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Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Graduate Programs Committee?

The Graduate Programs Committee, appointed by the Departmental Executive Committee, has the primary responsibility for establishing policy, procedures, and requirements for all facets of the Department's graduate program. The Committee reviews applications for admission to the program, awards financial support and evaluates student progress for retention in the program and continued support.

The committee members for 2016-17 are:

Dr. P. Howard (Chair)

Dr. L. Matusevich

Dr. G. Pearlstein

Dr. B. Popov

Dr. E. Rowell

Dr. T. Schlumprecht

Dr. P. Tretkoff

Dr. G. Yu


How Does Advising Work and How do I know if I'm Meeting my Program's Requirements?

All students should read through the write up of their respective programs on the appropriate Graduate Program webpage to find out what the requirements are (www.math.tamu.edu/graduate/masters for the MS and www.math.tamu.edu/graduate/phd for the PhD). And they are strongly urged to consult regularly with their Graduate Advisor throughout their graduate career. Graduate Advisors can provide valuable information and advice. New students will be advised during their first year by a temporary advisor. Once students have filed a degree plan and chosen an Advisory Committee, the Chair of the Advisory Committee will serve as the student's official advisor. Students pursuing the M.S. degree must file a degree plan and form an Advisory Committee before the beginning of the third semester (exclusive of summer terms) in the program. Ph.D. students must file a degree plan and form an Advisory Committee before the start of the fifth semester in the program. Students who have completed the M.S. degree and been admitted into the Ph.D. program but not yet chosen a Ph.D. Advisory Committee and filed a Ph.D. degree plan will be assigned an interim advisor by the Graduate Programs Committee. Students are required to meet with their advisors prior to registering for classes each semester. Students should also logon to Howdy (https://howdy.tamu.edu) and check for holds (notices of missing items or certain actions which can block a student from being able to register) at least 2-3 times a semester and they should run a degree evaluation on themselves at least once each semester. The degree evaluation will show what university requirements for the degree program have been met and which ones are lacking. Taking this type of proactive approach will go a long way to preventing unwanted "surprises" which could lead to problems later.


Are There Certain Courses Not Allowed On Graduate Degree Plans?

Mathematics courses below the 400 level will not be allowed on degree plans. Additionally, the Graduate Committee considers the following 400 level courses to be prerequisites for graduate study in mathematics and hence will not be allowed on MS graduate degree plans: 401,409,415,417 and 423. No undergraduate courses at all will be allowed on PhD degree plans.


What is the Annual Progress Review?

The progress of each graduate student will be reviewed annually by the Graduate Program Committee. Continuation in the graduate program and renewal of financial support are contingent upon maintaining satisfactory academic progress and satisfactory performance in TA duties. A student failing to meet these programmatic requirements will be given a probation notice (after a mentoring session with the Graduate Advisor) stipulating the conditions required of them to lift the probation, the timeframe to comply with the requirements and the consequences of failing to fulfill the conditions within the given timeframe. During the probation period, any departmental funding the student previously had been receiving will continue unless the student has already progressed past the designated university time limit on tuition coverage. The factors for progress review are described as follows:

  1. GPA falling below 3.0: A student on probation for low GPA will be given 1 semester to raise GPA to at least 3.0. If the GPA remains below 3.0 and does not show substantial improvement, the student will lose tuition payment the following semester and remain under probation for 1 more semester to raise GPA to at least 3.0. If the GPA remains below 3.0 after 1 more semester, student will completely lose support the following semester. Support might resume after student raises GPA to 3.0, contingent upon approval of the Graduate Committee.
  2. Failure to meet departmental qualifying exam requirements: A student on probation in this category will be given 1 semester (or possibly 2 if background issues apply as determined by the Graduate Committee) to complete the requirement. If the student does not complete the requirement after the first probationary semester, the student will lose tuition payment. If the student does not complete the requirement after a second semester under probation, the Graduate Committee will decide further measures which may include lose of full departmental support.
  3. Failure to make progress in their research: For students writing a MS thesis or PhD dissertation, their Chairs will be asked annually to submit a written assessment of their student's progress. This input will be taken into account in the annual progress evaluation.
  4. Poor performance in TA duties: As determined from semester student evaluations of their TAs together with any reports submitted from faculty. After a credible complaint, the student will be called in for a mentoring session with the Graduate Advisor. Depending on the nature of the complaint, the student may be required to participate in certain teaching instruction as deemed appropriate by the Graduate Committee. If there is no improvement in TA performance after the mentoring and teaching instruction, the student will lose tuition payment. Once TA performance is satisfactory, tuition payment will be restored. In severe cases of poor TA performance that fails to improve, the student may lose full departmental support.
  5. Failure of an international student to pass the English Language Proficiency Exam (ELPE) by the end of their first year: It is expected that international graduates receiving assistantship support from the department will complete their English Certification via passing the ELPE by the end of their first year in the program. The Graduate Advisor may decide to place a student in an English class if at any time they are having difficulty passing the ELPE. If a student has not completed their English Certification by the end of their first year, they will be on probation and will lose tuition payment in their first probationary semester. If after 1 semester on probation they still have not completed their English Certification, the Graduate Committee will consider terminating their assistantship support. Students will continue to be placed in English classes until they have completed their English Certification.

