CBH Student Handbook


Department Goals

Administrative Organization

Student Organizations, Committees, and Service Opportunities


Financial Support

University of Iowa Policies Affecting Students

Graduate College Regulations

Policy on Student Academic Conduct Standards and Procedures

General Information for Students

Information for Department of Community and Behavioral Health Students




In collaboration with communities, the Department of Community and Behavioral Health prepares graduates to promote health and quality of life by developing, evaluating and disseminating evidence-based practices through research, training, and innovative policy.

Departmental Goals

  • Educate highly competent and committed public health professionals and research scientists.
  • Advance the scientific basis for the practice of public health.
  • Promote meaningful community service and collaboration with the practice community.
  • Promote renewal of the public health infrastructure.
  • Enhance diversity and collaboration among students, staff, faculty, and alumni.

Administrative Organization

Community and Behavioral Health is one of five departments in the College of Public Health.  The other departments are Biostatistics, Epidemiology, Health Management and Policy, and Occupational and Environmental Health.

The Head of the Department is Dr. Mark Vander Weg, who is responsible for the administration of the educational, research, and professional service functions of the department.  Dr. Paul Gilbert serves as the Director of Graduate Studies. Elia Farias is the Graduate Program Coordinator. The department currently has 12 primary faculty and 3 staff

CBH is also home to the Prevention Research Center for Rural Health and the Native Center for Behavioral Health.

Student Organizations, Committees, and Service Opportunities

The Community and Behavioral Health Student Association (CBHSA) was established to provide opportunities for professional development, service-oriented outreach, and student social events. CBHSA aims to create unity among all students in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health by serving as a means of communication between students, faculty, the College of Public Health, and the community.

As full voting members, students can participate on selected standing and special ad hoc committees, both collegiate and departmental. These student representatives act as guides for the faculty and administration regarding the needs of students, in addition to serving as sources of information for the CPH student body. If you are interested in participating, please speak with the Graduate Program Coordinator. Depending on the status of the committee seat, you may have an opportunity to participate as a student representative.

The College of Public Health Graduate Student Association (CPHGSA) at the University of Iowa was established to advocate for professional development and outreach opportunities, discuss student issues, and create a greater sense of community for all students in the College of Public Health.


Admissions criteria, requirements, and the process can be found in How to Apply to CBH.


If a student’s enrollment is interrupted for any reason so that they are not enrolled for three consecutive academic sessions (including the spring, summer, and fall sessions but excluding the winter session) the student must apply for readmission. A readmission application form must be submitted. The Graduate College will not require new letters of recommendation, a new Personal Statement section, a written explanation of the reasons for the absence, nor a plan for degree completion.

Financial Support

The department website includes information on scholarships, fellowships, and internships targeted toward students in Community and Behavioral Health.  A limited number of scholarships, graduate research assistant (GRA) and teaching assistant (TA) positions, and tuition grants are available within the department. Searching outside CBH is also encouraged. Here are some frequently used resources:

Graduate Assistantships

The CBH department cannot guarantee employment opportunities for all students.  Students are encouraged to explore employment options widely– in the department, the College, the University, and beyond.

There are many employment opportunities for CBH graduate students at The University of Iowa.  Many research directors in the College of Public Health hire graduate students to assist them with projects.  Students should communicate their interest in a Graduate Assistant (GA) or Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) position to their faculty advisor and the Graduate Program Coordinator and read College of Public Health emails for information to be aware of opportunities available to them.  The CBH Graduate Program Coordinator emails announcements for all positions in the department, as well as any advertised across campus.

Eligibility for a graduate research and teaching assistantship will includes: (a) a cumulative grade-point average of at least 3.00; and (b) satisfactory degree progression.

Sometimes students are hired as Graduate Research Assistants.  Benefits are very good and include excellent health insurance coverage and Iowa residency for tuition purposes.  Sometimes students are hired as regular staff members, and these positions are often referred to as Research Assistants.   This classification is different than Graduate Research Assistant, and does not include the same benefits.  Make sure you understand the difference.

