Montana State University
MSU STRATEGIC INVESTMENT PROPOSAL FOR INSTITUTIONAL PRIORITIES
PROPOSAL OVERVIEW
TitleCollege of Engineering Ph.D. Enhancement Request Date2012-12-11
DepartmentCollege of Engineering Emailanne_c@erc.montana.edu
RequestorAnne Camper Phone994-2272
INSTITUTIONAL BENEFIT
Campuses Bozeman Billings Havre Great Falls FSTS Extension MAES
Cross Depts Civil Engineering Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Computer Science Electrical and Computer Engineering Chemical and Biological Engineering
TIMEFRAME
Proposed Dates Start: March 1, 2013 End:  
PROPOSAL SUMMARY
The COE requests funds to grow enrollments in our Ph.D. programs. A 2011 self-study showed the most significant limitation to Ph.D. growth was non-competitive student support. This is directly linked to the second issue of recruiting highly qualified Ph.D. candidates. The COE has limited GTA waivers /stipend resources and no college wide program to fund first year students. This proposal creates a flexible pool for first year fellowships, GTA stipend supplements, one semester bridge funds for students who have exhausted their research grant support, and limited prospective student recruitment visits.
STRATEGIC ALIGNMENT
This proposal most directly targets Objective D.3: Expand the scale, breadth and quality of doctoral education. The COE has determined that there is capacity to grow our Ph.D. enrollments, particularly if quality Ph.D. candidates can be recruited to replace M.S. students currently funded on research grants. Trends toward Ph.D. students will also increase if faculty feel more comfortable in making four year commitments (as opposed to two for M.S. students) if there is supplemental funding since most research grants are for only three years. The proposal also directly relates to Objective D.1: Elevate the research excellence and recognition of MSU faculty by assisting in meeting Metric D.1.3 for more doctoral conferrals and Objective L.2: Increase graduate rates at MSU through Metric L.2.2 by increasing the number of doctoral degrees awarded. Some of our Ph.D. degree options are interdisciplinary, so this proposal also targets Objective I.2: Increase work across disciplines, particularly through Metric I.2.2.
COST AND REQUIREMENTS
Funding Type: One-Time Only Funding Base (3-yr Recurring) Funding
  FY13 FY14 FY15 Base ($) OTO Startup ($)   FTE;
Salaries       86600      see comments 
Benefits       546       
Materials & Supplies              
Travel       5000       
Contracted Services              
Capital              
Other Operations       23000       
TOTAL 115146    see comments 
Please comment, if necessary, regarding cost and requirements.

Since the intent is to provide a flexible pool for purposes of first year fellowships, GTA stipend supplements, bridge funding and recruitment travel, the budget categories are estimates.  Stipends are designated as salary and the fees and insurance are included in the ‘other’ category.  Fees are based on 6 credits per semester, with the assumption that grad students carrying 6 credits will still be eligible for insurance.  The COE program fee is included in the estimate.  Insurance costs assume that  students are 39 or younger and includes the dental fee.  FTEs are not provided since the salaries are for graduate students.  As described in the proposal section below, the funds will be delegated to address the most critical needs as determined by the COE’s Ph.D. Oversight Committee, Department Heads and the Dean.  Need categories will likely change from year to year as will opportunities for each department and degree option.

PROPOSAL SCOPE
Describe the Proposal

The COE has two Ph.D. programs, the Ph.D. in Computer Science and the Ph.D. in Engineering with options in Applied Mechanics, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Environmental Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Industrial Engineering.  The combined Ph.D. program has allowed us to implement interdisciplinary degree options (Environmental Engineering between Chemical and Biological and Civil Engineering and Applied Mechanics between Mechanical and Industrial Engineering and Civil Engineering) and has allowed the COE to maintain adequate Ph.D. productivity during a time when research activity has been on the upswing.  The growth in research can be attributed to the successful recruitment of younger research active faculty who expect and need quality Ph.D. students. 

 The COE recently underwent an extensive graduate program self-study for the Provost’s Office.  The Ph.D. Oversight Committee, consisting of graduate coordinators from each of the COE’s Ph.D. programs, was largely responsible for the content of the document.  Baseline enrollment information described in Tables 1 and 2. Note that enrollment includes both full-time and part-time students.

 Table 1.  COE Ph.D. Option Enrollment

Option

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Applied Mechanics

3

1

2

3

4

4

5

Chemical

11

15

15

13

16

19

12

Civil

2

2

4

3

4

2

2

Electrical & Comp.

12

11

8

9

10

9

9

Environmental

3

2

1

1

0

2

4

Industrial

2

4

4

5

2

3

2

Mechanical

0

1

2

4

5

6

4

        Total

33

35

35

35

43

45

38

 Table 2.  CS Ph.D. Enrollment

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

8

10

11

11

19

17

15

 Degree productivity was also tracked, and shown in Tables 3 and 4.

Table 3.  COE Ph.D. Degrees Granted

Option

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

Applied Mechanics

0

2

0

0

0

1

1

Chemical

1

0

3

3

0

6

2

Civil

0

0

0

1

1

0

0

Electrical & Comp.

