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Information for Current Students

This is a description of the Environmental Science and Management Program’s components and terminology, timeline and major milestones, and forms.

Program Components and Terminology

Dissertation Committee: A faculty committee that advises you, and guides and evaluates your academic progress and dissertation research. Environmental Science and Management committees consist of four members, as follows:

  • Dissertation Chair (your primary advisor), who must hold doctoral faculty status.
  • Two internal committee members who must be full-time, tenured or tenure-track faculty at Montclair State University. These two members are not required to hold doctoral status.
  • One external committee member who is employed outside of Montclair State, and ideally works in a non-academic position.

Written qualifying exams: Part I of advancement to candidacy. The dissertation committee writes and administers the written qualifying exam. The written exam is designed to assess your knowledge of the disciplines related to your research, your written communication skills, your ability to think critically, to locate, analyze and integrate data sets, and explore environmental management problems and solutions from multiple viewpoints. Exam responses should be written in the style of a scientific journal article, with appropriate in-text citations and references cited section. Each committee determines the structure and format of the exam (length, time limit, open or closed book, etc.) as appropriate for each doctoral candidate.

Oral qualifying exams: Part II of advancement to candidacy. The dissertation committee administers the oral qualifying exam, which is designed to assess your preparedness to begin dissertation research, your preliminary dissertation topic ideas, your oral communication skills and your ability to brainstorm “in the moment” about your research and its foundation disciplines. Successful completion of the BOTH the oral and written qualifying exam is required before the candidate is allowed to begin dissertation credits (EAES900).

Dissertation proposal: A formal document that explains your over-arching research questions, your hypotheses to be tested, a literature review that places your work within the larger context of your discipline, your proposed methodology and rationale for this methodology, preliminary results obtained thus far and discussion of how those results guide your next steps, your expected outcomes, and timeline for completing all dissertation components. Dissertation proposals should be written in the style of a funding agency grant proposal, with high-quality graphics and appropriate in-text citations and references cited section.

Dissertation proposal defense: A closed presentation (i.e., not open to the public) to your dissertation committee in which you explain your over-arching research questions and proposed research plan, followed by a question and answer session with your committee. The purpose of the proposal defense is to ensure that you are conducting original, important research that contributes new knowledge to your discipline, with sound methodology and a realistic plan for completion.

Dissertation Defense: The culminating experience for a PhD program, the dissertation defense begins with an open presentation to your dissertation committee and the general public in which you present your major research activities, results and conclusions. The presentation is typically 45 minutes, followed by 15 minutes of questions from the audience. After this open session, the audience is dismissed a closed question and answer session continues with your dissertation committee.

Program Timeline and Major Milestones

This is a sample timeline for full-time students. The program faculty expect that students are on campus and engaged in their coursework and research year round, including summers.

Step 0
When you apply to Montclair State University

Connect with a potential dissertation advisor with whom you have compatible research interests. Explore external funding opportunities such graduate fellowships and student research grants.

Step 1
Year One
  • Complete the two Research Methods courses, EAES895 and EAES896. Begin required core courses and program electives. Full-time students take 10 credits per semester, typically 3 courses and the 1-credit Colloquium in Environmental Science and Management. Part-time students take 1-2 courses per year and the 1-credit Colloquium in Environmental Science and Management.
  • Begin developing dissertation project ideas, conduct pilot projects and literature reviews through the research methods courses and independent work with your advisor. A product of EAES896 is an initial draft of your dissertation proposal.
  • Apply for external fellowships and grants. Fellowship due dates are typically in October-November. Consult with your dissertation advisor and the program director to identify appropriate programs.
Step 2
Year Two
  • Continue your coursework, which should be nearly complete by the end of year two.
  • Form your four-member dissertation committee.
  • Expand upon your EAES896 draft dissertation proposal to incorporate new ideas and research results obtained during the summer and fall. Share the new draft with your dissertation committee to help them write appropriate questions for your qualifying exams.
  • January: submit an abstract with your preliminary research results to Montclair State University’s Student Research Symposium to gain practice delivering a conference presentation. (Not required, but strongly recommended).
  • Complete the written and oral qualifying exams. This should be done in the spring or summer of year two for full-time students, or in year three for part-time students. Note- failure to advance to candidacy in a timely manner is grounds for de-matriculation from the program. Before you take your qualifying exams, you must work with your advisor to complete forms B and C and submit them to the program director, together with a CV for your proposed external committee member:

    Your committee administers your qualifying exams and its membership must be formally recorded prior to any exam. Upon completion of qualifying exams, work with your advisor to complete form A and submit this to the program director:

    • Form A: Notification of Advancement to Candidacy. This form must be accompanied by a copy of the written exam questions and responses, and a report from the committee chair summarizing the written and oral exam proceedings, grading system, and committee recommendations.

NOTE: Forms B and C must be submitted to the Graduate School before Form A. This is because the qualifying examination is administered by the dissertation committee Chair and committee members, so the names and affiliations of the chair and committee must be formally recorded before the examinations can be taken.

  • Identify professional conferences where you will present research results.
Step 3
Year Three
  • September: Submit a request for student travel support to the CSAM Dean’s Office and Graduate School. Students presenting their work at professional conferences are eligible for up to $250 from the Dean’s Office, and may apply for a $300 competitive grant from the Graduate School. (Not required, but strongly recommended).
  • Complete any remaining coursework.
  • Begin EAES900 dissertation credits. Note- you MUST pass both the written and oral qualifying exams before enrolling in EAES900.
  • Finalize your dissertation proposal. This can be done in year two or beginning of year three.
  • Complete the dissertation proposal defense. This can be done in year two or beginning of year three for full-time students, and year three or four for part-time students. After successfully defending your proposal, work with your advisor to submit Form D – Approval of Dissertation Proposal to the program director. This form must be accompanied by a copy of the approved proposal.
  • Present your research results at a professional conference.
Step 4
Year Four and Beyond
  • September: Submit a request for student travel support to the CSAM Dean’s Office and Graduate School.
  • Complete EAES900 dissertation credits (30 credits of EAES900 are required).
  • If necessary, enroll in one credit per semester of EAES901 Dissertation Extension.
  • Present your research results at a professional conference.
  • Work with your advisor to prepare manuscripts and submit your work to appropriate journals. Please note- some journals charge fees. All fees are the responsibility of the authors. The Environmental Science and Management program does not provide funds for this purpose.
Step 5
File for Graduation

This is done online through NEST. Deadlines are as follows:

  • November 1 for the following January graduation
  • January 1 for the following May graduation
  • May 1 for the following August graduation
Step 6
Request for Defense Date

When you and your committee are ready to schedule your dissertation defense, complete Form E – Application for Dissertation Defense Date. NOTE: Before submitting Form E you must provide a copy of your dissertation to each member of your committee, for their use as they prepare for the defense. Ask each committee member if a hard copy or electronic copy is preferred.

One hard copy of your dissertation MUST be provided along with Form E, which is signed by your committee and by the program director, and then submitted to the Graduate School.

Step 7
After the Dissertation Defense

The dissertation committee completes Form F – Report of Dissertation Defense, which is submitted to the program director and then to the Graduate School. It is common for the dissertation committee to require corrections and revisions to your dissertation. The committee MUST state the deadline by which all changes must be made. However, if the majority of the committee indicates “Conditional Pass,” then Form F must be accompanied by a report from the dissertation committee chair that lists the specific conditions to be met and the timetable for meeting them.

Doctoral Forms

Other forms for new and current students are available at the Graduate School’s Forms webpage.