Welcome to Cornell University and the Graduate Fields of Atmospheric Sciences and Geological Sciences! We are excited that you will be joining our community of research and learning. We encourage you to read about Cornell University’s core values that were adopted in the fall of 2019.
In particular, we are a “A Community of Belonging: As a university founded to be a place where “…any person can find instruction…,” we value diversity and inclusion, and we strive to be a welcoming, caring, and equitable community where students, faculty, and staff with different backgrounds, perspectives, abilities, and experiences can learn, innovate, and work in an environment of respect, and feel empowered to engage in any community conversation.” We hope the other core values in free and open inquiry and expression, exploration across boundaries, changing lives through public engagement, purposeful discovery, and respect for the natural world will also resonate with you.
Graduate school is a very different kind of educational experience than being an undergraduate. This is where you specialize, focus, and become an expert. In most programs the primary goal is the thesis, and coursework mostly exists to give you the preparation or background you need to get there. Because of that, Cornell’s graduate program has several features that may take some getting used to. These are described in more specifics in the following sections.
- First, your program has no general course requirements set by Cornell University or the Department. Rather, each student has a Special Committee who decides upon the necessary preparation and coursework. Also, you have to make satisfactory progress in coursework and research, discussed in Section IX below. Generally, coursework will become less important as your degree progresses, and instead your advisor and Committee are central to evaluating your progress.
- Second – and this is different than most other universities – the graduate programs are organized into “fields” that do not directly correspond to departments. The Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences (EAS) has two graduate fields (Atmospheric Sciences and Geological Sciences), but these fields include faculty in several departments besides EAS. Sometimes this can get confusing as resources generally come from departments, while academic requirements are organized by field.
- Third, although there are few requirements, graduate school requires commitment and drive. The Ph.D. program requires three exams including a thesis defense and thesis, and the M.S. requires a thesis and defense. Your success as a graduate student generally depends on getting research done, presenting and publishing that research, and generally learning how to be a scientist. While your advisor and committee will do what they can to help you on this path, ultimately it depends on you. Many students struggle at first with the transition to near-exclusive emphasis on long-term goals. Faculty and your fellow graduate students can be a great aid in navigating the transition.
Where to find more information?
There are many other specifics to your program, and this handbook is designed to help you keep track of them. It is one of two important documents that describe the program, the other being the Code of Legislation of the Graduate Faculty. All Graduate Students are subject to the rules and regulations of the Code of Legislation of the Graduate Faculty and the legislation agreed upon by the faculty in the Graduate Fields of Atmospheric Sciences and Geological Sciences. These rules and regulations are briefly summarized in this handbook; additional details can be found in the Code of Legislation of the Graduate Faculty. For example, the Code includes information on the makeup of committees, degree progress and graduation requirements, financial support, conflict resolution and a lot more. Other resources are listed in section XII of this guide. If you are not sure where to find information or even what information you need, you should feel free to ask your advisor and temporary/special committee, other students and faculty, the Graduate Program Coordinator, and the Director of Graduate Studies.
A great resource for a student perspective on the EAS department and how to succeed at Cornell is the “EAS Grad Students Guide” written by EAS graduate students as a Google doc that is frequently updated.
Another recent resource created by members of the URGE (Unlearning Racism in the Geosciences) Pod is the EAS department resource map.