How do Teaching Assignments Work?

Teaching assignments for graduate students are determined on a semester basis. Typical duties of Teaching Assistants may include: teaching their own course (for advanced graduate students who either have a M.S. or have taken at least 18 hours of graduate course work in Mathematics), conducting recitations/computational laboratories, grading for an instructor, or doing help sessions. The amount of time one can expect to devote to these duties is approximately 10-12 hours a week.

Being a Teaching Assistant requires having "Full-time Status" as a student. Graduate students are considered full-time if they are registered for a minimum of:

  • 9 semester credit hours during a Fall or Spring semester,
  • 6 semester credit hours during a 10-week summer semester, or
  • 3 semester credit hours during a 5-week summer term.

Failure to register for the correct number of hours will result in the loss of financial support for that semester.

The Center for Teaching Excellence sponsors a campus-wide Teaching Assistant Training and Evaluation Program Workshop (TATEP) which is given at the beginning of the Fall semester each year. This workshop is a valuable orientation tool for new TAs and they are required to attend.

What Do I Do After Receiving My TA Assignment?

Students are notified of their TA assignments by e-mail about a week prior to the beginning of each semester. Once they receive their assignments, they need to look at the class schedule on the departmental website for specific information on instructors, times and locations of their assignment. The schedule is located at https://www.math.tamu.edu/admin/teaching. If a student discovers a conflict between their own class schedule and their TA assignment, they need to contact the departmental Graduate Office as soon as possible so that they can be given a new assignment. However, until the student receives their new assignment, they are still responsible for doing their old one even if it means they must miss a class. What follows is some additional information on specific TA assignments:

Help Session
Help Session duty is basically one-on-one tutoring for certain classes in a designated room at specific hours. Once students are notified which Help Session they are working, it's a good idea for them to look up the course home pages for those classes the Help Session covers. That way they can see what is going on in the classes and they can better anticipate the types of problems students are likely to need help with. Help Session TAs can also check out the textbooks (go to Blocker 227) to familiarize themselves with the mathematics covered in the classes.
Recitations and MATLAB
These types of assignments are for Math 147-148-150-151-152 courses. Students are responsible for conducting recitations and overseeing computer labs. Once they are notified of their assignments, students need to look up on the schedule to see who the supervising instructor is for their sections then they need to contact that instructor as soon as possible for instructions. They should also thoroughly read through the information posted on the Calclab page at:
Grading
Once students receive their grading assignment, they need to look up the instructor for the class that they are grading for then contact that instructor as soon as possible for instructions.

What Do I Do if I Can't Make My TA Assignment?

Whenever students are unable to carry out their TA duties due to illness or travel, it is their responsibility to arrange for someone else to cover their duties. However, TA's must also inform the instructors they are working for and the Graduate Office that they are unable to make their assignment. If a TA is unsuccessful in locating a substitute, the Graduate Office can send out a general message to all the graduate students asking for volunteers to help (TAs will need to provide the times and locations of classes and assignments so that this information can be included in the message). Please keep in mind that sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn't. If no volunteers come forward, then a student worker will be sent to the class to give out the assignment and that is all. If a student will miss their duties due to a family emergency or university business (ex: attending a conference or job interview), they must fill out a Graduate Assistant Leave Form(PDF). This form must be signed by the instructors they are TAing for and submitted to the Graduate Office for approval. While it's understood that students may need to be away for brief periods of time for short conferences, job interviews, etc., the absences should not amount to substantial portions of the semester. The expectation is if you are being supported by the Department as a Teaching Assistant, you are required to be here performing your assigned duties. There are serious legal ramifications with the State if students are paid for work that they actually did not do because they were away for substantial portions of the semester.

Special Note

Also, while it is understood that students may be away between semesters—they should not leave until final grades have been turned in to the Registrar's Office. This is so we can contact them in case of any grade questions in courses they TA'd/graded for. Students also need to return to campus at least a week before the start of the next semester. This is so they can meet with the instructors they will be TAing for and attend any necessary preparatory meetings.