient preparation for comprehensive exams.  We encourage all students to be proactive in considering what kinds of courses would be most beneficial and lobbying their advisors and appropriate faculty to make them happen.

To identify appropriate elective courses, talk to your advisor, committee members, colleagues, and other faculty. See the online listing of upcoming graduate courses.  You can also explore the registrar's web page (link) but note that graduate offerings change; they are frequently one-time offerings, so the registrar's web page greatly under-represents current options. There may be suitable electives with course numbers less than 100, e.g., the Biology Foreign Study Program (FSP).  Seek out short courses and opportunities at field stations appropriate to your field, such as the Fundamentals of Ecosystem Ecology at the Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies.  Finally, we encourage all students to organize their own graduate seminar courses after they have advanced to candidacy (see Bio 151).

Funding to participate in a course at another institution may be available from the Biology Department (Cramer Fund and/or Jenks Prize).  To apply, obtain the support of your Advisory Committee and provide the following to the EEB Graduate Committee (for an award from the Cramer Fund, up to $1000) and/or to the Biology Department Chair (for a Jenks Prize, up to $2000 by itself or $1000 in combination with Cramer award): (1) a description of the course, (2) your costs to participate in the course, (3) a current CV, and (4) a brief description of where you are in your PhD work and how this course will help you.  Immediately after the course, successful applicants will provide a brief written description of the experience that highlights the professional benefits (and if possible provide a group photo of the participants).

With approval of the Advisory committee, transfer credit can be given for up to three graduate level courses taken elsewhere (excluding those taken while an undergraduate student).

Students should receive at least a pass (P or HP) in all coursework to maintain satisfactory standing in the graduate program. One low pass or no credit (LP or NC) places a student on academic probation and triggers a meeting of the advisory or thesis committee to prescribe appropriate remedies; in this case, the probationary status and remedial prescription should be explicitly described in a letter for the student's file that is signed by the committee and student. A second low pass or no credit will normally result in termination of the graduate program (at the discretion of the advisory or thesis committee).

All members of the EEB graduate program participate in a weekly Research Colloquium, EELunch. Graduate students should register for this each term as 1 credit of Biol 266. Each student is expected to make a presentation in this colloquium at least once per year.

During academic terms that include responsibilities as a Teaching Assistant (TA), students should register for 1 credit of Supervised Teaching in Biology, Biol 169.

During each term (Fall, Winter, Spring and Summer), all graduate students should be enrolled for a total of 3 credits. This can include 1-3 credits for Graduate Research (Biol 197, 198, and 199 correspond to 1, 2, or 3 research credits for students who have not yet passed their qualifying exam; Biol 297, 298, 299 correspond to 1, 2, or 3 research credits for students who have advanced to candidacy).

Students who are TAs for Biology FSP should enroll for one credit of supervised teaching (Bio 169), one credit of graduate research (Bio 197 or 297) and one credit for any one of the three Bio FSP courses (presently Bio 55, 56, or 57). Courses with numbers less than 100 (e.g., FSP courses) might not be accessible via online registration; in this case, contact the administrative assistant at Graduate Studies by email and they can register you.

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3.   Schedule guidelines

The scheduling of each student’s program is arranged with the appropriate committee. Each student should arrange a meeting of their advisory committee (established by the Graduate Committee) during the first two weeks of their first term and again in spring of their first year. Subsequent to that, individual schedules may differ (e.g., the order of the proposal defense and qualifying exam is at the discretion of the Advisory or Thesis committee), but the following guidelines are recommended:

  • Meet with Advisory Committee:                   Early in 1st term of Year 1; again spring of Year 1
  • Establish Thesis Committee:                        Fall of Year 2.
  • Submit and defend Research Proposal:        Spring of Year 2
  • Qualifying Exam:                                         Spring of Year 2 or Fall of Year 3.

Advancement to candidacy requires successful completion of both the proposal defense and the qualifying exam. Failure to advance to candidacy by the end of the ninth quarter in residence (typically the end of fall quarter in year 3) will result in termination of the program unless there is (1) unanimous support for an extension from all departmental members of the Qualifying Exam Committee, and (2) an explicit, realistic schedule for completing all remaining requirements of the graduate program.

  • Dissertation submission and defense:          by end of fifth year.
  • Completion of all degree requirements:        by end of fifth year.

No financial support is guaranteed beyond the fifth year. The policy of the EEB graduate program is to discourage extensions beyond five years.