0

2

4

2

2

0

2

Environmental

1

1

0

1

0

0

0

Industrial

0

1

1

2

0

0

1

Mechanical

0

0

0

1

0

1

1

        Total

2

6

8

9

3

8

7

 Table 4.  CS Ph.D. Degrees Granted

2005

2006

2007

2008

2009

2010

2011

2

1

0

2

0

3

2

Overall enrollment numbers are low, and this is attributable to several factors.  Unlike many of the science disciplines, the Ph.D. is not the ultimate professional goal.  Many students are hired into high paying jobs with a B.S. or M.S. and the Ph.D. is usually sought only by those interested in academia or specific industry/government jobs.  This can make recruitment difficult, especially with a lack of competitive stipends.  The COE is not structured so that all Ph.D. students must participate as teaching assistants.  This is because of the historical lack of GTA waiver support; the COE does not offer core classes required by other degree programs.   Therefore, the COE does not have a mechanism for funding first year students while they take classes and are assigned to research projects or to ensure that all students are at least partially supported on GTA lines.  Grant funding is the primary mechanism for support and research active faculty are responsible for funding students as GRAs.  Without supplemental funding, faculty are less likely to commit to four year Ph.D. students over two year M.S. students.  These factors have made it difficult for us to grow our Ph.D. programs with in-house resources.  However, this self-study also indicated that there was room for growth and a modest influx of resources could provide substantial benefit. 

The committee identified two primary limitations to increasing Ph.D. populations in the COE.  The most significant is the ability to provide competitive funding.   This is directly linked to the second issue of recruiting highly qualified Ph.D. candidates.   The review indicated that Ph.D. enrollments would be enhanced by funding for first year fellowships, supplementing non-competitive GTA stipends, and providing one semester bridge funds for students who have exhausted their research grant support.   Also desirable was the ability to bring in highly qualified Ph.D. students who request a campus visit prior to accepting an offer to join one of our degree programs.  These ideas are the nucleus of this request.

 The goal of the project is to grow the Ph.D. program in the College of Engineering.  Objectives are to: 

1.  Recruit quality Ph.D. students

2.  Increase enrollment

3.  Increase degree production

4.  Increase faculty satisfaction with their ability to efficiently recruit quality students for their research

5.  Increase faculty multi-disciplinary activity

 To accomplish this goal, the intent is to create a flexible pool of resources to be prioritized and distributed upon request of Ph.D. advisors and departments to the Ph.D. Oversight Committee.  Decisions of the committee will be reviewed and approved by the COE Department Heads and Dean.  The critical items, in no order of priority are:

  1. First year fellowships*.  The pool would pay the stipend, fees, and insurance for the student.  The department would be responsible for tuition as a match.  These promising students would not be immediately assigned to a project, but instead would take classes and do rotations with faculty in their area of interest.  The student would then be picked up by a faculty on research funding for the remainder of the student’s program of study.  Anticipated costs are $25,000 per year per student.
  2. GTA supplements*.  COE departments have limited resources for GTA stipends.  The intent is to supplement these stipends and to also cover health insurance and fees.  Departments would be required to cover at least half of the stipend as match to these resources.  Anticipated costs are $10,000 per student per year, to provide an equivalent of $25,000 total coverage per student.
  3. Bridge funding for students needing one semester additional support.  There are instances where a student needs one additional semester to complete a degree after their research grant funds are exhausted.   The pool would cover tuition, fees, insurance and stipend not to exceed $10,000 per student.
  4. Travel funds for prospective student visits.  The resources would be used to bring in high quality candidates who have established contact with faculty in the COE.  Only students who have strong indications of attending MSU will be given travel funds.  The total amount in any given year for all student visits would be $5,000. 

*An individual student will be limited to a first year fellowship or GTA supplement, one time only.

The distribution of funds between these options would depend on evolving needs of the Ph.D. programs.  Example scenarios for pool allocations may be:

  1. Two first year fellowships ($50,000) plus five GTA supplements ($50,000) plus one semester bridge fund ($10,000) plus $5000 student recruitment travel.
  2. Three first year fellowships ($75,000) plus three GTA supplements ($30,000) plus one bridge fund ($10,000)

It should be noted that the COE has a strong track record in retaining and graduating its Ph.D. students.  Results from the self study showed that average time to graduation is four years and very few students fail their qualifiers or comprehensive exams.   Similarly, there has been a strong record of retention and degree completion.  This attests to the quality of mentoring and dedication the faculty have to their students.  We therefore believe that this funding has the potential for recruiting top-notch Ph.D. students who will receive a quality education and graduate in a timely manner.

 
Describe the broader impacts and benefits of this proposal

The immediate benefit of this funding would be an increase in Ph.D. enrollment in the COE.  Within four years, this would also lead to more Ph.D. degrees being granted.  Due to existing capacity for more Ph.D. students, the outcome would be a direct impact on MSU’s Ph.D. production and standing as a Carnegie ‘very high research activity’ institution.  Because many COE faculty have interdisciplinary research interests, this funding is also likely to increase collaboration across the MSU campus via shared projects and graduate committees.

