Mentoring Graduate Students - Roles and Responsibilities

As faculty members in the College of Music, one of our major responsibilities is the mentoring of graduate students. The CoM enrolls approximately five hundred and fifty graduate students across its seven degree programs: MM, Jazz Studies; MMEd, Music Education; MA, Music; PhD, Music Education; PhD, Music; and DMA, Performance. While the sheer size and quality of our graduate programs offer unparalleled opportunities for artistic and intellectual achievement, the complexity of their requirements and procedures can be daunting! This webpage provides an introduction to the various roles and responsibilities associated with graduate mentoring in the CoM. In so doing, it provides a brief guide to relevant terminology and procedures, which may differ in ways large and small from those of other institutions. It focuses on the mentoring of MM and DMA students, who make up the bulk of our graduate student population. The other degree programs mentioned above typically feature analogous requirements.

The Advisory Committee

A student’s advisory committee comprises at least three faculty members:
  1. The major professor serves as the committee chair and the student’s primary faculty mentor. For students in applied areas, the major professor is usually (but not necessarily) the studio teacher.
  2. The related-field professor represents the student’s related field (on which see below). Most degrees, including the MM and DMA, require a related field, but for those that don’t the related-field professor is replaced by a second committee member typically drawn from the student’s area of study. 
  3. The third committee member is typically drawn from the student’s area of study.
  4. Students may elect to include a fourth committee member on their committee.

The advisory committee is responsible for administering the final comprehensive exam (in the case of MM students) and the qualifying exams (in the case of DMA students). It also guides the final thesis (for MA students) and dissertation (for PhD and DMA students) from the submission of the proposal to the final oral defense.

The advisory committee should not be confused with recital committees, which usually comprise three faculty members from the student’s applied area and are chaired by the major professor. Some recital committees also include the related-field professor.

Graduate Faculty Status

All faculty members who formally mentor graduate students must be members of the University Graduate Faculty. Tenure-track / tenured faculty are typically full members, which allows them to serve as a major professor and thus chair an advisory committee. Lecturers and adjuncts are eligible for associate membership only, which allows them to serve as related-field professor or as a committee member. Division chairs are responsible for nominating new faculty for full or associate membership. Nominations are reviewed by the College of Music Graduate Council and forwarded to the Toulouse Graduate School.

Curriculum Committees

  • The Graduate Performance Degree Committee (GPDC) comprises eight faculty members from the various performance areas as well as one each from music history and music theory. It reviews proposed changes to the MM and DMA degrees as well as student petitions for curricular exceptions. Finally, the GPDC reviews all DMA topic proposals and pre-proposals. Analogous curriculum committees exist for the following areas: composition; jazz studies; music history, theory and ethnomusicology; and music education.
  • The College of Music Graduate Council is the preeminent curriculum committee in the college and comprises faculty members from all degree areas (performance, composition, music education, jazz studies, and music history/theory/ethnomusicology) as well as two elected at-large members, and the College of Music representative on the UNT Graduate Council. It reviews proposed curricular changes to all graduate degrees in music as well as nominations for membership in the graduate faculty.
  • The University Graduate Council comprises faculty members from across the university, including one representative from the College of Music. It reviews proposed changes to all graduate degrees throughout the university.

N.B. If you wish to propose a change to MM or DMA degrees, including the creation of a new course or revision of an existing one, please discuss your proposal first with your division chair, who must approve all proposed changes before they advance to the curriculum committees, as well as with the director of graduate studies.


As a graduate mentor, you will be called upon to sign forms certifying various student milestones (see below). Never sign a form if you feel unable to certify its accuracy and/or have not had adequate time to review a relevant document (e.g. a topic proposal or thesis). If you are traveling or otherwise unable to sign a form, you may signal your approval by sending an email to the Graduate Academic Counselor, Dr. Brian Cheesman.