Graduate Student Employment Agreement
University Student Employment
College of Public Health Opportunities

Professional Development Reimbursement Program

To encourage CBH students’ professional development, CBH will consider requests for reimbursement for costs up to $400 incurred as a result of engaging in professional development activities.  Only currently enrolled students in good standing are eligible. Amounts will vary year to year depending on department resources.

The eligible expenses include:

  • Professional conference registration fees (Membership fees will only be reimbursed if it results in a conference registration cost that is low enough to cover the membership fee.)
  • Travel expenses associated with professional conference attendance
  • Copying or printing expenses associated with presenting work at a professional conference or a competitive event such as the CPH Research Week. Printing expenses must use University Printing Rules to be eligible for reimbursement.
  • Other expenses by request (reviewed on a case-by-case basis).

In addition, students who present research at a professional conference may be reimbursed an additional $100 during the academic year the presentation was given.  Talk to the Graduate Program Coordinator to get prior approval for professional development costs.  Original receipts must be submitted after events for all claimed expenses.

University of Iowa Policies Affecting Students

Students should review the University of Iowa Policies Affecting Students. Topics addressed include the student bill of rights, standards of academic conduct, treatment of student educational records, policies on sexual harassment, disability policy, religious diversity, and grievance procedures. Students who believe there has been a violation can contact the Dean of Students Office to discuss options available for reporting incidents to the appropriate authorities.

Graduate College Regulations

All Community and Behavioral Health degrees are conferred through the Graduate College.  Therefore, the department adheres to the Graduate College rules, regulations, and requirements that are outlined in the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College. Students should familiarize themselves with the Graduate College manual.

Policy on Student Academic Conduct Standards and Procedures

Standards of Academic Conduct

The University of Iowa has specific guidelines that address student conduct.  Students of the Department of Community and Behavioral Health are expected to adhere to these guidelines, which can be found in The University of Iowa Operations Manual, Part IV,  “Students, Chapter 1: General Regulations Applying to Students.”

Along with the academic knowledge that students will obtain during their educational career, it is also expected that students will develop a professional demeanor.  Students graduating from the program will be representing themselves, the department, the college, and the university in the professional world.  Therefore, professionalism will be expected of all CBH students in every aspect of the CBH environment.  This includes classrooms, seminars, meetings with faculty members, and any other situation in which the department is being represented.  Professionalism includes (but is not limited to):

  • Attending classes – if a student is unable to attend class, the student will notify the instructor in advance.
  • Arriving on time – to classes, meetings, and seminars
  • Being prepared – homework is completed, and materials are read
  • Proper etiquette – not speaking out of turn or interrupting, providing relevant and fact-based information during classroom discussions (not just opinions), turning off cellphones
  • Showing respect – to faculty members, other students, and staff members
  • Graciously accepting constructive feedback – from instructors, faculty members, staff members, and classmates

If any student feels they are unclear on these expectations, they are encouraged to discuss them with either their faculty advisor or the Graduate Program Coordinator.

The faculty of the College of Public Health expects the conduct of a student registered or taking courses in the College to be consistent with that of a professional person. Courtesy, honesty, and respect should be shown by students toward faculty, guest lecturers, administrative support staff, and fellow students. Similarly, a student should expect faculty to treat them fairly, showing respect for their ideas and opinions and striving to help them achieve maximum benefits from their experience in the College. Specific guidelines that address student conduct maybe found in the University of Iowa Operations Manual, Part IV, Students, Chapter 1: General Regulations Applying to Students.

