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Graduate Program Assessment Plan

The Department of Environment and Society offers four graduate degrees:
MS in Geography
MS in Recreation Resource Management
MS in Ecology
Ph.D. in Ecology
MS in Environment and Society
Ph.D. in Environment and Society

Learning Objectives

The specific learning objectives for students in these graduate programs are established through a program of study for each student which is approved by the student’s supervisory committee. The program of study includes any required coursework specific to each degree and other coursework leading to the targeted learning required for completion of the student’s research. Credit, course and other degree requirements can be accessed here.  General learning objectives are stated below.

On completion of the requirements for each MS degree, students can:

  • Demonstrate mastery of relevant subject material at a level appropriate to master’s attainment.
  • Conduct, present, and defend a body of research.
  • Conduct scholarly activities in an ethical manner.

On completion of the requirements for the PhD degree, students can:

  • Demonstrate mastery of subject material at a level appropriate to doctoral attainment.
  • Produce, present, and defend original contribution to knowledge.
  • Conduct scholarly activities in an ethical manner.

The Assessment Process

The supervisory committees hold regular evaluations to assess graduate student progress in relation to the program of study and learning objectives. As needed, the committees recommend any needed remediation. The student’s major professor, other committee members, and/or the department head may meet with the student to discuss progress and recommendations. For doctoral students, competencies related to their program of study are assessed during a comprehensive examination conducted by the supervisory committee. For both doctoral and master’s students, final assessment of student competencies occurs in relation to the presentation and defense of the Plan A thesis, Plan B research project, or doctoral dissertation.

Mastery of subject material and research conducted by individual students therefore is assessed by their supervisory committees following standard procedures required by the Graduate School and Department. Successful degree completion is used as a proxy for assessment of general learning outcomes. In addition, the department head conducts exit interviews with completing graduate students to collect qualitative data on students’ perceptions of their own achievements in relation to learning objectives.

To supplement assessments of individual student learning provided by supervisory committees and exit interviews, the department also collects outcomes data that provide information on the overall performance of our programs. These data are reviewed by the department head and the graduate faculty members to inform program decisions. Program review, including curricular offerings, degree requirements, graduate student recruitment and advising, among other topics, occurs annually through a department retreat held each August. These data include, but are not limited to:

  • Recruitment data
  • Student degree completion data
    • Average time to degree completion
    • Percent students completing degrees in targeted time frames (3 years for MS; 4 years for PhD after related MS or MA degree; 6 years for PhD after BS or BA degree)
  • Student publication data
    • Number authorships per student (peer-reviewed and other)
    • Number presentations per student
    • Percent of students with at least one publication
  • Post-degree placement data and alumni and employer surveys and/or interviews

The departmental graduate admissions committee (formed in AY 2015-2016) is responsible for tracking data on recruitment. Departmental staff track degree completion data. USU Career Services conducts an annual survey of alumni, including graduate alumni, 12 months following graduation and the resultant data are made available to departments. The department head, with assistance of departmental staff, collects these available data for review by the faculty on an annual basis at the August departmental retreat.