Committee Composition & Potential Members

A student who has been advanced to the thesis or dissertation stage is responsible for forming a thesis or dissertation committee. Members of the committee must review the student’s research proposal and indicate their approval by signing Form II. The student must keep the committee informed of the scope, plan, and progress of the thesis or dissertation research and manuscript. Note the following policies regarding committee composition:

Committee Size & Potential Members

  • Thesis — three members or more
  • Dissertation — five members or more

Students may conduct an online search to locate potential committee members. The majority of the committee should be faculty from the student’s graduate program. However, exceptions are possible. Emeriti faculty may serve on a committee at the request of the student and the graduate program. Non-graduate faculty may serve on a committee under special circumstances. If choosing a non-graduate faculty to serve on the committee, attach justification and the faculty’s current CV to Form II. Graduate chairs have the privilege of being ex-officio members of all committees in their program.

Committee Chair

The chair is responsible for directing and guiding the student’s research and writing activities. He or she should possess expertise in the student’s chosen research topic. It is the responsibility of the student to select an appropriate topic and to ensure that a faculty member with expertise in the topic is available and willing to serve as chair.

  • Thesis — Chair must be a level 2 or 3 regular or cooperating graduate faculty member in the student’s graduate program. With approval from the Office of Graduate Education, a full affiliate graduate faculty or an emeritus faculty may serve as chair.
  •  Dissertation — Chair must be a level 3 regular or cooperating graduate faculty member in the student’s graduate program. With approval from the Office of Graduate Education, a full affiliate graduate faculty or an emeritus faculty may serve as chair.

It is possible to have co-chairs on a committee. If there are co-chairs, both chairs must attend the final defense and review the manuscript. In order for the student to pass, both co-chairs must indicate their approval on Forms III and IV. On the forms, the word “co-chair” must follow the name of each co-chair. For administrative purposes only, the Office of Graduate Education will treat the first co-chair listed as the chair.

University Representative (Formerly known as Outside Member)

The University Representative (UR) is an optional member of the thesis committee and a required member of the dissertation committee. The UR fulfills the following functions:

  • The UR serves as a liaison between the Office of Graduate Education (OGE) and the student’s committee. S/he is to ensure administration of proper procedures with regard to the comprehensive exam and dissertation, fair treatment of the student throughout this process and that the level of research and integrity are appropriate to the student’s degree objective.
    • The primary responsibility of the UR is ensuring the integrity of the process and appropriate treatment of and participation by the student.
  • Disciplinary familiarity with the dissertation topic, while helpful, is not required.

In consultation with his or her committee chair, the student shall identify a faculty member from a different graduate program to serve as the UR. The committee chair must ascertain that the UR is indeed an individual who is at “arm’s length” from the faculty in the student’s graduate program.

Requirements to serve as UR:
1. Level 3 member of the graduate faculty.
2. Experience serving on dissertation committees at UHM.
3. From a different graduate program and at “arm’s length” from the faculty in the student’s graduate program.
4. Participation in committee meetings and attendance at the comprehensive exam and dissertation-related presentations (e.g,. proposal and defense)
5. Able to clearly communicate issues/concerns to the chair of the committee and work collaboratively to resolve them.
a. If issues and concerns are not resolved with the chair of the committee, the UR should share these issues and concerns with OGE.