Jan 28, 2023  
2022 - 2023 Graduate Catalog 
    
2022 - 2023 Graduate Catalog

SMS: Academic & General Policies




General Statements of Policy

All students enrolled at William & Mary, including students of the School of Marine Science (SMS), are bound by the regulations noted within the W&M Student Handbook. The university reserves the right to make changes in the procedures and regulations contained within the Handbook at any time. The Handbook contains important information about W&M’s expectations regarding student conduct, student rights and responsibilities, and relevant processes and procedures to address alleged misconduct. The Honor Code and its procedures are also included in the Handbook.

Any SMS student seeking to raise a specific concern or discuss a problem regarding graduate studies in the School of Marine Science may contact the Associate Dean of Academic Studies at (804) 684-7105 or contact the SMS Graduate Program Ombuds Team. General queries and questions about the SMS academic programs should be sent to academicstudies@vims.edu.

Academic Standing & Satisfactory Progress

Admission to the SMS graduate program implies a significant commitment on the part of the student, as well as VIMS and the SMS. To remain in good academic standing a student must maintain a cumulative GPA of B or better (≥ 3.0) with no core course grade lower than B-, and no grade lower than C-. In addition, the student must continue to make satisfactory progress as defined by university degree requirements and regulations of the School of Marine Science.

The Academic Status and Degrees Committee, SMS Registrar, and Associate Dean of Academic Studies regularly review student transcripts and milestone progress to ensure the timely completion of degree requirements. A student who fails to remain in good academic standing may be placed on probation, be dismissed from the degree program or lose funding. The SMS strives to ensure that performance of graduate students in courses, on comprehensive and qualifying examinations, progress in research, and the acceptability of capstone projects, theses or dissertations, is evaluated based on objective, ethical, and professional criteria.

Satisfactory Progress: Student progress within the degree programs of the SMS is guided by milestones, which specify how long a student has to complete each degree requirement.  Failure to meet major milestones, which include the Comprehensive Examination (Ph.D. only), Qualifying Examination (M.S. and Ph.D.), Internship and Capstone (M.A.), and Graduation (all programs), or complete coursework as specified, is evidence that a student is not making satisfactory progress in the program. A failure to make satisfactory progress in accordance with School of Marine Science policies may result in academic probation, dismissal from the program, or a loss of any financial aid provided by the program. 

The School of Marine Science has an obligation to give ample warning to a student who appears unable to complete the program in a timely fashion. Progress of M.A. program students in capstone research projects and internships is monitored by the M.A. Program Director. Thesis or dissertation research progress of students in the M.S. and Ph.D. programs is monitored by student advisors and advisory committees. In the event that any student is not making satisfactory progress, the advisor or M.A. Program Director must notify the student, as well as the Associate Dean of Academic Studies in writing. The advisor or program director and Associate Dean will meet with the student to design a remediation plan that includes a well-defined timeline for completion of degree requirements. The student will have normally one semester to show progress toward meeting the requirements of the plan to remain in the degree program, but all final decisions are made by the Associate Dean and on a case-by-case basis with full consideration of any extenuating circumstances. 

Academic Probation & Appeals

A student will be placed on academic probation due to:

  • a cumulative grade point average less than B (3.0)
  • a grade deficiency in a core course
  • a D or F in any coursework
  • failure to pass the qualifying exam within 6 months (M.S.) or 12 months (Ph.D.) of the milestone deadline (last day of month specified)

In the case of a grade deficiency in a core course, the student must make up the deficiency by retaking the course and passing with a grade of B- or better or by passing another course from the Fundamentals core group with a grade of B- or better. Probation will last until a student’s cumulative average is raised to at least 3.0 and the core course requirement is satisfied, but will not exceed one calendar year. A student receiving a grade of D or F will be placed on academic probation. Any student receiving more than one D or F will be dismissed from the degree program without appeal.

When a student is placed on academic probation, the Graduate Registrar will notify the student’s department chair and advisor(s) (M.S., Ph.D.) or M.A. Program Director (M.A.) within 1 week following the grading or milestone deadline. The student is required to meet with the academic advisor(s) or M.A. Program Director to define a plan of remediation. The meeting will be scheduled by the advisor or program director within two weeks following notification by the Registrar.  

