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GAPSA’s Successful Advocacy on Behalf of PhD Students
September 2, 2008, Volume 55, No. 2

The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GAPSA) is pleased to announce successful advocacy for positive changes to the Rules Governing all PhD Programs at Penn. These welcome changes come in addition to the increase in the minimum stipend levels for 2008-2009 and the recent standardization of PhD student tuition across the University.

The Graduate Council of the Faculties has updated the Rules, which may be found at www.upenn.edu/grad/rules.html, to include the following requirements that will shorten time to degree and improve supervision of PhD students:

• Faculty will be required to evaluate Candidacy Exams and Dissertation Exams promptly within 30 days of the exam or proposal presentation date.

• Students will be required to advance to Degree Candidacy within five years of matriculation.

• Upon advancement to Degree Candidacy, each student will be provided with a Dissertation Committee consisting of at least three faculty members.

• The Dissertation Committee will be required to meet with the student annually, at minimum, to review the student’s progress and provide feedback concerning the student’s research.

• Faculty will be required to provide feedback on Dissertation Committee Reports, within 30 days of the Dissertation Committee meeting.

• Beginning in 2010-2011, the University’s maximum time limit for completion of a PhD is ten years after matriculation.

“We’re excited that the University has institutionalized these minimum standards already practiced by so many of our successful graduate programs,” GAPSA Chairman Andrew Rennekamp said, “and we’re confident that these changes will lead to welcomed decreases in time-to-degree statistics across the University.”

In addition, the Graduate Council of the Faculties has voted unanimously to approve the following extensions of the Childbirth Leave Policy for PhD students:

• The policy’s time-off period, (under which stipend support is continued) will be extended from six to eight weeks.

• The policy will be extended to include paternal time off for student fathers.

• The policy will be extended to include cases of adoption.

According to Mr. Rennekamp, “Penn’s progressive stance on accommodations for student parents places the University at the forefront of its peers and reveals an important understanding on the part of our academic community—that the welcoming of a new child into a family is more than just a clinical event.

GAPSA 2008-2009 Executive Board

GAPSA announced the election of its executive board for the 2008-2009 academic year. The members are:

Chair: Andrew J. Rennekamp (Medicine, PhD)
Vice Chair: Alejandro Hagan (Social Policy & Practice, MSW/Wharton, MBA)
Vice Chair for Communications: Alexandra K. Kotsovos (Nursing, MSN)
Vice Chair for Equity and Access: Esther O. Agbaje (Arts and Sciences, MGA)
Vice Chair for Finance: Christa Y. Heyward (Medicine, PhD)
Vice Chair for International Affairs: Saurabh Madaan (Engineering, PhD)
Vice Chair for Operations: Sarah M. Smith (Dental, DMD)
Vice Chair for Professional Students: Mathew Abramsky (Design, MCP/Wharton, MBA)
Vice Chair for Research Students: Vicky Doan-Nguyen (Arts and Sciences, PhD)
Vice Chair for Social Activities: Jessica K. Kim (Education, EdD)
Vice Chair for Student Life: Nicole L. Thorpe (Design, MCP)
Vice Chair for Student Programs: Christina Arlt (Design, MCP)
Contact information can be found on the GAPSA website: www.gapsa.upenn.edu/ 

GAPSA Applications for 2008-2009 Student Representation

The Graduate and Professional Student Assembly (GAPSA) is now accepting applications for students interested in serving as Deputy Vice Chairs and/or Student Representatives to University Committees, Councils or Advisory Boards. Positions are open to all graduate and professional students at the University of Pennsylvania. Applications are available online immediately at www.gapsa.upenn.edu/.


Almanac - September 2, 2008, Volume 55, No. 2