Student: What to do if problems arise

All the recommendations in this guidebook have one purpose: to help you complete your graduate studies smoothly and efficiently. Occasionally situations arise that hinder timely completion of your work, such as the birth of a child or an illness that befalls you or someone in your family. If this happens, take the initiative and contact your mentors. Discuss your situation with them and give them the information you feel they need to know. As soon as possible, get back to them with a new timeline for completing your degree. Be sure the final plan is realistic, with deadlines you can meet.

Be aware that situations occasionally arise for mentors, too, that can potentially impede your work and progress. For instance, other demands on your mentor may hinder his or her ability to meet with you or provide prompt feedback about your work.

If significant delays happen often, or if other difficulties arise, talk with one or more of the following individuals who are in an excellent position to help you to resolve them.

The mentor

Your first step is to politely and diplomatically remind the professor of your needs. If you are not getting satisfactory results, we urge you to meet with your mentor in person as soon as possible. Face-to-face meetings can lead to more satisfactory results than e-mail, since one's tone and message can be easily misconstrued in electronic communication.

Other mentors or supervisory committee members

Even if other mentors on your team do not know the individual with whom you are experiencing difficulties and may or may not know your department's norms and policies, they will be able to offer you a fresh perspective, and suggest solutions they have found helpful.


Other students who have frequent contact with a particular faculty member can tell you if the issue is typical and may be able to suggest possible resolutions. Your peers also can explain the norms in your department regarding frequency of meetings, turn-around time for feedback, and general availability of faculty.

Departmental staff

Graduate program coordinators and assistants can help you clarify departmental expectations and policies. They also can offer suggestions on how to resolve problems and usually know about other people or offices on campus who can assist you.

Other faculty

Other trusted faculty can give you advice on how to deal with challenges that arise with one of your mentors. If you want someone to intercede on your behalf, senior faculty may be in a much better position to do so than junior faculty.

Graduate or department chair

If you are not able to resolve issues with your mentor on your own, you may find it advisable to talk to the graduate chair or your department chair. As always, focus the discussion diplomatically and objectively on the assistance you need to meet your goals in your graduate program. Avoid making the discussion about personality or interpersonal style differences.

Office of Graduate Studies, Professional Development

At any point, you may find it helpful to talk things over with the Graduate Student Professional Development staff in the Graduate Studies Office at 402-472-2875 or