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Graduate Student Advising

Thoughtful, comprehensive advising is critical to the success of every graduate student. In this context, the word “advising” is used broadly to encompass:

Academic planning. This includes helping students map out a plan for completing the degree or certificate requirements, adjusting the plan to accommodate changes that may occur in the student’s life, and helping students meet the administrative requirements of the program and the university.

Professional development. This includes helping students make conceptual connections among courses, improve their research skills, build their professional networks, conduct research that contributes to existing knowledge within the discipline, and when appropriate make a successful transition from graduate student to working professional.

This kind of comprehensive advising requires an ongoing partnership, lasting from admission to graduation, that is based on mutual respect and understanding and in which all parties work to create a learning experience that allows students to:

  • Develop a plan for completing the degree or certificate within a reasonable time and adjust the plan when it is in the student’s best interest
  • Develop a level of expertise in a topic
  • Improve their ability to use the methods and technology of their discipline
  • Contribute as a member of a professional community of practice within their discipline
  • Engage in continued learning after graduation

At Boise State University, graduate students work with an advisor, supervisory committee, and/or procedural advisor.


Graduate students must be under the guidance of an advisor if they are not under the guidance of a supervisory committee. An advisor is a member of the graduate faculty and is appointed by the graduate program. It is permissible for the Graduate Program Coordinator to be appointed as the advisor for all students enrolled in the graduate program. It is also permissible for an advisor to guide a master’s student (but not a doctoral student) through all graduate activities except for a culminating activity that requires a supervisory committee. Once appointed, the advisor is the primary source of program information and advice and works with the student on matters related to both academic planning and professional development.

An advisor is named by the graduate program at the time of admission. However, either the program or the student may subsequently request an advisor change to best match the student’s academic interests or professional goals. Any advisor change should be the result of consultation among the student, current advisor, proposed advisor, Graduate Program Coordinator, and because of possible faculty workload considerations, the department chair. The program should inform the Graduate College of any advisor change by sending an email to

Supervisory Committee

A supervisory committee is required for any master’s student or doctoral student engaged in thesis or dissertation activity. A supervisory committee is composed of members of the graduate faculty who are appointed by the Graduate College and charged with the guidance of a student admitted to a specific graduate degree program. The committee consists of a major advisor who serves as chair plus at least two (2) but no more than four (4) additional members who are chosen to provide a broad range of knowledge and expertise to the student. No student may remain in a graduate program that requires a thesis or dissertation without a major advisor named as part of the supervisory committee. The major advisor is the primary mentor for the student and must be a member of the graduate faculty with an endorsement to chair a supervisory committee. A majority of the committee members must hold appointments in the department(s) responsible for the program or the participating departments in the case of interdisciplinary programs. In all cases, the fundamental principle is that the committee, collectively, should be constituted to provide the best possible guidance throughout the student’s career, including his or her thesis or dissertation work.

Graduate students should take an active role, working with their advisor, in identifying faculty members to serve on their supervisory committee. Once possible committee members are identified, the student completes an Appointment of Supervisory Committee form and submits it for signature by the specified committee chair and Graduate Program Coordinator. This form must include a recommended committee membership based on a reasonable match between student and faculty academic interests. The form is then submitted to the Graduate College for review. Once satisfied with the recommended committee, the Graduate Dean formally appoints the committee and sends email notifications to the Graduate Program Coordinator and the student (using the student’s Boise State email address, according to Boise State policy #2280). The Appointment of Supervisory Committee form should be submitted as early as possible in the student’s graduate career and no later than the time of submission of the Application for Admission to Candidacy (AAC) form.

A change in the membership of the supervisory committee can be made after initial appointment by submitting an updated Appointment of Supervisory Committee form. This should be done according to policies and procedures developed by the graduate program and only with the approval of the Graduate College.

Procedural Advisor

With prior approval of the Graduate College, a member of the graduate program who does not hold membership in the Graduate Faculty may be assigned to advise some or all of the students in the program on procedural issues, such as the submission of paperwork, course sequencing, and other matters related to academic planning. The actual position title assigned by the university to procedural advisors can vary from program to program.