Annual Review Process

Annual Review

What is an annual review?

The FWCS Department requires an annual review of each graduate student's progress towards completion of their graduate degree. The assessment was created in response to suggestions from graduate students to create a written record of both their academic progress and of their committee's approval of their actions, and this aligns with requirements from the Graduate School related to Awards. It is the responsibility of the Major Professor to clearly explain this process to the student, including the right of the student to submit independent comments to the Department Head. Students who have not yet formed their graduate committee should conduct this review with just their Major Professor but should address the timeline for graduate committee formation in the review. 

The objectives of the annual review are to: (1) provide students and faculty with feedback on the student's progress towards a graduate degree; (2) identify students who may need additional assistance; and (3) when appropriate, provide a framework for the student and their Major Professor to develop a specific plan of action to facilitate degree completion. In general, the assessment is designed to facilitate positive communication between the student and their committee and to maintain a high-quality graduate education program within the department. The student is responsible for initiating and completing the assessment, while the Departmental Graduate Committee has oversight responsibilities and ensures that assessments are completed in a timely manner.

Timing of the Annual Review

Annual reviews are due by February 1st of each year (unless otherwise notified by the FW Graduate Program Coordinator) and should cover the terms included in the prior calendar year (e.g., reviews completed in the Winter 2024 should cover the Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall terms of 2023). The Departmental Graduate Committee oversees the process and ensures that reviews are completed in a timely manner. Students should consult with their major professor and graduate committee during their first year of enrollment to establish how the student’s research and course work will meet the standards and expectations of the FW department.

The review consists of four components:


Before beginning their annual evaluation students should read the provided instructions from beginning to end and review all forms and make sure to understand their purpose. Questions should be directed to the Graduate Program Coordinator.


The student assesses their progress during the past year using the Graduate Student Self-Evaluation Form and producing a written narrative of their progress. The Graduate Student Evaluation Form is where students record completion dates for major milestones in the graduate program (e.g., committee formed, research review, program of study, etc.). This form should be updated at each annual review. The written narrative should describe activities the student has completed since the last review, and is to be attached to the form (see annual review instructions for detail on written narrative content). Narratives are to be typed on a separate page that clearly indicates the name of the student, major professor, and the date of the self- evaluation.
The student forwards a copy of the following documents to each member of their graduate committee:

  • Graduate Student Self Evaluation Form 
  • Written Narrative of progress 
  • Graduate Committee Student Evaluation Form(s)
  • Appended Resume recommended. This also assists in making decisions concerning scholarships.

It is the student’s responsibility to submit all of the evaluation materials as one complete packet including the student’s self-evaluation and comments by the major professor and committee members. The complete packet must be turned in to the department Graduate Program Coordinator.

After the review is complete, all forms will remain in the student's file until seven years have elapsed from their graduation.


It is required that the Major Professor or Co-major Professors meet one on one with each student to complete the annual evaluation.

If (a) the student's committee has not yet been formed; (b) the student's full committee has met already during the review period for another purpose (E.g., Research Review, Preliminary Exam), or (c), either the student or the Major Professor requests a full committee meeting for the purpose of an annual evaluation, then the student will be responsible for setting up the full committee meeting where the graduate committee will assess the student's progress towards completion of their graduate degree at an annual meeting.

If desired by either the student or the major professor, a full committee meeting should be held or full committee participation should be completed with individual meetings between each committee member and the student.

It is the student's responsibility to provide all committee members with the materials outlined in the annual review instructions prior to either a full committee meeting or individual meetings. The meeting is for information exchange and discussion of future plans, and is not a structured evaluation. The student will summarize their thesis research, course work, and professional development; and committee members will ask questions, respond to student's questions, and provide suggestions. At the conclusion of the meeting, each committee member will sign and provide written comments on (if desired) the Graduate Committee Student Evaluation form (see attached), return it to the student, and retain the remainder of the materials for their records. If the full committee meeting is not required, the student and major professor can request a full committee meeting, or full committee member participation. The student will return all Graduate Committee Student Evaluations to the Departmental Graduate Committee with the rest of their Assessment documents.



