General Policies and Practices

A) Administration of the Graduate Program:

1) The Graduate School: The LAAS Graduate Program operates within the general policies and practices of the Graduate School. Details pertaining to the general regulations and organization of the Graduate School are outlined in the Constitution and Bulletin of the Graduate School; both faculty and graduate students should be familiar with these documents. Information summarized in this document is provided as an additional guide to those specifically concerned with advanced studies in Soil Science at the University of Minnesota.

2) The Graduate Advisory Committee and Director of Graduate Studies: The general policies of the graduate program are established by the LAAS Graduate Faculty, and are administered by the Graduate Advisory Committee and the Directors of Graduate Studies. The Committee is concerned with a number of activities aimed at serving both faculty and graduate students in the maintenance of academic standards without impinging on the student-advisor relationship. Problems related to the progress of a graduate student may be directed to the Committee by either the student or faculty advisor. The Director(s) of Graduate Studies chairs the Graduate Advisory Committee, and is the facilitator for a range of program activities, and signatory for most program documents. Membership of the Graduate Advisory Committee is as follows: The graduate advisory committee for the Land and Atmospheric Sciences program is made up of five members of the faculty in the program plus the Director(s) of Graduate Studies, and a representative for the graduate students in the program. The five members span the disciplines in the program, with a minimum of 2 members each from the atmospheric and the soils faculty. The members serve terms of 3 years.

B) Selection of Candidates for Graduate Studies:

Student Recruitment Procedures

Students will be recruited by the graduate committee and members of the graduate program. Faculty members with grant funding for the student will assume the main responsibility of recruitment. The program will use web based material along with materials being developed with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Natural Resources Sciences for recruitment. The website and promotional materials will be overseen by the DGS.

1) Applications for Admission to the Graduate School and for Financial Assistance: Forms for application for admission to the Graduate School and for financial assistance are available by contacting the Department of Soil, Water, and Climate, 439 Borlaug Hall, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN 55108-6028. Applications for admission to the Graduate School are returned to the Graduate School, 309 Johnston Hall, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, Minnesota 55455; while applications for financial assistance, along with three letters of recommendation, and other program specific materials are returned to the Director of Graduate Studies, Department of Soil, Water, and Climate at the address given above.

2) Evaluation and Selection of Applicants: Applicants judged as qualified by the Graduate School and by Graduate Advisory Committee are recommended for admission to the Director of Graduate Studies, who subsequently makes a recommendation to the Graduate School, which will only question recommendations for acceptance of a student when that student's grades or GRE scores fall significantly below the preferred standards established by the program. The Graduate School will notify the applicant of the decision to accept or reject, but subsequent information on the conditions of appointment and the possibility of financial support will be supplied by the program. The formal review process will normally take 4-6 weeks, once all documents have been received.

This formal application selection procedure does not preclude faculty members from making preliminary contacts, interviews, and evaluation of potential applicants; these types of contacts are encouraged, particularly if the applicant seeks funding. However, it should be made clear to the applicant during this process that any tentative commitments are subject to approval of the Departmental Graduate Advisory Committee, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Graduate School.

3) Basis of acceptance into the Graduate Program of Land and Atmospheric Sciences: To be considered as acceptable for admission into the Graduate Program in Land and Atmospheric Sciences, we prefer applicants who are competent in English speaking and writing, have a minimum undergraduate GPA of 3.0 out of 4.0 and have achieved scores in the Verbal, Quantitative, and Analytical sections of the Graduate Record Exam (GRE) which would place them in the 50 th percentile or higher for each section of this exam. However, each applicant will be judged on their overall record with trends in the student's performance in upper division courses, in those courses most pertinent to their emphasis area, or to superior scores in the Quantitative and Analytical sections of the GRE, considered especially important in marginal cases.

International students for whom English is a second language must show academic qualifications equivalent to a GPA of 3.0 out of 4.0. They should also provide evidence that they ranked in the top 20 % of the graduating class. Such students will also be expected to demonstrate English proficiency equivalent to achieving a Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) score meeting the Graduate School minimum (a score of at least 79 on the Internet-based TOEFL with section scores of 21 on writing and 19 on reading [550 on the paper-based test]). Scores of at least 4 on the Test of Written English (TWE) are also recommended. These scores are not, in themselves, sufficient to permit the student to undertake unrestricted coursework, but are considered adequate for limited coursework on topics familiar to the student.

