Graduate Studies Policies

This manual describes Graduate Programs Committee activities.  According to the mission of the GPC “The Graduate Programs Committee (GPC) is responsible for all matters related to graduate programs, including the following primary activities: (a) review and development of criteria for new graduate courses and programs, (b) appointment of graduate faculty, (c) consideration of student requests for exceptions to certain College of Graduate Studies policies, (d) Review of Excellence in Education award applications, (e) assessment and analysis of Graduate Bulletin changes prior to Dean approval and (f) review of proposals for Master of Individualized Studies programs. The Bylaws of the Graduate Programs Committee are located at  /gpc/node/1.

The GPC obtains its authority from the Academic Senate of Northern Michigan University, which, according to the Senate Bylaws, “…is established in accordance with the Agreement between the Board of Trustees, NMU, and the American Association of University Professors, NMU Chapter, and derives its authority from that Agreement."  The Senate Bylaws describe the function of the Academic Senate (Section 1.2) as “…to advise and make recommendations to the Vice-President for Academic Affairs on matters of faculty-wide concern, communicate items of concern to respective constituencies, and inform the academic community of issues under consideration.”  The GPC is named as a standing committee of the Senate in Article 7.1 of the Senate Bylaws.

The purpose of this document is to describe the processes that the GPC uses to address each of the elements articulated in the GPC mission statement.  The recommendations of the GPC are sent to the Senate, and that body then deliberates these recommendations.  The purview of the GPC is to review the academic merits of curricular issues; the Education Policy Committee reviews the financial implications of curricular changes.

1. Curricular

Article 3 of the Bylaws of the Graduate Programs Committee indicates that one of its charges is to be responsible for “…the development and review of criteria for: new graduate courses and new graduate programs.”  This section of the manual describes the role of the GPC in the graduate curriculum offered throughout Northern Michigan University.

A. Curricular Processes

  1. Timeline.  Curricular changes may be submitted to the GPC at any time during the academic year.  The GPC meets on a monthly basis, or more frequently when needed.  Major curricular changes, and new graduate program proposals should be submitted by Oct. 1 to be considered for inclusion in the subsequent fall semester.
  2. Submission to CUP vs. GPC.  Changes in courses that will carry both undergraduate and graduate credit should be sent to the Committee on Undergraduate Programs (CUP) before they are sent to the GPC.  Once these changes have been approved by CUP, the department should then submit the request to GPC, incorporating any changes made after the CUP review.
  3. Conferring with Other Departments Prior to Submission to the GPC.  Whenever a department proposes curricular changes that may affect other departments, it must notify that department in prior to submitting that change to the GPC.  The GPC must be notified of consultations with these other departments, including the outcomes of the consultations.
  4. GPC Review.  Curricular change submissions will be forwarded to the appropriate subcommittee.  After its review, the subcommittee will make a recommendation to the GPC.  The subcommittee may recommend that a representative of the proposing department be present at the relevant GPC meeting to answer questions and provide additional information.  After the GPC recommends curricular changes to the Academic Senate, a GPC representative should attend the Senate meeting, to answer questions about its recommendation(s).
  5. Course Deletion.  When a department elects to delete a course that carries graduate credit, the department must notify the GPC of the intended deletion.  Courses that have not been taught within the past five years will be deleted from the Graduate Bulletin after notification to the department.