Student academic misconduct includes behavior involving plagiarism, cheating, fabrication, falsification of records or official documents, intentional misuse of equipment or materials, and aiding and abetting the perpetration of such acts. The preparation of reports, papers, and examinations, assigned on an individual basis, must represent each student’s own effort. Reference sources and citations should be indicated clearly and adequate attribution given. The use of assistance from other students or aids of any kind during a written examination, except when the use of books or notes has been approved by an instructor, is a violation of the standard of academic conduct. The program position supports the Graduate College policy which can be found in the Section IV of the Graduate College Manual of Rules and Regulations.

Procedure for Handling Alleged Violations of Standards of Academic Conduct

The appeals process for students accused of academic misconduct is specified in The University of Iowa document, “Policies and Regulations Affecting Students, C. Academic Misconduct.”  The appeals process must be initiated by the student.  If the student wishes to appeal, that appeal must be lodged with the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs of the Graduate College within 30 days of the department dismissal.

General Information for Students

College of Public Health Student Commons

The Student Commons is located on the second floor (S240).  It includes study tables and reading chairs, as well as a serving counter.

Scan to Email

You may also scan documents to your email from the copier/scanner in Room N435 in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health. The College of Public Health has two “scan to e-mail” stations which are located in S206 and S207. These stations will allow you to scan a document directly to your e-mail account. Information on regarding use of this email technology is located on the CPH IT Support website.

Computer Labs and Printing

The College of Public Health Computer labs are located in S206 and S207 GH.  Other university computer labs (ITCs) are available throughout campus, including one at nearby Hardin Library.  A complete list of available ITCs can be obtained through the UI’s Information Technology Services Office.

Black and white printing is $0.03 per print side. Color printing is $0.15 per print side.  Printing is charged to the student’s University Bill (U-Bill).  The ITC Student Printing service is a campus-wide/enterprise service. In other words, students can print to any ITC on campus.

For printing/supplies for your GRA or TA work, please contact your supervisor.

Web Print Release Stations in CPHB

There are two Web Print Release Stations, which are located in S206 and S207. These stations will allow you to print from your personal laptop or home computer (with internet connectivity). Here are further instructions from ITS Support. Once you print from your wireless laptop or home system, the print job is not released (and or charged) until you go to the Web Print Release Station (located in S206 or S207) and release it.

Student Resources

Confidential Resources

Information for Department of Community and Behavioral Health Students

Desk Space

Limited space is available for graduate students either working as graduate assistants or on a dissertation. Priority is given for students who are graduate research assistants or teaching assistants. Graduate students with office space elsewhere on campus will only be given space if available. Desk allocations are reviewed each semester and are renewed in August. However, designated space can be reassigned at any time as needed or if space is unused.


University policy specifies that students are responsible for all official correspondence sent to their standard University of Iowa email address (@uiowa.edu). Students should check this account frequently.

If students do not want to check their university email account on a daily basis, they must re-route their University of Iowa email account, to an email account that they do check every day.  In ISIS, click on Update Email Routing Address under “My UIowa” on the toolbar.

Food at Meetings

The Department of Community and Behavioral Health does not expect any student to provide food or beverages at committee meetings, prospectus meetings or thesis defenses for the audience or for the committee members.


When an applicant is admitted to the Department of Community and Behavioral Health, the student is assigned a faculty advisor.  In most cases, the academic interest of the student is matched with a faculty member who shares similar interests.  In the case of PhD applicants, applicants are expected to help identify the faculty members whose interests best match their academic goals.

Role of the Advisor

  • Provide information about various fields of study in Community and Behavioral Health
  • Provide information about research opportunities
  • Provide information on strategies to search for and obtain an internship and various job opportunities
  • Help develop the plan of study
  • Provide advice when academic difficulties occur

Role of the Graduate Program Coordinator

  • Provide new and prospective students with information on application and admission processes, orientation, and the transition to the program
  • Provide current students with information on registration, advising, course selection, academic requirements, financial aid, CBH/CPH guidelines, career development, and monitoring progress to graduation
  • Provide administrative support for professional development and CBHSA funds

Changing Advisors

It is possible to change academic advisors; there is no requirement that students remain with the same advisor throughout their academic careers.  To change advisors, initiate action by talking to the CBH Graduate Program Coordinator.

