A third semester exam intended to evaluate a Ph.D. student’s understanding of the core ENVS areas: ethics, science and policy
The preliminary exam in ENVS is intended to evaluate a Ph.D. student’s understanding of the core ENVS areas: ethics, science and policy. The exam must be taken during a student’s third semester and after completion of the three core courses. The exam format consists of a 3-page document oriented around a potential thesis topic, a short 10-15 minute presentation and an oral examination by a committee. The combination of the presentation and oral examination will take approximately 2 hours. The student is responsible for scheduling the meeting and for reserving the room in which the meeting will be held. He or she is also responsible for giving this document to each member of the exam committee along with a description of one’s graduate course work. The student’s advisor should complete the 3rd semester exam form during the meeting and return this to the Graduate Coordinator in IBS 5 following the meeting.
Written Component (3 pages, single-sided and single-spaced):
The student should describe the ethical, scientific and policy issues related to their potential thesis topic. Ethical issues may include the framework in which the issue is defined and the ethical implications of the potential thesis topic. The science component may include a focus on the nature and scope of the proposed thesis topic. The policy dimension could include the definition of the policy context and options involved in the issue. This document should not (and cannot) be a comprehensive evaluation of a particular environmental issue. Students will be examined on their ability to develop an interdisciplinary and coherent approach to an environmental issue. Students should strive for balance between the ethical, science and policy aspects of their topic for the purposes of this exam and should articulate how these three components fit together in the context of their research area. The written preliminary exam should be submitted to each committee member one week before the oral exam.
Oral presentation (10-15 minutes):
The student should prepare a 10-15 minute overview of their potential research topic that broadly describes the research area and then focuses on the topics covered in the written portion of the preliminary exam.
Students will be questioned broadly on their research area. The goal of the oral exam is not to develop fine details of the Ph.D. thesis research but rather to (1) evaluate the student’s ability to view their proposed research from a wider prospective, including (but not limited to) ethical, scientific and policy perspectives; and (2) to evaluate the student’s mastery of fundamental knowledge and tools they will need to complete their research. The committee evaluations will be based on the student’s ability to articulate clearly the interdisciplinary components of their topic area, the student’s command of knowledge in areas directly relevant to their proposed research, and whether the student has a balanced understanding of how the three core areas of the ENVS curriculum impact their research area.
A committee is composed of three (3) people, including the student's primary advisor and two additional faculty members. The goal of the prelim is to test a student's understanding of science, policy, and values so the committee should include representation of a diversity of these perspectives.
Examination criteria and possible outcomes:
Pass: A passing grade will be assigned for student who demonstrates a mastery of the three core ENVS requirements at the level presented in ENVS 5000, 5001, and 5002. A key element of an unconditional pass of the preliminary exam is a demonstrated ability to articulate the role of ethics, policy and science in both the theory and applied aspects of environmental studies.
Conditional Pass: A student will be required to take additional requirements prior to undergoing their prospectus defense if the committee feels the student is deficient in one of the core areas of the ENVS curriculum. In addition, the committee may assign additional course work if it feels that a student may require that course work to successfully complete their dissertation research in the ENVS program
Fail: A student who fails the preliminary exam will not be allowed to continue in the program. A student may fail the preliminary exam if a committee determines that they are unlikely to successfully complete a Ph.D. in ENVS.
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