Programs : Doctoral : Student Handbook : Section Five
My First Semester's Started: Now What?
Okay! You’re signed in, have an office, registered for classes, know your way around and are rarin’ to go. Next to maintaining your health and sanity, your primary focus in this Ph.D. program has to be your academic work. Some day you will look back and realize that these were the “good old days.” There really isn't anything to compare with the time you’ll spend in your graduate program, so you should try to enjoy it. Stretch yourself intellectually and challenge your classmates to do the same. Ultimately, the graduate student experience is only as substantial as you and your fellow graduate students make it. If you’re like most doctoral students you’ll learn a lot more from your colleagues than you will from your professors. Work hard and excel academically.
For those of you with student loans hanging over your head from your previous encounters with institutions of higher education, remember that the Office of Financial Aid requires you to be a full-time student. If you have come here from another campus, be sure to update your enrollment information with your student loan providers (if you had student loans in the past). The Graduate Division considers “full time” for a graduate student to be at least 9 units or any number of units of GEOG 897 or 899. Note that Graduate Affairs only pays fees for 6 units each semester. This can and usually does cause confusion, but don't panic. Check with Patti and she can tell you how to get things straightened out.
Add/Drop Class Deadlines
The deadline to add and drop courses at SDSU occurs just after the first three weeks of classes. You must complete your course registration by the deadline. If you fail to drop a course and receive an unofficial withdrawal grade, it will count the same as an F (no grade points) and deliver a fatal blow to your ability to maintain the required 3.0 GPA.
During the first week of classes you will be asked by the Doctoral Adviser to complete an entrance survey by providing brief responses about your: (1) academic strengths; (2) academic weaknesses; (3) general topic(s) you think might be involved in your dissertation research; (4) faculty members you are interested in working with; (5) goals and objectives for the program; and (6) career objectives following receipt of your doctorate. We'll also ask you to indicate the areas where you feel a need for course work. You will also be given a “4- Year Progress Calendar” and asked to develop a timetable for completing your doctoral program. On the calendar you will need to indicate what you expect to complete each year until receiving your degree. You should work through this exercise with your Interim Advisor. These items will serve as the basis for your Diagnostic Interview, which should take place before the end of September.
Selecting a Committee
You and the Doctoral Adviser will select a temporary Advising Committee of two (or in some cases three) faculty members, hopefully with interests similar to yours: one of these individuals will be designated as your Interim Adviser. You will arrange for your Committee to meet with you to discuss your background and interests. They will make recommendations regarding additional preparation or remediation that you might require, and courses to meet your immediate needs as well as working with you to develop a broad outline of your doctoral program and time table. The Interim Adviser and Advising Committee will continue to work with you until you designate a Major Professor/Dissertation Chair and put together your Doctoral Committee.
Coursework and Specializations
There is no specified number of units in the doctoral program beyond the common core courses, Geog. 700 and Geog. 701, which you are required to take at SDSU. In addition to a broad understanding of modern geographic principles, you have to acquire the requisite theoretical, methodological, and, when appropriate, language skills needed to make you expert in your areas of specialization.
The program is centered around a limited number of systematic specializations. Areas of concentration in Human Geography are Urban, Social and Political Geography. In Environmental Geography, you can focus on Society and Environment or Watershed/Ecosystems Analysis. Within the realm of Physical Geography you can choose Biogeography, Climatology, Hydrology, or Landscape Ecology. In addition, you have to declare at least one research methods or techniques emphasis. These include Spatial Quantitative and/or Qualitative Methods, Cartography and Internet Mapping, Geocomputation and Spatial Modeling, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Remote Sensing and Image Processing, Visualization and Visual Data Mining, Spatial Decision Support Systems and Participatory GIS.
By the end of the Fall Semester or, at worst, by early Spring Semester you should have decided on your systematic specialties and methodological emphasis, developed a comprehensive plan of course work and a rough time-table for completing your degree. You will need to work closely with your Interim Adviser during this process. This should help you to identify the specific foci of your program and whom you wish to invite to serve as your Major Professor/Dissertation Chair and the other members of your Joint Doctoral Committee, including those from UCSB. Once you've reached this point, you can officially form your Joint Doctoral Committee with the consent of the Doctoral Adviser.
As a Ph.D. student, you have a very large part of the responsibility for assuring that you progress through your doctoral studies. Along with your Major Professor and committee members, you will determine the timing of virtually all of the elements of your program and the clearing of the various hurdles separating you from the doctorate. Therefore, it is critical that you establish and maintain frequent and regular contact with your Major Professor and committee members. It would be a really good idea to establish a schedule of monthly meetings with your Major Professor to discuss your progress to date and up-coming activities related to your program. Periodically, you should revisit your “4-Year Progress Calendar” and revise it as needed. Also, make contact by phone or e-mail now and then with the UCBS faculty on your committee in order to keep them abreast of your situation. In this way you will be able to keep communications open and information flowing. Further, this will enable you to avoid the situation where you would be talking to your committee members only when you “need something” from them.
During your time, both at SDSU and at UCSB, you will be paid as a teaching associate. For any non-teaching activities (such as faculty or personal research) you are allocated “assigned time” for research. Each semester, you are required to submit a summary of your activities undertaken as part of the teaching associateship. About a month prior to the end of the semester at SDSU (even for those at UCSB), you will receive an e-mail requesting a summary of your “assigned time” activities. For this summary, you should include your semester activities: research, presentations, publications and other activities and explain which SDSU course will benefit. Please be sure to submit the form (to Patti) in a timely manner so that your pay is not delayed.
During your first year at SDSU it's a good idea to visit UCSB. This will give you an opportunity to meet some of the graduate students and faculty there as well as seeing the surroundings so that you might be a little more comfortable on future visits. Such a sojourn would probably be most useful to you if it comes after you have selected a Major Professor and areas of specialization. You should try to meet with your UCSB sponsor and talk to anyone else you think might be appropriate for your Doctoral Committee. Be sure to phone and/or e-mail ahead and make appointments! Otherwise, you might strike-out during your visit.
At the end of each academic year you are required to provide a brief report of your academic and teaching associateship activities. The annual report should provide your Major Professor and the Doctoral Adviser with a brief summary of your activities, accomplishments and/or plans within the following categories:
- course work and other formal academic activities (e.g., special studies, independent research, directed readings);
- proposal development, written and oral exam preparation/completion, dissertation research/writing;
- Teaching Associateship duties (text could be extracted from your assigned time reports to Patti); and
- academic activities during the coming summer and start of the coming academic year.
After reviewing your Annual Report, your Major Professor will provide you and your Committee members with an annual review of your accomplishments and plans.
How did I get Admitted?
What does the Financial Offer I Accepted Mean?
What Happens Between the Time I'm Accepted and When I Enroll?
Okay, I've Arrived at the Department. What do I do?
My First Semester's Started: Now What?
When Should I Plan on Spending My Year at UCSB?
Any Information that might Help Me for My UCSB Residency?
What are the Major Mileposts in My Program?