When an applicant is admitted to the Department of Community and Behavioral Health, the student is assigned a faculty advisor by the Graduate Program Coordinator.  If a student wishes to change advisors, the student initiates the change by determining which faculty advisor would be preferred and discussing the possibility with the preferred faculty advisor. Upon approval by the new faculty advisor, the student must then notify the prior advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies, and the Graduate Program Coordinator. It should be emphasized that the reason for change may be personal or because of the student’s interests, and that there is no requirement that a student remain with the same advisor throughout that student’s academic career.


Nine or more semester hours constitutes full-time enrollment during the fall and spring semesters.  A graduate student may register for no more than 15 semester hours per semester during fall and spring semesters unless approved by both the advisor and the department head.  The maximum number of semester hours graduate students are allowed to enroll in during the combined summer sessions is 12 s.h. For the four-week summer session, the maximum number of semester hours allowed without approval for graduate students is 4 s.h.

Students register for courses online at MyUI. Students need to be authorized to register by either their advisor or the Graduate Program Coordinator.  Request authorization when you and your advisor are in agreement as to the courses you will take in the upcoming semester.  If you are making a change from your plan of study, you will need to talk about this with your advisor prior to asking for authorization.

The University Schedule of Courses comes out on MyUI a few weeks prior to early registration (February for the upcoming fall and summer semesters, October for the upcoming spring and summer semester). Generally, courses are offered during the same semester, the same time of day, the same format (i.e. web-based) as they were during the prior academic year—direct questions about specific courses to the Graduate Program Coordinator in that department or the instructor.

Note: International students are subject to registration requirements and those listed below. They are generally required to be registered full-time (at least 9 s.h.) in fall and spring semester, and there are restrictions on the number of courses they are allowed to register for via distance learning, e.g. web classes. International students should contact the Graduate Program Coordinator and/or the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISS) if they have questions about registration requirements in specific situations.


Auditing is to reduce to zero the number of semester hours for which a student registers in the audited course. The student will not receive credit for the course, but will be able to attend the course lectures and may be able to participate in course activities.  Audit registrations require special permission from the instructor.  Auditing a course does not eliminate the payment of tuition and fees for the course. Tuition assessment is based upon the number of semester hours for which a course is offered.  Students who are registered receive an “R” if attendance and performance are satisfactory or a “W” if unsatisfactory, unless special grading instructions allow other options.

Changing Registration

MyUI has a link with the Registrar listing significant academic deadlines for each semester, including deadlines for changes or withdrawal of registration and financial penalties involved.

Changes in registration must be initiated by the student. Students may change registration with no penalty via computer until midnight the day prior to the start of classes. During the first five days of the semester, any change should be completed on MyUI.   Beginning the sixth day of the fall/spring semester or the first day of summer  session, use the “initiate add” request or “drop” in course browse of MyUI, follow the steps in MyUI and obtain the required permissions/authorizations to add a course or drop a course.   Students should be aware that failure to drop classes by the established deadline will result in a successively increased percentage of tuition fee assessment.


Generally, faculty in the College of Public Health use the letter grades A, B, C, D, and F.  Plus-minus grading is an option which many faculty members elect to use.  Instructors usually include their grading scales in their syllabi.  If not on the syllabi, students may check with each course instructor at the beginning of the semesters to determine if the option will be used.

Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) grading is always applied to thesis/dissertation, research, or independent study courses.  Neither the S nor the U is used in computing grade-point average. Grades of S and U may also be used for courses taken outside the major department, provided that the course instructor and the student’s advisor approve the registration. Arrangements for S/U grading in these courses are accomplished by filing a form with appropriate signatures in the Registrar’s Office at the time of registration or no later than the last day of the second week of a semester or the third day of the second week of a summer session.


