The doctoral program in ENVS is a research-based graduate degree. Students within the program conduct research in a variety of environmental fields, usually working closely with one or more faculty advisors and committee members. The following sections outline key components of the program.
Note that the requirements for exams and committee membership were changed during 2016, so that these rules apply to students starting their degree in fall 2016. For older procedures see Pre-2016 Rules.
The PhD requires completion of 32 course credit hours (see information on transferring credits below). These include two courses required of all students: two broad introductory three-credit courses (ENVS 5000, Science Policy and Values and ENVS 5003, Theory and Methods in Environment). These courses, which are typically taken during a student’s first year, are designed to expose students to the multiple fields of study that are strengths within the ENVS program and also to expose them to interdisciplinary approaches and methods to environmental problem-solving. All students must also take two semesters of ENVS Colloquium (2 course credits), a topical seminar series. Additional course work is designed to meet a student’s individual needs and interests and is initially formulated during a student’s Guidance Committee meeting at the beginning of their first semester.
The PhD also requires 30 hours of dissertation credits and successfully preparing and defending the doctoral dissertation.
There are four major meetings and examinations that a doctoral student must complete:
3. Prospectus Defense. The prospectus defense (also known officially as “Comprehensive Exam ”) is designed to assess a Ph.D. student’s knowledge of his or her research area and specifically to evaluate a student’s dissertation research proposal. At the prospectus defense meeting, the committee also will review the student’s completion of course work assigned in previous committee meetings: a student may advance to candidacy without completing all the formally assigned coursework with the approval of the committee.
The exam should be taken in a student’s fifth semester, and no later than the sixth semester, of graduate study in ENVS. Any exceptions to this rule will require the permission of the ENVS Graduate Committee. During the semester in which a student plans to defend the dissertation prospectus, an Admission to Candidacy application must be completed and approved by the faculty advisor and the Graduate Director, and submitted to the Graduate School at least three weeks before the prospectus defense. The Graduate Coordinator will also submit a Doctoral Exam report at this time to inform the Graduate School about the date of the exam and the composition of the committee.
The Prospectus Defense Committee is made up of five people, including the student’s primary advisor and four other members who are approved by the ENVS Graduate Committee and who are in a field related to the student’s area of research. Three of the members must be CU-Boulder Graduate Faculty and one must be from outside the ENVS program. The primary advisor and outside member of the committee must have regular or tenured Graduate Faculty appointments. The other committee members must have either regular or special Graduate Faculty appointments. For committee members not on the CU-Boulder faculty roster, students must submit a CV to the graduate school and request a "Special Appointment to the Graduate Faculty." Please consult the Graduate Coordinator for details.
At least two weeks before the scheduled meeting the student must submit to the dissertation committee a research proposal on the dissertation topic. A copy of this proposal must be submitted to every member of the committee. Students are strongly encouraged to consult with committee members and particularly their advisors as they prepare this document. The research proposal should include the following categories:
This document must be limited to 15 single-spaced pages, including figures and tables, but excluding references.
The student should prepare a 20-minute formal presentation on his/her research progress and research plan that will be presented at the exam meeting. The presentation should be of a format acceptable at a national professional meeting, should highlight the questions addressed by the student’s research, and include sufficient details on methods to be analyzed by the committee.
At the exam meeting, the student will deliver his or her presentation, to be followed by a discussion of the research presented by the student. Committee members will also probe the student’s knowledge of the contemporary and historical literature relating to the student’s proposed research. Students are encouraged to seek advice from all Prospectus Defense Committee members about their expectations concerning subject matter and level of knowledge for this exam. No restrictions are placed upon committee members with regard to subject matter relevant to the dissertation topic. The combination of the presentation and oral examination will take approximately two hours.
Following the exam, the committee should complete the Doctoral Examination report and return it to the Graduate Coordinator, and list one of three outcomes:
Pass: No additional requirements. Successful candidates must receive affirmative votes from a majority of the members of the committee.
Conditional Pass: A student receiving a conditional pass will be required to take additional requirements as required by the examining committee and will not pass the exam until they complete these requirements. A conditional pass will be assigned if a student 1) fails to demonstrate a sufficient understanding of the literature in their core research area, and/or 2) fails to articulate the motivation and design of their Ph.D. research in either the proposal or during the oral examination.
Fail: A student who fails the prospectus defense will either be asked to leave the program or required to retake the prospectus defense. A student may only re-defend once.
4. Dissertation. A doctoral student writes a dissertation based upon original investigation and showing mature scholarship and critical judgment as well as familiarity with tools and methods of research. The subject must be approved by the student’s major department.
In addition, the doctoral dissertation should meet the following conditions:
The final grade for dissertation credits taken by a student is withheld until the dissertation is completed. In progress (IP) grades are assigned during each semester until the defense is successfully completed and the final copy of the dissertation is accepted by the examination committee, at which time the final grade for all dissertation hours is submitted to the Graduate School.
5. Dissertation Defense. The final step in a PhD is defense of the doctoral dissertation. Several steps must be followed for a valid dissertation defense meeting to be held:
Following the defense meeting the committee votes on the outcome. More than one dissenting vote disqualifies the candidate. The committee chair and a majority of the committee must be present on the Boulder campus for the examination. A student who fails the examination may attempt it once more after a period of time determined by the examining committee.
Transfer credits from accredited institutions are accepted by CU Boulder only after approval by the faculty advisor and ENVS Graduate Director. A maximum of 21 transfer credits are accepted towards the PhD degree. Transfer credit is defined as any credit earned at another accredited institution, credits earned on another campus of the CU system, or credits earned as a non-degree student within the CU system. Students earning a master’s degree at CU Boulder may apply all 5000 level or above course work towards their PhD electives with the approval of the ENVS Graduate Committee. Course transfer credit from courses taken at other universities or for online courses taken at the University of Colorado cannot be counted toward the fulfillment of Common Core Requirements, Secondary Core Requirements, or Required Interdisciplinary Electives.
Time Limit. PhD degree students have 6 years to complete all degree requirements. Students who fail to complete the degree in this six-year period may be dismissed from their program with the concurrence of the advisor. To continue, the student must file a petition for an extension of the time limit with the Dean of the Graduate School.
Online Graduation Application. Students must apply online to graduate. To do this, logon to myCUinfo.colorado.edu. On the Student tab, select the Apply for Graduation link under Academic Resources. This notifies the Graduate School and your department that you intend to graduate, and it provides necessary information to the Commencement Office for ordering and shipping diplomas. If you do not complete requirements for the graduation you indicate on the online application, you must apply online to graduate for the new graduation date. You must apply to graduate online whether or not you plan to attend the ceremony.
Graduation Forms & Information. The Graduate School has gathered important information required for graduation on its website. A deadline sheet and admission to candidacy form are included. Students should consult this website starting the semester before graduation in order to avoid missing important deadlines that will delay graduation.