Advising and Evaluation

JSP students receive advice about the program from numerous sources. Some of the most useful information is supplied by more advanced JSP students. This section describes the more formal structures of student advising and evaluation.


The Graduate Advisor is appointed by the Dean of the Graduate Division to interpret and enforce campus and program requirements for graduate degrees. The Graduate Adviser routinely signs numerous forms and petitions that accompany student life at U.C. Berkeley. Even more important, the Graduate Adviser helps advise and monitor each student’s progress through to the qualifying exam. Each semester students report to the Graduate Adviser their class schedules; at later stages, the Graduate Adviser approves students’ plans for fields of specialization. Students seeking advice about the program’s requirements, or exemptions from particular provisions, generally need to consult the Graduate Adviser.

By the end of the first year in the program, students choose a JSP faculty member to become their Personal Adviser. Students early on meet most of the JSP faculty in a number of settings, including the first-semester orientation seminar and foundation courses. The idea of a Personal Adviser is to designate more formally a specific member of the faculty to whom the student can turn for guidance and help, and who is expected to be informed of the particular student’s progress and plans in the program. Students are expected to keep in regular contact with their faculty adviser, particularly in the years before the qualifying exam. (At least one office-hour meeting each semester can be taken as a minimal expectation.). Students may change Personal Advisers at any time and would be advised to do so if their interests change substantially. Following the qualifying exam, the function of the personal adviser is generally assumed by the chair of the dissertation committee.

JSP students also quickly learn to rely on two other, critical sources of information about the program: the Vice-Chair of the JSP Program (currently Charles McClain) and the Student Affairs Officer (currently Margo Rodriguez). The Vice-Chair exercises a host of oversight responsibilities concerning the maintenance of the curriculum and scheduling of classes, the appointment of graduate student instructors (TA’s), and the admissions and fellowship processes.

Among other responsibilities, the Student Affairs Officer manages the information concerning classes and schedules, campus rules and deadlines, fellowship applications, and in-house rules and requirements. Students with practical questions concerning the procedure on any particular requirement (such as “how do I schedule a language exam?” or “when will I find out about next year’s course offerings?”) are best advised first to consult the Student Affairs Officer.

Annual Evaluation and Progress Review

Each year, in conformity with Graduate Division rules, the faculty meets to review every student’s record and progress. In most cases, there is no formal notification to the student following this annual evaluation. However, such notification does occur in those cases where the faculty perceive deficiencies in a student’s progress and identify steps needed to correct them.

Sometime in or soon after the end of their second year in the program, students undergo a more ambitious Progress Review. (For students concurrently enrolled in both the JSP and JD programs, the Progress Review is scheduled in or soon after the end of the third year in the JSP program.) The Progress Review is conducted by two members of the JSP faculty who are appointed by the Graduate Adviser. The faculty examine copies of the student’s seminar papers, academic transcript, and a brief cover letter prepared by the student concerning his or her graduate work and future plans. A review meeting of roughly an hour in length is then held with the student.

The purpose of the review is to assess the student’s overall progress in the program, and to discuss the student’s developed plans for fields of specialization and for the dissertation. In many cases, students will have completed (or be near the completion of) one of their fields by the time of the Progress Review. But in every case, the program expects students by the time of the Progress Review to have a clear plan and rough timetable for the completion of the two fields and for scheduling of the qualifying exam.

In most cases the Progress Review involves a genuinely collaborative conversation between faculty and graduate student. Indeed, a primary purpose of the exercise is to give students the opportunity to receive focused and programmatic faculty comment on their work prior to the qualifying exam. Students generally find the Progress Review an extremely helpful exercise.

In less-typical cases, however, the Progress Review functions more like a screening exam. Where the faculty determines that a student’s progress is inadequate, or finds that the student’s past performance raises questions about the likelihood of his or her completion of the doctoral program, the faculty will review with the student these perceived deficiencies and problems. The faculty reviewers then make a written report of these findings to the Program Chair and the Graduate Adviser. The report may include specific recommendations concerning steps the student needs to take to insure continuation in the doctoral program. The Program Chair and the Graduate Adviser have responsibility to determine how to proceed in light of this report, and the student is informed of their determination.