A grade of Incomplete (“I”) is to be used only when a student’s work during a session cannot be completed because of illness, accident, or other circumstances beyond the student’s control. The student must submit required work with sufficient time for the instructor to review it and submit a grade by the end of the next semester. Failure to do this results in a grade of “F.” Students with “I” from spring semester have until the end of the following fall semester to remove an “I”. The incomplete coursework must be complete in the term you are graduating, you cannot graduate with incomplete coursework.

Retaking a Course

For courses that are repeated, the Graduate College does not have a ‘second-grade only’ policy (where re-taking a course results in the replacement of the original grade). Therefore, re-registering for a course will not result in the removal of the original grade from a transcript. The two ways to remove a grade from a transcript are (1) by a retroactive withdrawal granted from the Graduate College (approved only in rare cases) or (2) by an instructor-initiated grade change.

Departmental Plan of Study

A departmental plan of study (MyPlan) must be submitted within the first semester of study in MyUI under Advising. The purpose of the plan is to ensure that any requested course waivers or transfer credits are approved, and that the student will have completed the appropriate coursework to receive the degree. Plans of study for new students will be discussed during a session conducted by the Graduate Studies Director at the department’s orientation.

Students should meet with their advisor to complete a MyPlan in MyUI  (see Sample Plans of Study in MyUI).  Community and Behavioral Health courses and other department course descriptions are available in the General Catalog.  When your MyPlan is complete and approved by your advisor, email the Graduate Program Coordinator to confirm your MyPlan has been completed. The student and their advisor will then be informed if the MyPlan requires modification.

Registration clearance for subsequent enrollment periods will not be released until an approved MyPlan is on file. MyPlans should be updated as needed.

M.P.H. students should consult the M.P.H. Student Handbook prior to initiating the MyPlan.

Application for Degree

A student is required to file an Application for Graduate College Degree by the posted deadline of the session (fall, spring, or summer) in which the student intends to graduate. The Degree Application link is on MyUI under Student Information.

The Graduate Program Coordinator will file associated required documentation to the Graduate College for graduation in consultation with the student and the advisor.

Waiver of Courses

Students may request that a required course be waived. A waiver means that the student is not required to enroll in the course, and the student does not receive credit for the course. Examples of appropriate use of a waiver include completion of the course more than ten years prior to anticipated graduation or completion of the course as an undergraduate student.

Transfer Credits

Students may request that courses they took at another institution, or in another degree program, count towards their CBH degree if they meet the objectives of required or elective courses in the MPH/PhD.  To do this, students must provide information and submit a CBH Form about each course on the transfer credit form, along with the syllabus for the course and their plan of study, to the Graduate Program Coordinator. Credit for courses toward an advanced degree must have the approval of the CBH department as well as the dean of the Graduate College.  Students cannot transfer courses that are more than 10 years old at the time that they take their comprehensive examination, or courses that were taken as part of an undergraduate program.

Students requesting transfer of credit hours must include information about the course (institution, course title, number of credit hours, and grade) and a course description sufficient to determine whether it is an acceptable substitute for the replaced course. Transfer credits from other colleges and universities are also evaluated by the Graduate Admissions Office. The department cannot approve transfer hours from other institutions unless the Graduate Admissions Office awards graduate credit hours.


M.P.H. students completing the Community and Behavioral Health subtrack (M.P.H.-CBH) are part of the CBH student body.  M.P.H. students have their own student handbook and are held accountable for the policies and procedures stated in that handbook. M.P.H.-CBH students may find the Department handbook a helpful resource, but should not consider that its policies alone pertain to them. The capstone and applied practice experience are the culminating requirements of the M.P.H. degree[FE1] . Students should begin to plan for the applied practice experience and meet with the M.P.H. applied practice advisor early in their program.