B. Graduate Courses – General Information

  1. Graduate Course Instruction. Graduate classes may only be taught by faculty who have NMU Graduate Faculty status.  Students will not be awarded graduate credit from courses taught by faculty members who do not have graduate faculty status.
  2. Co-listing of Undergraduate and Graduate Courses.  While the GPC is interested in maintaining the quality, rigor and standards of graduate courses, the committee recognizes that faculty and programs may have an interest in co-listing 400-level and graduate classes to meet specific needs and educational objectives.  Such co-listed graduate offerings must conform to the standards and specifications required for 500-level graduate credit.
    Courses open to both undergraduate and graduate students must distinguish between work expected of the undergraduate and graduate students and separate courses objectives must be presented for both groups of students.  Such courses will be reviewed annually by the Dean of Graduate Studies.
  3. Course Numbering
    1. Courses of Unspecified Content.  Courses of Unspecified Content are named in the Graduate Bulletin (  These courses must complete the same approval process as all other graduate courses.  Directed or independent study credit may not be awarded if the description matches that of a course already approved for credit.  A maximum of 16 semester credit hours of courses of unspecified content can be applied to the total number of hours required to complete the master’s degree.
    2. Special Topics Courses. Special Topics Courses are experimental or timely in nature, or they take advantage of the expertise of a visiting faculty member.  A particular Special Topics Course cannot be taught more than twice; after a course is taught twice, the department must obtain permanent course approval prior to offering the course a third time.  Identical off-campus offerings of a Special Topics Course are viewed as multiple on-campus offerings of the course.
    3. 500 and 600 Level Courses.  These courses must be approved by the GPC, but they do not require approval from the Committee on Undergraduate Programs (CUP).  A student cannot take these courses for undergraduate credit.  Normally, only academic departments that have graduate programs may offer 500- or 600-level courses.
    4. Thesis Credits.  599 and 699 are reserved for thesis work.  Departments may require 1-8 thesis credits, with the exception of the Master of Fine Arts program, which requires the completion of 12 thesis credits.
    5. GD 593.  Masters (MA or MS) students who have completed all the course work specified on their Graduate Plan of Study but have not completed their final project must enroll in GD 593 each semester prior to obtaining their graduate degree.
    6. GD 693.  Education Specialist or MFA  students who have completed all the course work specified on their Graduate Plan of Study but have not completed their final project must enroll in GD 693 each semester prior to obtaining their graduate degree.
    7. 900-999.   Professional development courses are numbered 900-999.  These workshop and seminar courses enhance professional or career development.  Credits from these courses may not be applied towards a degree.  Ten (10) percent of these courses are randomly monitored each year by the GPC to ensure that they are of high quality.  Instructors of record for these classes must hold NMU Graduate Faculty Status.


C.  New Courses.  The following information must be included in new courses proposals that the GPC will review:

  1. Bulletin Description - Including course number, course title, credits hours (lecture, discussion, and lab as appropriate), prerequisites, and how the course will be graded.  Note that no credit will be given for “U” grades. (Added fall 2011) If the new course will affect program requirements (e.g., is a required course or is an elective acceptable only in some programs), new bulletin language indicating how the course will fit into existing programs must be included.
  2. Rationale – state:
    1. why the course is needed.
    2. if the course will be required or an elective.
    3. which track the course will be in, if appropriate.
  3. Course Outline (1-2 pages in length). The outline defines the content of the course without focusing too much information, such as one specific textbook.  It should include: (a) general topics to be covered, (b) specific objectives of the course, (c) descriptions of the evaluation methodologies, and (d) samples of relevant course materials (i.e., a range of appropriate potential textbooks). If the course content appears close to that of another course currently offered at  either the graduate or undergraduate level, distinct objectives/evaluation methods should be clearly delineated (e.g., a 400-level course should clearly show how objectives/evaluations are different for undergraduate versus graduate students). If necessary, include syllabi for comparable courses. A sample course outline is available as a model.
  4. Course Objectives.  If the course is 400 in level, include both graduate and undergraduate objectives.  Include a description of the additional work that will be required of graduate students, and the means of assessment of that work.
  5. Staffing.  Indicate if present staff or new staff members will teach the class.  If new staff will be needed to teach the class, include evidence of administrative support for the new staff position.
  6. Equipment and Supplies.  List new budgetary needs, both to initiate the course and to sustain it.  Include administrative support for needed monetary commitment.
  7. Library Holdings.  Indicate if current library resources are adequate for the course or if new library acquisitions will be required to support the class.  Include administrative support for needed monetary commitment.
  8. Costs. Summarize projected additional costs to support the class.
  9. Effects on Other Departments.  The effect of the new course on other departments must be included.  The proposing department must initiate discussions with other departments that might be affected by the new course and must include statements of support or conflict from those departments.
  10. Implementation Date.  Indicate when the new course will be first taught.