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4.   Extramural funding proposals

The proposal presented to the EEB program should be one of numerous proposals that are developed and submitted during the graduate program. Graduate students at all stages should be aggressive in identifying funding sources and submitting proposals. Virtually all professional positions after the Ph.D. depend upon successful grantsmanship. Demonstrated success in securing grants is key to getting a good job. Strive to develop a Curriculum Vitae that includes a section titled “Grants received”. Note that the professional benefits of being awarded a grant exceed the dollars received. Consider writing proposals even for a few hundred dollars. Some funding opportunities for EEB students are listedhere, but there are many other small, local, or specialized opportunities.

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5.   Committees

Graduate Committee

The Graduate Committee is the administrative committee covering both graduate programs in the Department of Biological Sciences. It is concerned with matters affecting the Department as a whole and is generally not involved in research planning or scheduling of courses, exams, for individuals etc. You will meet with members of this committee each fall to check on the status of your requirements and to make sure that your personal file is up-to-date (template for annual update).

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Advisory Committee (AC)

New graduate students should select an advisory committee early in their first term in the program. Be sure to talk your advisor right away about setting up this committee.

Composition of AC

The AC consists of 3 members, the advisor plus two other Biology faculty. Up to two members of the AC may be adjunct Biology faculty (e.g. a student whose advisor is in Environmental Studies might have two adjunct committee members). As the student's research plans develop, changes in the AC may be appropriate. This can be arranged by discussion with the advisor, the original advisory committee, and the proposed new member(s). These changes should be described in a letter to the Graduate Committee, signed by current AC members, indicating the changes and when they take effect.

Purpose of AC

The AC works with the student to identify specific academic needs, to oversee general progress and to plan a schedule for the qualifying exam and thesis proposal. The AC will generally form the nucleus of the qualifying exam and thesis committees (see below).

Student responsibilities with AC

Schedule meetings with AC, provide summaries of academic progress and plans, as appropriate, for these meetings. Students draft memos to the Graduate Committee describing the points raised/decisions taken at these meetings. Students must submit a letter (including student and AC members’ signatures) describing each formal AC meeting.

Responsibilities of AC

Evaluate information provided by student, and recommend individual course plans and schedule. Advisors review/revise, with the student, all letters covering AC meetings. Drafts of these letters are circulated to AC members and the student for comment and signatures, before filing with the Graduate Committee.

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Thesis committee (TC)

Composition of TC

The TC consists of 4 members, usually the AC plus one external (non-Dartmouth) examiner. The TC replaces, and assumes the duties of the AC.

Purpose of TC

To oversee development of thesis proposal, thesis progress and thesis preparation.

Student responsibilities with TC

Schedule meetings with TC to evaluate progress, at least at yearly intervals; respond to committee recommendations for changes in thesis plans, either by modifications or justifications satisfactory to the committee; write and defend thesis on schedule. Students must submit a letter (including student and TC members’ signatures) describing all formal TC meetings.

Responsibilities of TC

Evaluate thesis proposal and progress. Communicate constructive suggestions clearly to student. Require proper follow-up so that changes are implemented. Provide oral or written comments to student following proposal presentation and thesis defense.

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Qualifying exam committee (QEC)

Composition of QEC

The QEC consists of 5 members, usually including the AC and at least one external (non-Dartmouth) examiner.

Purpose of QEC

The QEC examines the student in the oral qualifying exam (Appendix 2).

Student responsibilities with QEC

Prepare for and schedule qualifying exam according to qualifying exam guidelines; discuss specific requirements for qualifying exam with members of QEC. Become familiar with guidelines for preparation for the qualifying exam. Meet with members of QEC to define the scope and depth of the exam in each subject area. Students must submit a letter (including student’s and QEC members’ signatures) describing the outcome of the Qualifying exam.

Responsibilities of QEC

Advise student of individual requirements for qualifying exam that are not covered in general guidelines, provide written evaluation of qualifying exam; meet with student after exam to discuss performance and recommendations. Evaluate performance in the exam.

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6.   Ecology graduate group activities

Cramer Seminar Series , usually Fridays at 4 pm in LSC 201, are generally given by speakers from other institutions. See Cramer seminar online schedule.  Cramer seminar background & philosophy.  Graduate students are expected to attend. Ecology and evolution graduate students are encouraged to invite seminar speakers.  A priority of the Cramer Seminar Series is to facilitate visits by leading scholars from around the world to participate in the qualifying examinations and thesis defenses of graduate students.  However, scheduling is first-come, first-serve so graduate students should plan far enough ahead (several months at least) to make sure a seminar slot is available for their guests.  Besides attending the seminars, graduate students are strongly encouraged to meet with all ecology and evolution visitors (an excellent opportunity to solicit feedback on your research). The host (faculty or graduate student) has responsibility for scheduling individual and group meetings for visitors.  Please contact the organizer of the seminar series, Eric Schaller, for more information