At the college level, this funding would increase the flexibility for funding our Ph.D. program and improve the ability to react to the changing needs of our departments and faculty.  Having graduate program coordinators involved in the decision making process for fund allocation facilitates communication, identifies synergies and reveals common problems. 

For individual faculty, this funding will contribute to greater inclusion of Ph.D. funding into proposals.  At present, some faculty are reluctant to commit to Ph.D. students because grant duration is less than the anticipated four year timeframe for degree completion.  The ability to be competitive for a relatively small pool of Ph.D. seeking students would improve recruitment of the caliber of student desired for our research programs.   

The program would be very important for our Ph.D. students.  Having competitive stipends as well as coverage of fees and insurance is an important issue for students, particularly when they are making the choice between graduate school and employment.

 
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
Implementation Plan

March 2013. Convene meeting of Ph.D. Oversight Committee to determine process for applications for funding.   Discuss and determine priorities for funding distribution between categories of awards and departments/programs with department heads and committee.  Distribute information on application process to faculty.  Set up process in Dean’s office for tracking allocations and use.  Determine best methods for collecting assessment information.

April 2013. Publicize program.  Begin allocation of funds based on decisions made in March.  Begin collecting data needed for assessment plan. 

June 2013.  Fiscal year end analysis of fund utilization.

September 2013.   Begin process for year 2 allocations based on experiences gained in year 1.

 
Assessment Plan

The assessment will focus on accomplishment of the objectives stated above.

Recruit quality Ph.D. students:  An assessment plan created as part of our self study (see below, Table 1) will be used as part of the analysis.  The self study data are primarily related to the quality of the students in the program.  Since these data will be collected for all students, it will be possible to compare those students recruited with the new funding to those who are currently here or are recruited conventionally.   The indicator is that students recruited with the funds from this program will perform at levels equal to or above those recruited conventionally.

Increase enrollment:  Data will be collected on the number of faculty seeking funding for students and the response rate generated by offers for first year funding or GTA supplements.  The numbers will be related to overall Ph.D. enrollments in each option/department.  The indicator is an average of three additional Ph.D. students per year for the COE, starting with the second year of funding.  Students who are recruited with the funds (first year funding, GTA supplements, student travel) will be surveyed to determine if the additional resources led to their enrollment at MSU.  The indicator will be that these resources led to a 75% success rate in recruitment.

Increase degree production: The enrollment figures above will translate to an equivalent number of additional graduates within five years.

Increase faculty satisfaction with their ability to efficiently recruit quality students for their research: Faculty will be surveyed to determine if the new resources have aided in their ability to attract or retain Ph.D. students and their confidence in including Ph.D. funding in their grants.  The indicator will be a positive response to satisfaction in recruitment/retention and confidence in seeking grant funding for Ph.D. students.

Increase faculty multi-disciplinary activity:  The number of interdisciplinary projects where Ph.D. students have committees filled by faculty from multiple departments will be tracked, with an anticipated increase in numbers each year.

Table 1.   Montana State University College of Engineering

Learning Outcomes Assessment Plan 

Program: College of Engineering

Degree: Ph.D. in Engineering (with options)

Program Learning Outcomes

Students will be able to:

Performance Indicators

(What would you see if the student has learned?)

Measures

(What is the measure and where, how, and when is data collected?)

Use of the Information

(Who collects and compiles, who reviews)

Demonstrate technical expertise in  emphasis area

Students successfully pass written qualifying exam.

 

Students successfully complete courses specified in program of study.

 

Students successfully pass written and oral portions of comprehensive exam.

Annual pass rate (% of students passing) on Qualifying Exam.

 

Annual pass rate (% of students passing) on Comprehensive Exam.

 

Annual % of grad students with gpa equal or above 3.0 in all courses in Program of Study.

PhD Option Coordinators collect data from appropriate sources and review annually.

Effectively communicate research to a scientific audience

Students successfully communicate orally at public comprehensive seminar.

 

Students successfully communicate their research in writing through their dissertation document.

 

Students successfully communicate their research work orally at the public final defense.

Annual pass rate (% of students passing) on Comprehensive Exam.

 

 

Annual % of students submitting final signed dissertation.

 

 

Annual pass rate (% of students passing) of defense of dissertation.

 

PhD Option Coordinators collect data from appropriate sources and review annually.

Independently perform quality original research

Students successfully pass written and oral portions of comprehensive exam.

 

Students successfully defend the originality and quality of their research at the public final defense

Annual pass rate (% of students passing) of defense of dissertation.

 

Annual % of students submitting final signed dissertation.

PhD Option Coordinators collect data from appropriate sources and review annually.

 

 
If assessed objectives are not met in the timeframe outlined what is the plan to sunset this proposal?

If the assessed objectives for increased Ph.D. enrollments and completion and student/faculty satisfaction are not met at the end of the fifth year, the program will be terminated.  There is no prolonged sunset plan.

 
SIGNATURES
Dean/Director: Brett Gunnink (bgunnink@ce.montana.edu)
Executive/VP: Martha Potvin (mpotvin@montana.edu)