D. Major Curricular Changes

  1. Deletion of Course and Programs.  Deletion of courses or programs must be submitted to GPC for approval.  Departments must provide a rationale for the deletion(s) and submit evidence that they have considered the effect on other departments and curricula.  The Dean of Graduate Studies may remove courses not taught for five consecutive years from the Graduate Bulletin, after consultation with the relevant Department.
  2. New Programs and Major Curriculum Revisions.
    1. A new program is defined as a new major or a new track in an existing program.
    2. Major curriculum changes are defined as those that significantly modify an existing program.
    3. New programs, and major curriculum changes, must address all of the following issues:
      1. State the rationale for the program.  Include the programmatic goals and objectives, and how the program fits into the departmental mission statement.
      2. State the job opportunities for graduates of the proposed program.  Include evidence documenting those opportunities.
      3. Indicate if there are related programs in any departments at NMU.
      4. Indicate how the proposed program compares to other professional programs that exist at other regional/national universities.
      5. Describe if the proposed program will affect the department’s accreditation, if appropriate.
      6. Provide the listing of the proposed program as it will appear in the Graduate Bulletin.
      7. State the admission requirements for the program.
      8. State the graduation requirements for the program.
      9. Include course outlines of any new or substantially revised courses, including Graduate Bulletin descriptions.
      10. State the projected enrollment for the program in years one, two and five.
      11. State the anticipated costs of the program for each of five years, including separate descriptions for:
        1. Staff
        2. Equipment
        3. Supplies
        4. Library
        5. Space
      12. Indicate staffing plans for the new program, including if the current faculty are sufficient and competent to deliver the proposed curriculum, or it new faculty will be needed to do so.
      13. Describe the equipment that is currently available for the proposed program and equipment that will be needed for the proposed program.
      14. State anticipated library usage by students in the proposed program. Include in this statement a review of current library resources and verification that the department has consulted with library staff about the adequacy of current library holdings.
      15. Indicate if current space is adequate to house the proposed program and, if it is not, state new space requirements.
      16. Indicate when the program will be delivered (fall/winter/summer semesters; day or evening offerings).
      17. Indicate if the program will be delivered face-to-face, hybrid, or online.
      18. State the planned implementation date for the proposed program.


E. Program Suspension / Termination
  1. Suspension.  A graduate program may be suspended for up to 5 years.   The 5 year suspension period begins in the academic year following approval of this status.  Suspension may be initiated by the department that offers the program, the Graduate Office or the GPC.  Suspension approval must include the GPC, the Academic Senate, the Graduate Office, and the Provost.  The program may be reinstated at any time during the suspension period upon the recommendation of the GPC, the Academic Senate, the Graduate Office and the Provost.  If no recommendation for reinstatement is received by the GPC during the suspension period, the program will be terminated.  Extension of the suspension period of two additional years may be approved by GPC upon request from the department or the Graduate Office.
  2. Termination.  An existing graduate program may be terminated by the recommendation of the GPC, the Academic Senate, the Graduate Office, the Provost, and the NMU Board of Trustees.  Once terminated, no new candidates will be accepted into the program and the program will be removed from the Graduate Bulletin.


2. Graduate Faculty Status

Each department is responsible for assuring that graduate faculty members have achieved the necessary academic experience prior to submitting their nominations to the Graduate Programs Committee.  Granting graduate faculty status is an important function of the University.  To attract the best graduate students, NMU is committed to providing faculty with the skills necessary to teach in the graduate setting.  Different academic experience and distinct instruction skills are necessary when teaching in graduate programs.  Departments should review and enforce the graduate faculty appointment guidelines to assure the highest quality academic standards in their graduate programs. The application for Graduate Faculty Status can be found here:  /graduatestudies/node/14.

A. Level 3 Graduate Faculty Status

Level 3 status is for members of the bargaining unit or individuals holding faculty status at NMU who have successfully taught at the graduate level and/or supervised thesis work, and who have evidence of professional development.  To be granted Level 3 graduate faculty status the faculty member must have taught at the graduate level in the last seven years.  Once approved for this level the faculty member must be recertified by the department and the GPC every five years.  Only faculty members with Level 3 status may chair a graduate thesis committee.

B. Level 2 Graduate Faculty Status

Level 2 status is for members of the faculty who have just attained their terminal degree or have not taught at the graduate level within the last seven years.  A person at this level can teach graduate courses and serve on thesis committees, but they cannot chair a thesis committee.  This status can be requested for 1 to 3 years.

C. Level 1 Graduate Faculty Status

This is for someone who is not a member of the bargaining unit.  A person at this level can teach graduate courses and serve on, but not chair, thesis committees.  They must have a terminal degree or appropriate experience.  This status can be requested for 1 to 3 years.