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The Chris Reed Memorial Lecture is in honor of Dr. Christopher G. Reed, a distinguished professor at Dartmouth who passed away in 1990. Dr. Reed held a strong belief in the importance of education through teaching, research, and mentoring. In honor of Dr. Reed, the Graduate Students of Biological Sciences at Dartmouth College annually select and invite a distinguished scholar who exemplifies the ideals to which Dr. Reed was so committed. As part of the visit, the Chris Reed Scholar gives a lecture of broad interest to graduate students and is also open to the public. Additionally, the visiting scholar normally stays in Hanover for two or three days as our guest to visit the area and interact withDartmouth graduate students in the spirit of Professor Reed. Chris Reed scholars have included: William Provine, Bruce Levin, Pierre Beguin, David Wake, Naomi Cappuccino, James Crow, Peter and Rosemary Grant, Richard Lewontin, and Douglas Futuyma. Please note that the Chris Reed seminar depends upon graduate student body taking the initiative to choose a speaker, extend the invitation, and arrange suitable dates.  This normally requires that there be a couple of graduate students who volunteer to organize the process.  If you have not heard anything about it this year, it is probably because no one is in charge and there is a need for someone like you to step up and make it happen.  Previous organizers are always pleased to provide suggestions on the logistics.  The Chris Reed lecture is for graduate students from the full Department of Biological Sciences including those in EEB and MCB.  The ideal guest is one who will be of broad interest to all graduate students.  The process for choosing a speaker normally involves soliciting nominations from all graduate students in the Department of Biological Sciences (MCB and EEB), then having a group discussion to choose a ranked list of two or three candidates.  The best candidates tend to have busy schedules so it is best to choose candidates and proffer the invitation 6 - 18 months in advance.   Faculty can provide examples of previous letters of invitation, schedules, advertisements and press releases, etc.   Please consult with the organizer of the Cramer Seminar Series, regarding suitable dates.

<a href="Besides attending the seminars, graduate students are strongly encouraged to meet with all ecology and evolution visitors (an excellent opportunity to solicit feedback on your research). The host (faculty or graduate student) has responsibility for scheduling individual and group meetings for visitors.  <To top>

EElunch (Ecology & Evolution Lunch) is a weekly “in-house” seminar, and is the usual format for presentation of research proposals and research results (other than the thesis defense). The content and format of EElunch may vary from term to term (see online schedule). Attendance at and participation in EElunch is expected for all students throughout their time in the program. Students should register for EElunch as Biol 266, Graduate Research Colloquium in Biological Sciences.

<a href="Besides attending the seminars, graduate students are strongly encouraged to meet with all ecology and evolution visitors (an excellent opportunity to solicit feedback on your research). The host (faculty or graduate student) has responsibility for scheduling individual and group meetings for visitors.  <To top>

Journal Club is run by the EEB graduate students for EEB graduate students.  Faculty involvement is by invitation only.  Details are available from EEB graduate students.

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EE Retreat is held annually, early in the Fall term. The venue varies but is always someplace other than the Life Sciences Center (e.g., Ravine Lodge at Mt. Moosilauke or the Class of '66 Cabin) and often includes an overnight stay. Topics of discussion vary from year-to-year and may include current issues or controversies in ecology and evolution, or faculty and graduate student long-term research plans. The structure and topics are determined by a rotating committee of graduate students (and sometimes faculty), at least one of whom should be a returning graduate student committee member. The committee welcomes and solicits suggestions from everyone in the program (graduate students, post-docs, and faculty) regarding the structure and content of EE Retreat. Make sure you reserve the retreat dates on your calendar.

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Foreign Study Program in Biology (BioFSP) is offered each winter term. The program consists mostly of field research projects conducted by undergraduates and directed by faculty and graduate students. We spend about six weeks at various sites in Costa Rica (terrestrial and some aquatic ecology) and about three weeks at a marine laboratory in the Caribbean (coral reef ecology). The sites are diverse and biologically spectacular; most would be difficult or impossible to visit as a tourist. For everyone involved, this is a full immersion experience in the conception, design, execution, analysis, interpretation, and presentation of ecological and evolutionary research. Graduate students are actively involved in guiding dozens of such research projects through the entire sequence from conception to publication. Also, graduate students are challenged to take the lead in conceiving and conducting several research projects (and typically enroll as students for 1 credit). We try to provide all graduate students with the opportunity to participate in this program. To learn more, speak to faculty of the course, and graduate students who are veterans.