Student Milestones

Graduate students progress through various milestones as they pursue their degrees. Some of the most significant are:

  • The Degree Plan is a formal contract between the student and the university specifying the courses (s)he will take to fulfill the degree requirements. Students are bound by the degree requirements in effect in the year that the degree plan is approved. They must submit their degree plan before they complete their second semester of study. The degree plan requires the signature of the major professor, the CoM Director of Graduate Studies, and the dean of the Toulouse Graduate School. 
  • The Committee Form indicates the composition of the advisory committee and requires the signature of all committee members as well as the CoM Director of Graduate Studies and the dean of the Toulouse Graduate School.
  • The final oral exam (for MM students) is an exam conducted by the student’s advisory committee and must occur after the master’s recital but before the graduate school’s semester deadline for filing oral exam results. Master’s students in jazz studies are the exception as they typically take their exam before their recital.
  • The Qualifying Exams (for DMA students) are taken when the following conditions are met: the student has 1) satisfied all review and/or leveling courses; 2) has completed thirty hours of graduate coursework beyond the master’s degree; 3) has completed two degree recitals (in the case of performance majors); 4) has an approved degree plan filed with the Toulouse Graduate School. Part I consists of one written examination in the student’s major field (six hours) and one in his or her related field (three hours). Once the student has passed Part I, he or she advances to Part II, which consists of a two-hour oral comprehensive exam that includes questions on the written examinations and on all other areas appropriate to the degree. The major professor coordinates the qualifying exams with the other members of the advisory committee. All members of the committee grade the exams.
  • The dissertation (for DMA students) consists of three recitals and a final project, which comprises: 1) a lecture/recital (50–60 minutes) with performance and critical essay (a minimum of 6,250 words); 2) a lecture (50–60 minutes) with critical essay (a minimum of 10,000 words); or 3) one thesis (a minimum of 25,000 words). Whichever option the student chooses, he or she must submit a topic proposal for approval by the GPDC before embarking on the critical essay or thesis. Detailed guidelines for the topic proposal are available here. Students who choose the first and second option must submit a complete draft of the critical essay to the advisory committee at least one month before the scheduled date of the lecture/recital or lecture. The committee members will provide the student with feedback for revisions no later than two weeks before that same date.
  • Graduate students are required to share the TurnItIn document with their committees to review for instances of plagiarism before the student passes the defense and submits the dissertation to the Director of Graduate Studies.   Dissertations which contain plagiarism will not be approved for submission to the Toulouse Graduate School.   Nearly everything is searchable on the internet, and this step is paramount to uphold our university’s high standard of scholarly work by our students.  This step protects our students and our institution.        
  • According to UNT’s Academic Integrity policy and the definition of plagiarism  UNT Policy 06.003 Student Academic Integrity):  “’Plagiarism,’ in this policy, means use of another’s thoughts or words without proper attribution in any academic exercise, regardless of the student’s intent, including but not limited to:  1. the knowing or negligent use by paraphrase or direct quotation of the published or unpublished work of another person without full and clear acknowledgement or citation, or 2. the knowing or negligent unacknowledged use of materials prepared by another person or by an agency engaged in selling term papers or other academic materials.” 

    o   Plagiarism is a serious matter, and offenses can lead to dismissal from the academic program or the university.  See UNT’s policy here:  Academic Integrity | Office of the Provost (

    o   How to interpret TurnItIn reports: 

    §  Helpful examples/ how to identify plagarism in TurnItIn reports:  examples-from-turnitin.pdf (

    §  Guide to using the TurnItIn report: 

  • The oral defense (for DMA students) is a two-hour exam pertaining to the dissertation and conducted by the advisory committee. Once the student has passed the oral defense, he or she must submit the critical essay or thesis to the Graduate Studies Office for the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies and the Dean of the College of Music no less than two weeks before the graduate school’s semester graduation deadline. Interpreting the Similarity Report | Canvas Plagiarism Framework (

Time Limits

Master’s students must complete their degree within five years from the date from which first master’s credit was earned. Doctoral students must complete their degree no more than eight years from which their first doctoral credit was earned.

Important Sources for Information

This webpage provides only an introduction to graduate mentoring at UNT. Please consult the following websites for more detailed requirements and guidelines:

Theses and Dissertations provides information concerning Theses and Dissertation Guidelines.

Theses Manual provides information concerning Theses Submissions to the Toulouse Graduate School.

Academic Integrity/ UNT Teaching Commons provides information concerning mentoring graduate students across campus.

Toulouse Graduate School provides information concerning workshops and funding available to graduate students across campus as well as important deadlines for graduation.

Graduate Catalog for comprehensive degree requirements and course offerings in music and throughout the university.

College of Music Graduate Studies Website for degree handbooks, forms, and other information relevant to graduate students and their mentors.

The Graduate Studies Staff: please contact us with any questions or concerns you might have or direct your students to do so at any time!

Dr. Jaymee Haefner, Director of Graduate Studies; (940) 565-3721

Dr. Colleen Conlon, Senior Graduate Academic Counselor; (940) 565-2930

Dr. Brian Cheesman, Graduate Academic Counselor; (940) 369-7772