3. Student Appeals

The Graduate Programs Committee (GPC) is authorized to review requests for exceptions to certain College of Graduate Studies policies. The Committee does not hear grade appeals; a separate procedure exists for those (see the Northern Michigan University Student Handbook). The GPC’s primary authority lies within the policies governed by the College of Graduate Studies (e.g., admission, matriculation and retention). However, in specific cases it may serve as an appellate body for academic matters deriving from the rules and practices of the departments and colleges. One function of the committee is to review petitions for academic reinstatement from graduate students who have been dismissed from the College of Graduate Studies. It will not review academic decisions that are based upon the expertise of the faculty in a particular field. However, the committee may examine the equity of the processes by which such academic decisions have been made. It will hear appeals of dismissal decisions.  Appeal shall be submitted no later than thirty (30) calendar days following the first day of classes for the next regular semester (exclusive of summer session). A decision shall be reached within thirty (30) calendar days from the reception of the appeal.


4.  Excellence in Education Awards

The Excellence in Education Program is a $1500 award established to support graduate student research in the summer. The awards are intended to assist graduate students in the conduct of scholarly research and creative works that will enhance their academic experience and professional growth.

Eligibility, specifics of fundable activities and non-fundable activities, application guidelines and procedures, specific deadlines, and evaluation criteria will be updated as necessary and posted on the Graduate Studies website.

Proposals are reviewed by the Graduate Programs Committee or GPC-appointed subcommittee according to the following criteria:

  • The significance of the proposed project and soundness of the methodology.
  • Clarity of presentation and planning of the proposed project.
  • Qualifications of the student investigator.
  • Adherence to format and content requirements.
  • Justification of additional funding for second year applicants.
  • Support from the Advisor and the Department.

The members of the review committee will rank all proposals and forward their recommendations for funding to the Grants Officer, who will make the awards.

Students receiving an Excellence in Education Research Award will receive a one-credit tuition stipend when they enroll in a course that is directly related to the project such as Special Topics, Directed Study, or Thesis during one of the two summer sessions.

A Final Project Report must be submitted to the department and the Grants Officer by October 15th after completion of the project.  Grantees who fail to submit a Final Report will not be eligible for future Excellence in Education Research Award funding.


5.  Graduate Bulletin changes

Graduate bulletin changes, other than those described elsewhere in the policy manual, are presented directly to the dean of graduate studies.  Examples of bulletin changes include but are not limited to:  editing errors on the website, errors in hyper-links, inaccurate information regarding a program or plan of study, etc.

Upon the dean’s discretion, any requested changes to the bulletin may be sent to the Graduate Programs Committee for review prior to dean approval.


6.  Review of Master of Individualized Studies Programs

GPC policies concerning Individualized Studies Program (ISP) are based upon program requirements as outlined in the Graduate Bulletin. (

Approval from the GPC is a necessary step prior to the submission of the proposal to the Office of Graduate Studies.  The proposal and plan of study must be approved by the department advisory committee, and then the department head representing the major discipline.  The department approved ISP proposal then is submitted to the GPC and the Office of Graduate studies for review.

The GPC reviews the proposal, and any subsequent changes, based upon the extent to which the proposal and plan of study align with the four sections of the application proposal described below:

  • A statement of the special need, interest, or employment opportunity that identifies the major reason for pursuing the proposed program of study;
  • A set of specific educational goals that are related to the special need, interest or employment opportunity previously identified;
  • Statements indicating the direct relationship between each specific goal and each course included in the program of study; and
  • A statement summarizing the reason why existing degree programs do not meet the specific goals identified.

The GPC review progresses in two steps.  First, a sub-committee of the GPC, consisting of three members of the GPC who are not members of the student’s advisory committee, evaluates the proposal.  Second, the subcommittee makes a motion to the GPC to (a) approve the proposal; (b) approve pending minor changes; or, (c) return the proposal to the student’s advisory committee requesting revisions.  Approved proposals are forwarded to the dean of graduate studies.  Approved pending minor changes are forwarded to the student’s advisory committee.  Upon completion of the requested revisions, the student advisory committee resubmits the revised proposal directly to the dean of graduate studies.  Proposals requesting revisions must be reapproved by the department advisory committee and the department head representing the major discipline and then resubmitted to the GPC.  Any subsequent reviews proceed directly to the full GPC for review.

As noted in the bulletin, all ISP proposals are subject to final approval by the dean of graduate studies. All changes to the original plan of study must be approved by the student’s departmental advisory committee and submitted to the dean of graduate studies for review and approval.  Upon the dean’s discretion, any changes to the ISP may be sent to the Graduate Programs Committee for review prior to dean approval.