A student may not appeal academic probation. If 12 months after being placed on probation the student’s GPA is below 3.0, the student has not made up grade deficiencies, or the milestone remains delinquent, the Registrar will submit an automatic appeal of dismissal consisting of the student’s academic transcript, and any other pertinent documents to the SMS Academic Status and Degrees Committee for review. The Academic Status and Degrees Committee will determine if the student is recommended for dismissal from the School of Marine Science and submit its recommendation to the Associate Dean of Academic Studies within two weeks of receipt of the appeal from the SMS Registrar. The decision of the Associate Dean of Academic Studies to accept or reject the committee’s recommendation will be final and will normally be made within one week of receipt of the committee’s recommendation.

Appeal of Dismissal Due to Failure to Meet the Graduation Deadline Following Maximum Time Extension: A student who does not meet the graduation milestone must apply for an extension to the Academic Status and Degrees Committee (ASDC).  Information on that process is available below under Degree Program Time Extension.

If after time extensions totaling 2 years for the M.A. or M.S. program or 3 years for the Ph.D. program the student has not completed all degree requirements for graduation, the SMS Graduate Registrar will submit an automatic appeal of dismissal consisting of the student’s academic transcript, and any other pertinent documents to the SMS Academic Status and Degrees Committee for review. The Academic Status and Degrees Committee will determine if the student is recommended for dismissal from the School of Marine Science and submit its recommendation to the Associate Dean of Academic Studies within two weeks of receipt of the appeal from the SMS Registrar. The Associate Dean of Academic Studies’ decision to accept or reject the committee’s recommendation shall be final and will normally be made within one week of receipt of the committee’s recommendation.

Appeal of a Grade: If a student feels that a grade has been incorrectly assigned, the student should discuss the matter with the instructor.  If discussion between the instructor and the student cannot resolve the issue, the student may appeal to the Associate Dean who will attempt to reconcile the matter.  A grade appeal must be made by the student as soon as possible but no later than the end of the student’s subsequent term of enrollment after the grade in question has been assigned.

Appeal of Non-Approval of Thesis or Dissertation by Advisory Committee (for M.S. and Ph.D.):
Unanimous committee approval is necessary for satisfactory completion of a thesis or dissertation defense and acceptance of a final version of the thesis or dissertation. In the event that unanimity has not been achieved following the defense or after at least the second reading of a revised thesis or dissertation by one dissenting committee member, the student may appeal to the Academic Status and Degrees Committee for an independent review. The Academic Status and Degrees Committee may, at their discretion, appoint an independent reader from the SMS faculty to render a substitute opinion which, if in agreement with the majority, will signify the acceptance and permit the independent reader to sign the approval form(s) in lieu of the dissenting committee member.  Only one substitution of approval shall be permitted through appeal to the Academic Status and Degrees Committee.

Auditing a Course

Any graduate student may register to audit a graduate or undergraduate course with permission of the instructor, the student’s advisor and the Associate Dean of Academic Studies. An audit form is required and may be obtained from the SMS Registrar. Before beginning the audit, the student and the instructor must agree on what is required for the audit to be successful. The audited course is listed on the student’s official transcript as either a grade of ‘O’ for a successful audit, or ‘U’ for an unsuccessful audit.

Core Course Exemption

With the exception of MSCI 503 , students who have had comparable course work elsewhere may petition for exemption from any of the SMS core courses. The application for core course exemption must be approved by the core instructor(s) of the SMS course for which exemption is sought. Prior to consulting the core instructor, the student must attach the following to the application for exemption: (1) a syllabus of the student’s applicable prior course work and (2) a transcript showing the grade/credits of the student’s prior course work. The SMS instructor must indicate on the application that the student’s previous studies have been reviewed and that they are sufficient to permit exemption from the applicable core course. The application and attachments must be submitted in entirety to the Academic Status and Degrees Committee, in care of the SMS Registrar (Registrar@vims.edu). Credits for exempted courses will not be transferred to a student’s record until the student petitions the Academic Status and Degrees Committee for credit transfer and the Associate Dean of Academic Studies approves the request. There are no exemptions from MSCI 503 .

Degree Program Time Extension

The milestone for graduation is 24 months for the M.A. program , 36 months for the M.S. program  and 48-72 months for the Ph.D. program . A student who does not meet the graduation milestone must apply for an extension to the Academic Status and Degrees Committee (ASDC). Adequate justification for the extension is required, as is the permission of the student’s advisor and committee members for M.S. and Ph.D. program students, or the Program Director for M.A. program students. In addition, the student and student’s advisor or program director may be required to meet with the Associate Dean of Academic Studies (AD-AS) to discuss reasons for delay and remediation plans. The ASDC may grant up to two extensions for M.A. or M.S. students in one-semester increments. Ph.D. students are granted a one-year extension for first time requests and up to two additional one-semester extensions.

