Reviews, Mentoring, and Progress

Annual Student Progress Reviews

Each year, toward the end of the spring semester, both Graduate Fields conduct a review of all students. Each student fills out the Student Progress Review (SPR). The Graduate School provides a web-based SPR system for writing, disseminating and archiving these reports. These are due annually before the end of spring semester, at a date announced mid-semester. This review gives you a chance to reflect on your progress, identify goals for the coming year, and provide feedback to your advisor and committee. Once you complete the SPR, schedule a meeting to discuss it with your advisor(s).  Your advisor(s) will provide constructive written feedback, offer encouragement, or signal if there are any areas in need of improvement. These are a basis for annual reviews within the field, where they become one opportunity for evaluating satisfactory progress. Students should include information about committee meetings in this report. 

Mentoring Programs and Tools

The EAS Department has several programs to enhance mentoring and professional development of graduate students that complement regular meetings with your advisor and special committee, the EAS 6920 class, and other activities.  Mentoring is important to you as a graduate student not only because of the knowledge and skills that are shared, but also because of the many other aspects of professional socialization and personal support that are needed to facilitate success in graduate school and beyond.
You should have multiple mentors who can help you develop in different ways.  Here is a brief introduction to some of the EAS mentoring activities:

Peer mentoring: Starting in Fall, 2020, each first year graduate student was assigned a peer mentor (senior EAS graduate student) and students met with their peer mentors several times during the weekly meetings of EAS 6920.  This program was endorsed by the participants and so we plan to assign each first year student one or more peer mentors in future years.  There are several other peer mentoring programs at Cornell outside of EAS like CUEmpower: 

Shared Expectation Agreements (SEAs): Starting in Fall, 2020, in an effort to improve communication between students and advisors, we asked all incoming students to complete a worksheet of questions with their new advisors and revisit them at least annually. 

Part I (September of first year): At this link ( you will find a list of suggested questions that should help you develop a concrete set of expectations for your first year. Within your first few weeks on campus, please set up a meeting with your faculty advisors to ask these questions to them or discuss how the list of questions should be modified to better match the expectations of your field. As you do, please also write down their responses. 

It should take about an hour to complete this questionnaire with your advisor. That might be a bit too much time to do in one setting, so you might want to schedule two 30 min. meetings to make sure you get through it all. Or, you might spend a few minutes over the course of a month answering a handful of questions at a time in addition to discussing your projects, research, or coursework. To facilitate this, we have tried to arrange the order of the questions so that the issues you will either encounter first, or that might be most critical, appear earliest in the document.  However, you should do what is most comfortable for you and feasible with you and your advisor’s schedules.  

Part II (October/November of first year): When you have completed that step, you will then be in an excellent position to write up a SEA that you can share with your faculty advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS; examples will be provided later in the semester). These agreements should reflect your understanding of your advisor’s expectations for your work and commitments to your education, and they are envisioned to establish clear expectations between you and your advisor.  Further, they will serve as an agreement of mutual understanding of accountability for your research and your progress towards your degree. 

Part III (Following Spring of first year): Conversations about expectations should continue as you progress -- this is not a one-time conversation.  Please plan to revisit these questions each year, and as needed!

Individual Development Plans (IDPs) are designed to help graduate students set academic goals, develop professional skills, explore career opportunities, and conduct long-term career planning.  IDPs are a are composed of a set of questions students to aid in self-reflection that the student answers annually with the questions changing as the student progresses through the graduate program.  IDPs are common in many areas of science (for example they are required of those funded by the National Institutes of Health),  but are underutilized in the geosciences (Eason et al. 2020; GSA Today,  Students are encouraged to fill out IDPs during a session of EAS 6920 and are welcome to share answers to the questions with their advisor, mentor, or others or simply keep the answers to themselves for their own personal use. Information from the IDPs could be useful in the SPRs (see section IX.A.) but EAS students recommend doing both because IDPs ask more focused and detailed questions than the SPRs. Starting in Spring 2020, we have asked first year EAS students to fill out the IDPs from Stanford Biosciences (link: 

Guidelines for Satisfactory Progress

M.S. and Ph.D. students are expected to maintain a B (3.0) or better grade point average. Grades of C+ to D-, while passing, do not normally constitute satisfactory progress. Satisfactory progress also requires following the Field and Graduate School schedule for setting committees and taking examinations, excepting cases where petitions for extension are approved. Satisfactory progress will be continually evaluated by the Special Committee Chairperson in coordination with the Director of Graduate Studies, as coursework and examinations are completed. In addition to coursework, each student will be broadly assessed through a variety of metrics, such as making regular public presentations of research results, submission of papers to peer reviewed literature, participating in the writing of proposals (either internal or external), and participation in departmental and group seminars. It is expected that students make progress in research each semester, with expectations varying depending on the situation – it is important that students discuss expectations on a regular basis with their advisor and committee.