Supervisory committee

Once it has been formally appointed, your supervisory committee takes over the role of your faculty adviser and guides your program of study through conferral of the doctoral degree. You are encouraged, in your second quarter of the program, to begin interviewing faculty members who might serve as your Supervisory Chairperson and/or on your supervisory committee and to finalize your committee early in your second year of study. Your initial faculty adviser may or may not be part of your supervisory committee—this decision an open one for students.

Role of your supervisory committee

The supervisory committee:

  1. picks up where the faculty adviser left off, advises and mentors the student through the remainder of the doctoral program, working together with the student to discuss and plan choices in course work and dissertation work and to explore specific areas of study that will support individual educational goals;
  2. submits, through the chair, quarterly progress notes to the student’s file;
  3. evaluates the proposed program of study using a set of established guidelines;
  4. formally approves the student’s program of study for the student file;
  5. conducts oral and written General Examinations;
  6. guides research for the dissertation; and
  7. recommends the dissertation for approval and the student for the doctoral degree.

The supervisory committee must meet at least three times: to approve the program of study, to conduct the general examination (GSR must be present), and to conduct the final examination (GSR must be present). Although not required, committees may also meet to approve the dissertation proposal by using the Dissertation Approval Form.

Composition of your supervisory committee

All PhD supervisory committees must meet the requirements of Graduate School Memorandum No. 13. You can search for Graduate Faculty online.

Consider the ability of selected members to work together as well as required expertise. You and your Committee will develop approaches of working together that blend your individual needs as well as academic scholarship guidance and evaluation expected of the Committee by the University. Ongoing discussions, negotiations and clarifications of strategies and expectations are important processes between you and you Committee to assure the best functioning for meeting overall goals.

Steps in the selection of your supervisory committee

  1. Read Graduate School Memorandum No. 13, as well as Considerations for Selecting a Supervisory Committee Chair and Members.
  2. During the first year of your doctoral program, talk with your faculty adviser about members of the faculty who share your research interests, and might potentially be appropriate to guide your dissertation research.
  3. Interview graduate faculty who share your research and methodological interests to consider who might be an appropriate chair for your supervisory committee. Remember, your prospective chairperson is selected first.
  4. You and your prospective chairperson will identify likely candidates for the rest of the committee. Consider the ability of potential members to work together as well as their required expertise.
  5. Interview potential supervisory committee members and confirm their willingness to serve as a member of your supervisory committee.
  6. Submit a written letter of request for the appointment of your supervisory committee to Dr. Anne Hirsch, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, at with a copy to yourself and to Graduate Program Adviser Betsy Mau, (no hard copies will be reviewed). If you select committee members from outside the University of Washington, you must include a justification for that member’s selection in your letter of request. His or her contact information and curriculum vitae should be included.
  7. Submit a completed Use of Human and Animal Subjects for UW Graduate Student Theses and Dissertations form to Student and Academic Services. This form is required whether or not your research will require an IRB review. If you are unsure about whether or not your research will require IRB approval, speak to your committee chair and consult these guidelines. If this form is not submitted, final approval of your committee is delayed until the form is received.
  8. The Associate Dean for Academic Affairs is the School of Nursing Graduate Program Coordinator. The Associate Dean will review your letter of request and forward it, via Student and Academic Services, to the Graduate School for appointment and approval of the individual committee members.
  9. Your supervisory committee is appointed by the Dean of the Graduate School.
  10. Establish a schedule of regular appointments with your supervisory chair in order to enhance progression in your program of study within your time frame for completion.

Reading committee

After you finish writing your dissertation, your reading committee must be appointed. The purpose of the reading committee is to determine your readiness for your final examination. The Chairperson of your supervisory committee submits a memo to the Doctoral Student Academic Counselor in the Office of Student and Academic Services (, requesting the appointment of individuals from the supervisory committee to serve as members of the reading committee. Typically, a reading committee consists of all members of the supervisory committee except the GSR.

The reading committee must approve your dissertation and agree that you are ready for your final exam. Once your committee approves you to go forward with the exam, you must schedule your exam. All of the members of your committee must agree to the date and time of the exam. Go to the MyGrad Student View website and to schedule your final exam with the Graduate School. You must submit your request at least 10 days before the exam date. This allows time for the Graduate School to evaluate your student record.

The Reading Committee’s evaluation of your readiness for the final examination does not automatically assure passing your final examination. All members of your Supervisory Committee read your dissertation and provide feedback. All Committee members must be given at least two weeks prior to the final examination to do so. If the two-week requirement cannot be met, your defense must be rescheduled.

For more information about reading committees, please visit the UW Graduate School’s website.