Choosing a faculty member for your thesis committee
Thesis committees are typically composed of a Thesis Advisor from your major department, an Honors Council Representative from your major department, and a third committee member from outside your major department, usually referred to as the Outside Reader. Your thesis advisor is different from your Academic Advisor, and is always a faculty member. While Academic Advisors are your best resource for planning out your course schedules and making sure you're on track to graduate with all the credits you need, when it comes to working on your thesis, you should direct your questions to your thesis advisor, Honors Council Representative, other members of your committee, or the Honors Program staff.
Thesis committee makeup can vary, but committees must always include at least three eligible members of the CU Boulder faculty (see Thesis Committee Policy below) in the roles of thesis advisor, Honors Council representative, and outside/third reader. You are welcome to have additional members on your committee, provided they meet the eligibility requirements. We recommend that you have no more than 5 members, as it becomes quite difficult to coordinate that many schedules when it's time for you to schedule your defense.
To be eligible to serve on a thesis committee, one must be a regular full-time faculty member or a multi-year contract instructor involved in an instructional program at the University of Colorado Boulder. In terms of rank, this means Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Teaching Associate Professor (Senior Instructor), or Teaching Assistant Professor (Instructor). Additionally, faculty must hold a terminal degree in their field (usually a Ph.D.), and should have experience teaching or mentoring undergraduate students. Graduate students are not eligible to serve.
Faculty Eligible to Serve
*This is NOT a complete list of faculty who are eligible to serve; this is simply a list of faculty who have served previously and were verified as eligible at that time. Please note that eligibility can change as circumstances with faculty change (for example, a faculty member changes rostered departments or leaves the university).
If you do not see a faculty member in this list and would like them to serve on your committee, you will need to verify their eligibility to serve. Please see the information outlined in the "Eligibility Requirements" paragraph above to get a feel for the criteria, and then look up information on your faculty member. A great resource to check eligibility is experts.colorado.edu. You can also check the People page of most departments to learn more. If you think they meet the criteria, email us at email@example.com with their name and we will verify it for you. The Honors Program makes the final determination on the eligibility of faculty members to serve. Departmental approval of a committee member will still require verification by the Honors Program.
More about the different committee roles
There are three positive signs that a professor might make a good thesis advisor for you: They are well-versed in the particular field of study you wish to investigate, you’ve taken or are taking a class or lab with them and are doing well, and you like them as a person and would be excited to work with them. You will be working closely with them throughout the project, so a good working relationship is very beneficial.
When you meet with prospective thesis advisors, don’t be afraid to ask for what you need. Be direct - ask how often they'd be willing to meet with you, how many drafts they'd be able to read and critique, and what kinds of expectations they would have of you. They will probably also have questions for you about why you'd like to write a thesis, what you hope to get from the process, and why you'd like to work with them.
If you're having trouble finding a thesis advisor, talk to your Honors Council representative.
Honors Council Representative
The Honors Council is a body of faculty made up of representatives from each Honors Program-participating department within the College of Arts and Sciences. Honors Council Representatives are responsible for making sure students follow the policies, procedures, and deadlines set forth by the Honors Program, as well as any additional policies and procedures the department has enacted, such as thesis format, research methods, and thesis class requirements. When planning to write a thesis, you should always start by contacting one of the Honors Council Representatives for your major to talk with them about your proposed project and to learn what policies and procedures you must follow. In some departments, there is only one Honors Council Representative, and in that case, they will be serving on your committee. In other departments, there may be several that you could work with, or there may be specific representatives for different major tracks.
The Honors Council meets in April and November to award honors designations, first in divisional subcommittees and then as a full council. Please note that, since the Council does not meet in the summer, you cannot defend a thesis and be eligible to be awarded Latin honors for a summer graduation. You either need to defend in the fall or spring before you graduate.
If you are writing a departmental thesis (in other words, a thesis in your major), you will need an Outside Reader. The primary role of an Outside Reader is to make sure that your thesis is held to the same high standards as theses in other departments. So, the faculty member you choose as your Outside Reader needs to be from outside your major department. This way they can provide that checks-and-balances piece of the puzzle so that we can confidently say that a Sociology thesis is held to the same standard as a Physics thesis, and Ethnic Studies, and Economics and so on.
At a minimum, the faculty member should be prepared to read and provide feedback on later drafts of your thesis and attend the defense. However, if the Outside Reader's field of study touches on your topic or needs, they may be able to provide more support. For example, if you feel that you could use some extra help in your writing, you could look for an Outside Reader from the Program for Writing and Rhetoric. Or, if you were an Art major working on a project analyzing historic art pieces, it might be beneficial to ask a faculty member from the History department who specializes in the period of history you're studying to serve as your Outside Reader.
Additional Committee Member
If you're writing a General Honors thesis, you will select an additional committee member instead of an Outside Reader. Since your topic is interdisciplinary, it is common for you to have a thesis advisor from one of the disciplines and an additional committee member from the other, but this is not required. Due to the nature of your project, you are welcome to select any eligible faculty member, including faculty from the Honors Program, the Program for Writing and Rhetoric, or any other major department at CU Boulder. To determine eligibility, please see the "Eligibility Requirements" section above. Some suggestions on how to choose your Additional Committee Member: You may choose someone that you feel would be a key contributor to either the content, structure/writing, or process of your project that you work well with, or you could select someone that will step in towards the end of your project to read your final draft(s) and participate in the defense, or any other criteria you feel would most benefit your project. Please see the section above titled, "Faculty Eligible to Serve" for more details on verifying a potential committee member's eligibility.
If you're writing a departmental thesis, you may also wish to add additional committee member(s). These members must meet the same eligibility criteria as all your other members. Keep in mind that the more members that you add, the more people you'll have to coordinate with when it comes time to schedule your defense.