If extensions are recommended by the ASDC and approved by the AD-AS, a student must complete all requirements for the degree program within a maximum of one year for the M.A. or M.S. or two years for the Ph.D. Subsequent decisions about student continuation in the program are made by the AD-AS and on a case-by-case basis, with full consideration of extenuating circumstances.  While it may not always be attainable, the overarching goal is for every admitted student to successfully complete the degree program. A student who exceeds the graduation milestone by 2 years for the M.A. or M.S., or 3 years for the Ph.D., may be dismissed from the degree program. A student who exceeds the time limit for degree completion and who has not been granted a time extension will not be permitted to register in the School of Marine Science.

Grading and Quality Points

The grades A, B, C, P (pass, in certain courses), D and F are used to indicate the quality of work in a course.  Also used are ‘+’ and ‘-’ notations, except that there is no ‘A+’.  ‘W’ indicates that a student withdrew from the university before the end of the ninth week of classes or dropped a course between the end of the ninth week of classes and the last day of class and was passing at the time that the course was dropped.   

For each semester credit in a course in which a student is graded A, 4 quality points are awarded; A-, 3.7; B+, 3.3; B, 3; B-, 2.7; C+, 2.3; C, 2; C-, 1.7; D+, 1.3; D, 1.0; D-, 0.7. P carries credit but is not included in a student’s quality point average.  A course graded D+, D, D-, or F is included in the student’s quality point average but carries no credit towards the graduate degree.

In addition to the grades A, B, C, P, D, F, and W, the symbols ‘G’ and ‘I’ are used on grade reports and in the university records. ‘G’ is given to work in progress towards M.S. (MSCI 599 ) or Ph.D. (MSCI 699 ) research, since there is insufficient evidence upon which to base a grade. The ‘G’ is not used as an alternative to ‘I’ when the student is the cause for the non-completion. Unlike the deferred grade ‘I’, ‘G’ does not automatically revert to ‘F’ after one semester. 

‘I’ indicates that because of illness or other major extenuating circumstances the student has postponed, with the explicit consent of the instructor, the completion of certain required work. ‘I’ automatically becomes ‘F’ at the end of the next semester if the postponed work has not been completed, unless the instructor requests an extension for another semester. An ‘I’ may not be extended more than once without the approval of the SMS Associate Dean of Academic Studies.

Graduation

Filing for Graduation: Students filing for graduation must complete an Online Graduation Application in Banner. A one-time, non-refundable graduation fee, currently $145.00, will be charged to a student’s account on the initial filing date. Only first-time filers can use the on-line filing process. If a student is unable to complete the requirements for graduation by the date specified, he/she must notify the SMS Registrar in order to re-file for a new graduation date. There is no graduation fee charge for re-filing.

Conferral of Degrees: William & Mary confers degrees in August, January and May of each year. The commencement ceremony is in May. Degree recipients of the previous August and January are recognized and invited to attend the May ceremony. Students who will complete requirements in August rather than May may participate in the spring commencement with permission of the Associate Dean of Academic Studies and the Vice President for Student Affairs.

Leave of Absence

Under unusual circumstances, and following consultation with a student’s advisor or the M.A. Program Director, the Associate Dean of Academic Studies may grant a leave of absence. An approved leave of absence is limited to a maximum of one calendar year during the student’s degree program, and relieves the student of the obligation of paying tuition. It is understood that a student on leave of absence is not present on campus, not receiving financial support and not drawing upon campus resources. A student must terminate the leave of absence and be a registered student in the semester in which his/her degree requirements are completed or in which he/she graduates. 

The milestone timeline and time limit for degree completion requirements will be stopped for a student with an approved leave of absence. Upon return from approved leave, the student’s milestone timeline and time limit to degree completion will resume.

Registration

Students in the M.A., M.S. and Ph.D. programs should refer to the individual degree program  pages for specifics on registration for each program.

Part-time students: A working professional who wishes to pursue part-time studies in a degree program of the School of Marine Science should consult with the Associate Dean of Academic Studies (AD-AS@vims.edu). Part-time students are not eligible for VIMS assistantships, fellowships, or workship funding. See Non-Degree Seeking Students  for related information.

