Graduate Advisers

Advising is split up here in a somewhat complex fashion.  There are three sources:

Your faculty academic adviser

In your first year in the graduate program, your adviser will be the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS), until you specify otherwise.  During your first year, you shop around, make appointments, and pick an adviser for the longer term.

If you are a second year student, and have not officially picked an adviser, well, you should have! But officially, your adviser is the DGS until you pick.

Your faculty adviser knows most about the field, about your area of specialization, and how to pursue an academic career.  As a first-year, you should meet with him/her at least once a quarter. All students meet with their advisers at the beginning of the quarter to review and get signatures on their study lists. More senior students should meet with their advisers more often, sometimes weekly.  There are two reasons:

  • Your adviser needs to know what you are up to, otherwise (s)he will tend to worry.
  • Once you begin your own research program, it is vital that you regularly review what you are doing with your adviser.  This brings two benefits.  First, by presenting your thoughts/results/speculations to your adviser, you will develop and clarify them in your own mind.  Second, your adviser might be able to make useful suggestions, pointers to the literature, etc.  Regular meetings with the adviser are a normal part of graduate school beyond the initial coursework.  To do otherwise is considered very poor strategy.

The Department Student Affairs Officer (SAO)

The SAO has training in academic advising, and can give you useful advice from some very different angles. For one thing, (s)he knows the rules and regulations (very few faculty can be counted on to know them solidly).  In addition, (s)he knows what other students have experienced and is in a good position to consider things from your perspective.  (S)he is also the most closely connected with University bureaucracy on questions of graduate student funding.  The SAO also advises students on the forms needed to progress through the graduate program.

The SAO can relay complaints, comments, and questions to the Director of Graduate Studies anonymously, if you wish.  Sometimes this is useful.

One specific SAO-item:  if you get an Alarming, Unjustified Bill from UCLA, first check your URSA account on the Web.  Often the bill you were mailed is outdated, and is already corrected on the computer. If your on-line bill is definitely in error, send the SAO an e-mail with a description of the possible problem, and (s)he will investigate further.

The Director of Graduate Studies (DGS)

The DGS is a faculty member appointed to oversee the graduate program.  The DGS serves several functions:

  • Provide advising back-up for the advice given by the above two sources.
  • Serve as a default adviser for second year students who have not yet found their own adviser.
  • Conduct those parts of faculty meetings that review graduate students, including the major review meeting at the end of the year.
  • Serve as Admissions Director.
  • Watch over graduate student funding:   monitor and encourage fellowships, allocate TAships and other support, distribute travel money for conferences.