Student Advising Committee (SAC)

An advisor will be identified through the admission procedure. The advisor is the student's primary contact at the University. It is very important that the student and their advisor work well together. On rare occasions students discover that they are not well matched with their advisor for various reasons. If a change is necessary, that change must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) and the new advisor, in consultation with the previous advisor and the student. 

Every student should assemble a Student Advising Committee (SAC) during their first semester in consultation with the advisor. The advisor chairs meetings of the SAC and makes final decisions. She/he also assumes advisory and administrative responsibility for an individual student's program, including recommendations regarding program content and student progress. The SAC must have members from more than one academic department. The student is responsible for assembling the Student Advisory Committee, in consultation with the advisor.

A SAC for an MS student is composed of the student’s advisor and two other faculty members who can give advice on the student’s professional direction. One of these should be on the CS faculty; the other should represent a different field. For PhD students, the SAC includes three faculty members other than the advisor, 2 from CS and 1 from another field. The purpose of the SAC is to assist the student to develop a degree program (e.g., list of coursework) and provide advice on research. The student's advisor is responsible for helping the student to identify faculty representing both the biological dimensions and social dimensions of conservation biology to serve on the SAC.

Typically, the advisor assists new graduate students in selecting courses for their first semester; the SAC should meet during the first semester of a student’s residency to assist in selecting courses for the next term and to offer some general guidance for research and the degree program. The SAC should be convened in the second semester to provide input the research proposal and to finalize the degree program (see the section on completing a GPAS degree program). Students should develop a research proposal (with literature review) for SAC review. This proposal is developed in close coordination with advisor and is provided to SAC members prior to the meeting that occurs in the second semester for MS students and the fourth semester for PhD students.

The student must schedule a meeting of the SAC at least once a year to review his/her progress. In general, the membership of the SAC does not change during a student’s program. However, if the direction of student’s research changes and/or if the advisor and a SAC member agree that another faculty can better assist the student, a change can be requested. These changes need to be approved by the DGS.

The SAC often serves as the Master of Science Examining Committee, the PhD Preliminary Oral Examining Committee, or the Final Oral Examining Committee (although these are all formally appointed by the Graduate School).

The student is required to submit a Committee Reporting form (PDF) signed by all the members of SAC to the program coordinator after first SAC meeting.