Satisfactory Progress

Second Year Retention Decision

First consideration: Area groups and mentoring committees will evaluate the performance of second-year students following the defense of the First Year Project.

Students who perform poorly on any component of the First Year Project (written document, public presentation, defense) as assessed by their mentoring committee or who are failing to meet expectations in other important domains (e.g., coursework, research skills) as assessed by their mentoring committee and area group will receive a letter from their area group chair and the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies before the start of the spring semester of their second year. The letter will outline concerns raised by the faculty and note any actions the student can take to address the concerns before the spring retention vote. Students who receive such a letter should be aware that the faculty may vote not to retain them in the spring.

Second consideration: The Faculty of the Psychology Department will meet late in the spring semester of students’ second year to evaluate their performance and determine whether they should be permitted to continue working toward the Ph.D. The evaluation and determination will be based on:

Performance in graduate-level courses as assessed by course instructors and by grades.

Performance on the First Year Project as assessed by the mentoring committee and by attendees of the First Year Project Symposium.

The evaluation by the advisor of the student’s research ability.

At the spring meeting, faculty can vote to retain a student, not retain a student, or provisionally retain a student. Students who receive a negative vote will not be allowed to continue working toward their Ph.D. Students who receive a provisional retention vote will receive a letter from their area group chair and the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies outlining concerns raised by faculty, with information about how (and by when) students must address the concerns. Students who do not address the concerns outlined in the letter (as determined by the faculty body) will not be allowed to continue working toward the Ph.D. beyond their third year.

Students who are not retained for the Ph.D. may still receive a master’s degree in psychology, provided they meet criteria for one. See here: https://grad.wisc.edu/current-students/masters-guide/#what-you-need-to-do

Determining Satisfactory Progress for Years 1, 3, and beyond

Each year students are required to have both a one-on-one progress meeting with their faculty mentor (Graduate Student Semesterly Progress Report) and a meeting with their full Mentoring Committee.  In both of these meetings, there should be a discussion of the student’s current progress (i.e., for students in years 2 and beyond, whether progress over the year met the expectations laid out the previous year) AND a discussion of what satisfactory progress would look like over the coming year (e.g., whether related to classwork, data collection/analyses, paper writing/dissemination of scientific results, specific departmental requirements such as prelims, etc.).

Area groups will review graduate progress and report assessments to the entire faculty at least once a year. In judging satisfactory progress, faculty will consider students’ progress on milestones (e.g., First Year Project, Preliminary Exams, Dissertation Proposal), research, and other area group and department requirements.  Area group chairs will send a letter to each student following these faculty meetings indicating (A) whether the student is in satisfactory progress or not (see below) along with the associated reasoning and (B) the expectations laid out by the mentor, mentoring committee, and area group for what satisfactory progress will look like over the coming year.

Students can enter a state of unsatisfactory progress at any time. Note that students who did not meet the expectations laid out in the year prior are not necessarily automatically entered into unsatisfactory progress.  Instead, the underlying reasons will be taken into account by the mentor, mentoring committee, area group, and faculty and judged accordingly (e.g., if delays were caused by things outside of a students’ control such as major illnesses, unexpected issues with research, etc.).

Students who are determined to be making unsatisfactory progress will receive a letter from their area group chair and the Associate Chair for Graduate Studies outlining concerns raised by faculty, with information about how (and by when) students must address the concerns. Once the concerns are addressed, the student will enter a state of satisfactory progress.

If a student does not address concerns outlined in the letter by the indicated deadlines, the Psychology Department will then inform the Graduate School that the student is not making satisfactory progress. At that point, the student may be asked to leave the program entirely and may also be ineligible to receive university funding (TA-ships and fellowships).

At the University of Wisconsin–Madison, departments set their own standards and policies for determining and informing students about their progress. However, the Graduate School does have minimum requirements for satisfactory progress (see here: https://grad.wisc.edu/documents/satisfactory-progress/). Note in particular the Graduate School’s requirement that students maintain a minimum graduate GPA of 3.00 in any coursework taken as a graduate student.