Description of the program and degree requirements

MPH Handbook

Ph.D. in Community and Behavioral Health

Department of Community and Behavioral Health requirements, which are supplemental to the Graduate College regulations, can be found in the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College, include:

The curriculum for the doctoral program requires that students complete at least 75 semester hours of course work past the baccalaureate degree. Relevant transfer credit given for a master’s degree counts towards these 75 semester hours.  

Important milestones for PhD students:

  • Qualifying (Preliminary) Exam
  • Comprehensive examination (written and oral)
  • Dissertation proposal
  • Dissertation Final Exam (Dissertation defense)

Academic Standing

While pursuing a degree in CBH, Ph.D students are expected to maintain a 3.0 or better grade-point average.  A student with less than a 3.0 GPA after 8 or more semester hours of graduate work will be placed on probation.  If the student’s cumulative grade-point average remains below 3.0 after completing 8 or more semester hours of graduate work at this University while on probation, the student shall be dismissed from the program and denied permission to reregister within any department program. When the student brings up their grade-point average to 3.0, the student shall be restored to good standing.

Dismissal from the program

Any CBH Ph.D student who receives more than six semester hours of C+ or lower on courses included in the student’s plan of study, including any transfer hours, will be dismissed from the program.  The student may appeal the dismissal in writing to the Head of the Department within 4 weeks of the end of the semester.  Student appeals must be voted on by the Department faculty within two semesters, including summer session, from the end of the semester in which the last C+ or lower grade was received. 

Appealing a course grade

Any student wishing to appeal a grade from a class must do so within 2 weeks of the end of the semester.  It is advisable to first speak with the instructor of the course in question about your grade.  If that offers no solution, contact the Department Chair of that course’s department within 4 weeks of the end of the semester.

Dissertation Committee

The student is responsible for obtaining a dissertation advisor. The dissertation advisor should have a primary, secondary, or joint faculty appointment in the Department of CBH. If a secondary faculty has agreed to advise a dissertation, the student should consult the Director of Graduate Studies to determine whether a primary faculty member should serve as co-advisor. The student, in collaboration with the dissertation advisor(s), will constitute a dissertation committee consisting of no fewer than five members of the Graduate College faculty.  The committee must include:

  • At least two faculty members whose primary appointment is in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health
  • At least one committee member whose primary appointment is outside the Department of Community and Behavioral Health
  • At least four committee members must be University of Iowa tenure-track faculty

Prior to the prospectus, the student should submit a completed Community and Behavioral Health Dissertation Committee Approval form to the Graduate Program Coordinator after the committee has been established.  This dissertation committee will evaluate the topic area of research and will provide direction during the preparation of the dissertation by participation in the evaluation, revision, and approval of the dissertation prospectus.

Ph.D. in Community and Behavioral Health

Annual Doctoral Student Reviews

The Department of Community and Behavioral Health conducts annual reviews for all doctoral students.  Guidelines for the review are as follows:

The purpose of the annual doctoral student review is threefold: (1) to guide students’ progress through the milestones; (2) to guide professional development and career preparation toward goals that will advance student success during the program and after graduation and (3) to familiarize the full faculty with students’ strengths, interests, progress, and challenges.  This process may also help students identify research or funding opportunities as well as faculty mentors and/or dissertation committee members.

These annual reviews are held in addition to, and not as a substitute for, regular meetings with the student’s advisor and other faculty mentors throughout the year. Meetings throughout the year should be used to assist students as they determine their research options, topics, and preparation for preliminary and comprehensive exams.

The program also has established expectations related to career preparation.  For example, to be competitive for positions at research universities, policy institutes, and certain other professional environments, students must have significant involvement in multiple research projects that result in publications.