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Informal discussion and reading groups are regularly formed by faculty and students.. Typically, some of the most valuable feedback on thesis research and other ideas are the result of informal discussions and presentations organized by graduate students. There are no rules. Talk to faculty, postdocs, and/or other graduate students for suggestions about how to implement work groups that will be fun and productive. We strongly encourage all students to organize one or more work groups during their time in the program.

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7. Teaching assistant responsibilities

All graduate students have responsibilities as teaching assistants (TAs). Students supported by Dartmouth stipends will normally TA two ten-week (quarter) courses per year. Students supported by research grants (awarded to faculty or students) will sometimes TA fewer courses (e.g., 1 course per year). Courses with TAs will usually be lab courses and require approximately 20 hrs per week of work (except the FSP program, which is full time) All students, regardless of their funding sources, are required to TA at least three courses during their graduate programs. Most teaching assignments are in Ecology and Evolution courses. Students should register for 1 credit of Biol 169, Supervised Teaching in Biology, during each term that they are a TA. Students graduating with a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolution from Dartmouth College are expected to be skilled educators who are immediately ready to design and teach their own successful courses in any institute of higher education. Applications for tenure-track faculty positions usually request a statement of teaching interests; demonstrated teaching abilities and sophisticated educational philosophies are important or essential for most faculty jobs. Working with Dartmouth faculty as a TA is the main vehicle for providing this training. Students should strive to make full use of these opportunities to cultivate and refine their pedagogy.

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8. Stipend and research funding

Support may be from externally funded fellowships, Dartmouth stipends or faculty research grants. Students are accepted into the program only if funds are available for stipend support. Applicants to the program are encouraged to apply for fellowships. Early in the graduate program, many students remain eligible for NSF Fellowships. Students are expected to make strong applications for fellowship support and independent research support, e.g. to NSF for Dissertation Improvement Grants. Extramural support reduces financial limitations and enhances your curriculum vitae. Proposal writing is valuable experience even if not funded.

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9. Professional Meetings

Students are encouraged to seize every opportunity to attend professional meetings, small and large, at all stages of their program. Benefits of attending meetings include: motivating a flurry of professional productivity while you prepare for your talk or poster; gaining critical feedback on your research from an audience that can include those who will reviewer your papers; learning about the current state of research in the area to which your dissertation should contribute; learning about current research in diverse fields, some of which will be unexpectedly relevant to your research; meeting interesting people with similar interests - including prospective post-doctoral mentors and future colleagues; developing a favorable professional reputation that can beget beneficial opportunities such as reviewing papers, giving invited seminars, getting a job, etc.; being stimulated to go back to your research with a fresh perspective and renewed enthusiasm. Talk to your peers and advisors to learn about the various meeting that could be appropriate. Begin planning for them many months ahead of time so that they are maximally beneficial. Cooperate with your colleagues in preparation - e.g., by giving practice talks to each other. Your discretionary Cramer funds are one source of funding to attend meetings.  Funding is also sometimes available from the Office of Graduate Studies (link). Talk to your advisor and be creative in finding ways to make meetings affordable.

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10. Conflict resolution

The committee-based system for guiding graduate programs in EEB, while primarily designed to ensure effective mentoring, is also intended to guard against inequitable treatment. In the event that conflicts arise, we recommend the following stepwise process for resolution.  In general, conflicts are best resolved within the graduate student committee. However, when resolution within the graduate committee or EEB program is not feasible or successful, the Graduate Office is the next place to turn. The EEB program guarantees access to an established process by which student grievances will be investigated fully and fairly, treated confidentially and decisions rendered in a timely manner.

Suggested actions

1.  When possible, speak directly to the person who bears responsibility for the complaint or who is the alleged cause of the complaint.
2.  Speak to the graduate advisor and/or members of the thesis or advisory committee.
3.  Speak to the Chair of the EEB graduate program and/or the Chair of the Department.
4.  If a satisfactory resolution can not be reached within the department or program, the aggrieved student may request a meeting with the Dean of Graduate Studies to discuss the issue.
5.  If the Dean, working together with the aggrieved student and appropriate faculty member(s), or representatives of the EEB program is unable to reach a satisfactory resolution, the student can request in writing a formal hearing and ruling by the Dean of Graduate Studies and the Committee on Student Grievances. Formal hearings are conducted as described in the Graduate Handbook (see sections titled “Committee on Student Grievances” and “Formal Hearing” under Academic and Conduct Regulations).

Please note that allegations of scientific misconduct, violations of the academic honor principle, and certain issues of professional and personal conduct (sexual harassment, discrimination, and others described in the graduate handbook under code of conduct – non-academic regulations) must be reported to and handled by the Graduate Office.

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