Within two weeks of the committee meeting or individual meetings have been held, the student's major professor will arrange a student-major professor interview. During the student-major professor interview, the major professor and student will discuss the student's progress, feedback from committee members, issues of concern, and plans for the coming year. The major professor gives the completed Graduate Committee Student Evaluation form to the student (who returns it to the Departmental Graduate Committee with the rest of the assessment documents). If desired by either the student or the major professor, the major professor will write a detailed, one-page written Annual Evaluation of the student's performance. In cases where the major professor believes the student has performed below expectations or that the student's goals and plans for the coming year are inadequate or are not consistent with the professor's evaluation, the major professor will work with the student to develop a written Graduate Education Performance Plan for improving the student's performance. The Performance plan should be sent directly to the FWCS Department Head as well as related quarterly progress reports. The major professor's Annual Evaluation (and Performance Plan if necessary) remain in the student's file until seven years after graduation.



At this time, the student assesses their need to provide feedback (positive or negative) on the performance of their major professor and committee members. If the student wants to provide feedback, there are several options:


Written Evaluation of the Major Professor and/or committee member

According to University policy, faculty members are able to view all documents in their file used for their annual evaluations or promotion and tenure assessments. Thus, the student can submit to the Department Head either of the following types of evaluations of their major professor or committee members:

Non-confidential Evaluation that could be read by their Major Professor upon request.


Confidential Evaluation that explicitly states it is confidential. The contents of a confidential letter could not be used in a formal evaluation of the professor's performance.

Discussion with the Department Head

The student may meet with the Department Head to discuss the performance (both positive and negative) of their major professor or committee members. This allows students an opportunity to provide input to the Department Head concerning any problems, which may compromise successful completion of the degree, or an opportunity to recognize special efforts of a Major Professor or committee member(s). The Department Head will keep this meeting strictly confidential if requested by the student. Information from a confidential discussion cannot be used in a formal evaluation for promotion and tenure review.

It is the graduate student's responsibility to forward all completed documents to the Departmental Graduate Program Coordinator.


After the Annual Review

Outcomes from annual evaluations will either be “Satisfactory Progress” or “Unsatisfactory Performance Evaluation.”

Satisfactory Progress

In most cases, students have made satisfactory progress, and any issues that surfaced in the review are adequately addressed. After review by the Departmental Graduate Committee, all paperwork will be placed in the student's for seven years after they graduate.

Unsatisfactory Performance Review

The annual assessment may result in an unsatisfactory performance review of the student. In cases of unsatisfactory performance the major professor will work with the student to develop the written Performance Plan for improving the student's performance. The plan will become part of the student's file and will contain tangible mileposts or benchmarks for improvement. The Department Head will review and monitor progress of this plan on a quarterly basis. In cases where the Department Head is the student's Major Professor, this review will be conducted by the Chair of the Departmental Graduate Committee. Two unsatisfactory performance reports may result in terminating the student's graduate program.

Dissolution of the Major Professor-Student Relationship

Based upon the review either or both the faculty member or student may wish to dissolve the major professor-student relationship. The Major Professor-Student Relationship is the most basic component of the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife's graduate program. Acceptance of a student into the program is initiated by a major professor willing to act as the student's mentor. However, both the Graduate School and the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife are responsible for providing a reasonable opportunity to complete degree requirements for students that are accepted into the program. In cases where the Major Professor-Student Relationship dissolves, the Department and Graduate School still have a responsibility to that student.

A student may terminate the Major Professor-Student Relationship in writing by resigning. Resigning from a Graduate Research Assistantship will immediately terminate the student's employment by the Department resulting in the loss of the Graduate Research Assistantship. A faculty member may terminate the Major Professor-Student Relationship in a letter to the student and Department Head. Mutually acceptable arrangements shall be negotiated by the Major Professor, graduate student and the Department Head. Students may request the Graduate School to appoint an advocate to assist them in negotiating a satisfactory settlement. In cases where the faculty member dissolves the Major Professor-Student Relationship, the student’s Graduate Research Assistantship will continue through the end of his/her appointment (usually through the academic year).

The Department is responsible for providing a reasonable opportunity for students to complete degree requirements for students whose Major Professor-Student Relationship has dissolved but who are otherwise still in good standing in the program. In such situations, the Department Head will act as the student's Major Professor or will assign a Major Professor to the student. The student will have a minimum of six months to find a new Major Professor.


If all other efforts to resolve problems fail, students who believe that they have been unfairly treated during their graduate program may file a grievance with the Graduate School. Contact the Graduate School for grievance guidelines.