Structure of Annual Doctoral Student Review
The annual review consists of four components:

  1. Submission, by all doctoral students of:
    • An annual doctoral review form to submit to the Graduate Program Coordinator
    • A current version of the student’s curriculum vitae (CV): students’ CVs should include degrees, honors, employment and research experiences, teaching experience, publications and manuscripts in development, presentations, and service activities. Students should use a standard format for their CV, and do not need to use the NIH Biosketch format. 
    • A grade report (these materials are due to the Graduate Program Coordinator as requested). Students should review their materials with their faculty advisor prior to the submission.
  2. A meeting of the CBH faculty[1] to discuss student progress: Two weeks in advance of the faculty meeting, review dossiers will be made available to all faculty.
  3. A written assessment of students’ progress: following the full-faculty review of the student’s materials, a written assessment is provided as a joint letter from the DEO and the advisor to the student and should include: a synopsis of students’ accomplishments and a clear explanation of recommendations for improvement or for professional development activities, if any.  This letter will be filed with the student’s departmental records.  Following the full-faculty review meeting, the graduate coordinator will work with the students advisor and the DGS to prepare a written assessment for each student.  This letter will be provided to all doctoral students between August 1 and September 1.
  4. A progress meeting between a student and their advisor to discuss the review memo: at the progress meeting, faculty advisors will discuss with individual students the results of their review. Faculty advisors should attempt to hold a meeting with their advisees to discuss the Annual Doctoral Review letter annually by September 15.

The annual doctoral student review, including the written assessment and progress meeting, is intended to support and guide students’ progress and professional development by establishing clear expectations and providing a vehicle for annual feedback.  Grievances should be addressed with the Department Head and Director of Graduate Studies.  Additionally, please refer to Section IV of the Graduate College Manual of Rules and Regulations for information on academic probation and dismissal standards, procedures, and appeals.

Ph.D. Qualifying Exam

Administration of a Ph.D. Qualifying Examination is not mandated by The University of Iowa (UI) Graduate College but is required of students in the Department of Community and Behavioral Health (CBH).  This examination should be completed early in the doctoral program. For students with a relevant Master’s degree, the qualifying exam is to be taken at the end of the second semester of full-time study in the program. For students without a relevant Master’s degree or enrolled part-time the qualifying exam should be taken by the end of the third semester or upon completion of sufficient coursework in the following areas: (a) Epidemiology, (b) Biostatistics, (c) Health Behavior and Health Education, (d) Designing & Implementing Interventions, and (e) Evaluation. The student’s academic advisor, in consultation with the student, will be responsible for determining when their advisee should sit for the examination.  The Ph.D. examination committee is comprised of three CBH faculty members and is a standing committee.  The examination is open book and takes place on campus, it is scheduled for a full day, from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.

The Ph.D. qualifying exam measures the breadth of students’ public health knowledge including community and behavioral health and assesses students’ ability to synthesize information, build a persuasive argument, and communicate their thoughts in writing.  The qualifying exam may include questions that prompt students to:  (a) critique existing studies; (b) evaluate research; and/or (c) demonstrate knowledge of public health, evidence-based practice, and community and behavioral health theories, concepts and principles.

Students will receive an evaluation of pass, reservations or fail on the qualifying examination.  Notification to the student will occur within 10 business days after the exam.

A vote of pass means the student can move on with their coursework.

A vote of “Reservations” will be given when at least two of the examination committee members determine that the student was not able to satisfactorily answer all the questions, but that the deficiencies are moderate and can be readily rectified. The corrective actions required of the student to rectify the deficiencies must be shared in writing with the student, and submitted to the students file. The statement must specify the time allowed for completion of the aforementioned corrective actions. The language describing the corrective actions must be specific. For example, if additional course work is required, a list of suitable courses must be presented.  If the candidate satisfies the required corrective actions in the specified period of time, the appropriate departmental executive, e.g., DEO, will send a written report to the student confirming that the Ph.D. examination committee considers the actions to have been satisfied, and will note the date of this decision. If the actions are not satisfied on time, or if the actions are not of sufficient quality, the appropriate departmental executive will send a written report to the student indicating that the Reservations have not been satisfactorily completed and the committee will change the status to ‘fail.’