Employment: The same degree program milestones and SMS rules and regulations apply regardless of employment status unless permission to change degree program milestones has been recommended by the Academic Status and Degrees Committee and approved by the Associate Dean of Academic Studies. 

VIMS and W&M Employees: Employees of VIMS or W&M may be eligible for the Employee Educational Assistance program. Upon approval, employees must submit a completed VIMS/SMS non-degree-seeking student application along with written approval from the SMS course instructor(s) to the SMS Graduate Registrar prior to course registration. See Non-Degree Seeking Students  for related information.

Changes in Registration

All changes in student schedules must be done in accordance with relevant deadlines as indicated in the Academic Calendar . Any changes requested after the close of registration require approval of the instructor(s) involved and the Associate Dean of Academic Studies. Students may not add courses after the last day for changes in registration. If a student drops a course or courses before add/drop ends, the course or courses dropped will be removed from the student’s record. If the student drops a course or courses after the add/drop period ends through the last day of classes, the grade of “W” or “F” will be awarded by the instructor in the course depending upon whether or not the student was passing at the time the course was dropped. A student may not drop a course after the last day of classes. If a student does not complete a course, the grade of “W” or “F” will be awarded by the instructor in the course, and with the approval of the Associate Dean of Academic Studies and the appropriate university authorities, depending upon whether or not the student was passing at the time the course ended.

A student wishing to withdraw from a course (or courses) because of medical reasons after the add/drop period ends may apply to the Associate Dean of Academic Studies for approval. If approved, a grade of “W” will appear on the transcript for each course.

Retaking a Course

In order for a core course to satisfy the core course requirements, a grade of B- or above must be earned in the course. A deficiency in a core course may be made up by retaking the course and passing with a grade of B- or better or by completing another course from the core group with a grade of B- or better. In the case of non-core coursework, degree credit is granted only for coursework in which a student earns a grade of ‘C’ or above. A graduate student may repeat one course outside of the core curriculum in which a grade of ‘C’ or lower is received. In addition, M.A. program students may repeat the capstone or internship one time with permission of the M.A. Program Director. When a course is repeated, both the initial and new grades earned are included in computations of quality point requirements.

Transfer of Academic Credit

On the recommendation of the Academic Status and Degrees Committee and the approval of the Associate Dean of Academic Studies, a student admitted to a degree program may apply up to 15 hours of graduate credit for graduate courses equivalent to the SMS core courses earned at another accredited institution. Credit may be transferred only for courses in which the student received a grade of ‘B’ or better and will not be counted in compiling the student’s quality point average at William & Mary.

To petition for acceptance of transfer credits, the approved application must be submitted to the Academic Status and Degrees Committee via the SMS Registrar, (Registrar@vims.edu). The application must include documentation for the course(s) proposed to supplant the core course(s), and a statement from each School of Marine Science faculty teaching the course for which transfer credits are sought. The faculty member’s statement must indicate that the student’s previous studies were reviewed and that those studies are sufficient to permit acceptance of the applicable transfer credits.

Students may petition for up to six additional credit hours of graduate work not already applied toward another degree, but the total transfer of credits cannot exceed 15 hours. The credits must have been earned in courses appropriate to the student’s program in the SMS and must fall within the time specified by the general college requirements for degrees.

Withdrawal from the Program

Withdrawal from the program constitutes termination of the student’s program of study in the School of Marine Science. Withdrawal may be voluntary on the part of the student or be imposed by the SMS for reasons of academic deficiency, failure to make satisfactory progress in research, or other reasons pursuant to the W&M Student Handbook and the W&M Honor Code (see section General Statements of Policy above). The Associate Dean of Academic Studies will place a student on a leave of absence for one semester if they fail to register for a regular semester (Fall or Spring) and have not requested a leave of absence or permission to withdraw. If the student has not applied for a leave of absence prior to the end of registration for the next regular semester, or if the Associate Dean of Academic Studies is not able to justify continuing the leave of absence, the student’s record will be marked “withdrawn unofficially.”

A student who withdraws from the program after the add/drop period, will be awarded a ‘W’ or ‘F’ for each course in progress at the time of withdrawal.

A student who withdraws from the program after the beginning of the school year should obtain appropriate faculty signatures on a Change in Registration form, a Withdrawal form and a Student Check-out Sheet. All forms must be returned to the Associate Dean of Academic Studies.

Reinstatement after Withdrawal

A student wishing to be considered for reinstatement after withdrawal must reapply to the School of Marine Science under the procedures in effect at the time of reapplication.