Nomination and Appointment of the Defense Committee

The following rules pertain only to the final dissertation defense committee.

The responsibility for selecting and recommending the final defense committee members rests with the advisor, department or program chair, and the director of graduate studies. Students may not select their own defense committees; furthermore, students should not be placed in the position of having to ask particular faculty members to serve on their defense committees.

The doctoral defense will be conducted by a final defense committee that is composed of exactly five members. Three of the members of the final defense committee (Dissertation Defense Moderator, Dissertation Advisor, and Third Examiner) must be inside examiners (holding a formal appointment or approved as a dissertation advisor in the doctoral candidate's home department or program).

*An Assistant Professor may serve as Dissertation Defense Moderator as long as they have previously participated on a student’s dissertation defense committee.

A complete list of approved dissertation advisors is available here. At least one (but preferably two) of the five must be an outside examiner, defined as:

  1. a faculty member, clinician, or practitioner who holds a position at another university or research institution
  2. a full-time faculty member at Columbia University outside the student's own department or program
  3. a research scientist at Columbia University outside the student's own department or program
  4. an adjunct professor at Columbia University outside the student's own department or program
  5. a full-time faculty member whose appointment is at Barnard College, Jewish Theological Seminary, Teachers College, or Union Theological Seminary
  6. a full-time faculty member in the student's interdisciplinary program whose field is outside of the student's dissertation field

In cases where the "outside" member satisfies criterion 6 above, the department/program must include with the defense application a brief explanation to clarify how the fifth examiner's primary field differs from the focus of the student's dissertation.

Examiners from the list above are nominated by the department or program chair in consultation with the advisor or DGS. When submitting the Dissertation Defense Application, the department/program provides the dissertation officer with evidence of the examiner's qualifications, usually a curriculum vitae, for approval by the Dean's Office.

Final approval of the members of a final defense committee rests with the dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

When proposing defense committee members who have not been previously approved to serve on a defense committee and who

  • do not have a Columbia affiliation, and/or
  • do not serve at Columbia in an adjunct capacity, and/or
  • do not hold a PhD

PhD programs must submit to GSAS a copy of their curriculum vitae together with the Application for Dissertation Defense.