Applicants who do not meet the preferred standards stated above, but who are judged to have sufficient academic strength to warrant their admission to the M.S. program, may be accepted on conditional status. If accepted on conditional status, the following conditions will prevail:

a. a faculty advisor will be assigned on a temporary basis,
b. the academic record will be reviewed each semester by the Graduate Advisory
c. unsatisfactory progress in coursework will result in termination of graduate enrollment,
d. conditional appointments normally will not carry stipends for at least the first semester.
The conditional appointment may not extend beyond two semesters. Within this period, the student must be cleared of conditional status by the Graduate Advisory Committee and must have made final arrangements for a faculty advisor.

Applicants to the LAAS PhD program are expected to have an MS degree or equivalent in a related field of science. Students with a BS degree and outstanding scholarship can request direct admission to the LAAS PhD program. Each request will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Graduate Advisory Committee. Evidence of outstanding scholarship may include: peer-reviewed publications, a pre-doctoral fellowship, a National Science Foundation PhD Fellowship, high GPA/GRE scores, or strong previous research experience. Current MS candidates who exhibit outstanding scholarship may request transfer to a PhD degree program after completion of their first two semesters of coursework.

4) Diversity: The Graduate School embraces the University of Minnesota's position that promoting and supporting diversity among the student body is central to the academic mission of the University. We define diversity to encompass many characteristics including economic disadvantage, special talents, evidence of leadership qualities, race or ethnicity, a strong work record, and disability. A diverse student body enriches graduate education by providing a multiplicity of views and perspectives that enhance research, teaching, and the development of new knowledge. A diverse mix of students promotes respect for, and opportunities to learn from others with the broad range of backgrounds and experiences that constitute modern society. Higher education trains the next generation of leaders of academia and society in general, and such opportunities for leadership should be accessible to all members of society. The Graduate School and its constituent graduate programs are therefore committed to providing equal access to educational opportunities through recruitment, admission, and support programs that promote diversity, foster successful academic experiences, and cultivate the leaders of the next generation.

5) Financial Support: While acceptance into the Graduate School is a requirement for receiving financial assistance, Graduate School admission does not automatically assure the availability of such assistance. Financial assistance is most frequently in the form of research or teaching assistantships that are awarded to the best qualified applicants. Because research assistantships are generally funded by award of external research grants, their availability is difficult to predict; consequently, availability will vary from time to time. Most assistantship stipends are based on
0.5 FTE (full-time equivalent) appointments, although appointments between 0.25 and 0.5 time may be made on occasion. Advanced student may be eligible for appointment at a higher FTE rate under some circumstances. Half-time research assistants are expected to carry out research activities during the period of their stipend. The actual time spent on such activities varies, and in some cases, such as summer, may be more than 20 hours per week. The schedule of research is worked out with the advisor. While research assistantship appointments do not accumulate vacation time, sometime each year away from the daily routine is encouraged for all students. Students should work with their advisor in making arrangements for such time.

Retention of regular appointment is contingent on continued registration and satisfactory performance in the academic, research, and teaching aspects of the graduate program and the availability of assistantship funds. You must register each semester that the appointment is held during the academic year. Registration during the summer session is not required.

Graduate students not on a regular assistantship may be supported by fellowships administered by the Graduate School or by non-University agencies, and some may be self-supporting. The same standards of performance and the same obligations to assist in teaching activities pertain to all graduate students in Land and Atmospheric Sciences irrespective of status of financial support.

6) Prerequisites: Student course admission prerequisites are as shown below. Students admitted with deficiencies would be provided with a list of courses they are required to take before the completion of their degree. This list would be developed by the Directors of Graduate Studies Program in consultation with the student's faculty advisor.

Basic Sciences

Students are expected to have taken a minimum of four of the following courses (or their equivalent): Calculus I (Math 1271 or Math 1142), Linear Algebra (Math 2243), Physics I (Phys 1011) and II (Phys 1012 or ES 3131), Intro Biology (Biol 1009), Chemistry I (Chem 1021) and II (Chem 1022), or Intro Statistics (STAT 3011).

Environmental Sciences

Students are expected to have taken a minimum of two of the following (or similar) courses: Issues in Environment (ESPM 1011), The Atmosphere (ESPM 1425), Intro Soils (Soil 2125), Earth and Its Environments (Geol 1001), Intro Microbiology (ESPM 3612 or Microb 3301), or Intro Ecology (Biol 3407).

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