Early in their graduate career, students should consult with a faculty advisor or the Director of Graduate Studies regarding departmental procedures for the appointment of sponsors of dissertations. The procedures for appointing a sponsor vary from program to program; in some programs, the responsibility for finding a willing sponsor rests with the student.
Dissertation sponsors are faculty members approved by Ph.D. programs and the Executive Committee of GSAS to guide dissertation research and to participate at the defense. The sponsor must be involved on a continuing basis in doctoral instruction and research at Columbia. Consult the Approved Dissertation Sponsors page for a list of all eligible sponsors.
Faculty are expected to sponsor dissertations not only in their own specialized field of current research interest but in other subjects in which they have command of pertinent literature and/or research.
Sponsorship Eligibility and Nomination
Nominations for new sponsors are normally initiated by departments or programs. The categories of eligibility to sponsor and the nomination procedure for each are listed below:
Regular Full-time Tenured Faculty who hold an appointment within a GSAS department or doctoral program subcommittee or within an affiliated school (e.g., Barnard College) are nominated by the Chair of the Department or Doctoral Program Subcommittee. A letter of nomination from the Chair and an up-to-date curriculum vitae of the nominee are submitted to Associate Dean Beatrice Terrien (such nominations are normally determined at the time of initial appointment and nomination to a seat on the Faculty of the Graduate School.) The letter should indicate that the nominated sponsor is substantially involved on a continuing basis in graduate education and research.
Regular Full-time Non-Tenured Faculty holding an appointment with a GSAS department/program are nominated by the Department/Program Chair. A letter from the Chair and an up-to-date curriculum vitae are submitted to the Associate Dean for approval.
The nomination letter should contain the following:
- A statement as to whether approval is requested on a continuing basis or for a single dissertation (in which case the student's name should be noted)
- Indication of the substantive fields in which the faculty member will be expected to sponsor dissertations
- Other evidence, where appropriate, that the proposed sponsor has the requisite scholarly qualifications to guide dissertation research in these areas
- An explanation of specific arrangements for continuing dissertation guidance and sponsorship should the faculty member leave
- Indication that the nominated sponsor is substantially involved on a continuing basis in graduate education and research. The curriculum vitae of the proposed sponsor should be attached to the letter
Whenever possible, non-tenured faculty members should not sponsor a dissertation alone; instead, they should act as co-sponsors with a tenured faculty member.
Adjunct faculty in GSAS departments/programs are eligible to serve as sponsors, provided that a full-time Columbia faculty member who is an approved sponsor serves as a co-sponsor and accepts that designation as a genuine responsibility. The co-sponsorship proviso reflects the Executive Committee's conviction that all Columbia University dissertations should be sponsored or co-sponsored by regular full-time faculty members. The same departmental procedures should be followed in the nomination of adjunct faculty for dissertation sponsorship as for regular full-time non-tenured faculty.