If the evaluation is ‘fail’ in the student will be  dismissed from the Ph.D. program.  Appeals must be submitted in writing to the Department Executive Officer (DEO).

Please refer to Section IV of the Graduate College Manual of Rules and Regulations for additional information on student academic standing and dismissal.

Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination

The Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination (comprehensive exam) is a requirement for all Ph.D. candidates. The comprehensive exam is taken after the majority of coursework for the Ph.D. degree has been completed.  The request to take the comprehensive exam must be sent by the Graduate Program Coordinator at least three weeks before the administration of the comprehensive examination. A comprehensive exam committee will be composed to review and grade the exam.  Please refer to the Graduate College Manual of Rules and Regulations regarding composition of the comprehensive exam committee and other details of this exam.  The Comprehensive exam must be passed by vote of the committee before formal work on the dissertation can begin.  A student must be registered in the Graduate College at the time of the comprehensive examination, which must be satisfactorily completed no later than the session prior to the session of graduation.

The Ph.D. comprehensive exam is intended to determine whether the doctoral candidate is prepared to undertake the dissertation phase of their graduate studies.  It is an inclusive evaluation of the candidate’s command of the major and related fields of study, including the tools of research.  The Ph.D. comprehensive exam in CBH tests students’ mastery of important community and behavioral health concepts across three domains. These three domains are: (1) the research process, (2) theoretical foundations of community and behavioral health, and (3) intervention science.  Students are expected to answer questions, one from each of three domain areas, to demonstrate their research skills, their mastery of the core and relevant elective courses of the student’s degree program, and their ability to integrate, apply, and synthesize material.  Examination questions are composed of didactic components, principles, and concepts from the required and relevant elective courses of the student’s doctoral degree program. Examination questions may also include other relevant didactic material consistent with professional competency in the student’s specialty area.  Within these domains, examination questions may include, but are not limited to:  (a) designing a study; (b) identifying a research/knowledge gap; (c) translating research to practice or programs; (d) analyzing data; or (e) interpreting study findings.

The Ph.D. comprehensive exam will be scheduled between the student and their advisor.  The exam is administered over three days from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. each day.  Students can choose from three consecutive days, or Monday, Wednesday, Friday in the same week.  Students will be provided with a single question each day, and must submit their answer to that question by the end of each day.  The exam is ‘open book’, answers must be typed and references must be included where relevant.  An oral exam will be scheduled for a 2-hour meeting with the committee and student within 14 days of the first question.

Grading Policy for the Ph.D. Comprehensive Examination

The Ph.D. comprehensive exam is graded as Satisfactory, Reservations, or Unsatisfactory.  Within fourteen business days of the completion of the examination, a grade must be submitted to the Graduate College. Please go here to the Doctoral Examination Committee form.

Vote of Satisfactory: A vote of “Satisfactory” indicates that a student has passed the comprehensive exam and may begin to prepare their dissertation proposal.

Vote of Reservations:A vote of “Reservations” will be given when at least two of the examination committee members determine that the student has not satisfactorily answered all the questions, but that the  deficiencies were modest, and can be readily rectified. The corrective actions required of the student to rectify the deficiencies must be shared in writing with the student, and submitted to the Graduate College. The statement must specify the time allowed for completion of the aforementioned corrective actions. The language describing the corrective actions must be specific. For example, if additional course work is required, a list of suitable courses must be presented.

If the candidate satisfies the required corrective actions in the specified period of time, the appropriate departmental executive, e.g., DEO, will send a written report to the student and to the Graduate College confirming that the Ph.D. examination committee considers the actions to have been satisfied, and will note the date of this decision. Upon approval of the Dean of the Graduate College, the comprehensive exam will be recorded as “Satisfactory” as of that date. If the actions are not satisfied on time, or if the actions are not of sufficient quality, the appropriate departmental executive will send a written report to the students and the Graduate College indicating that the Reservations have not been satisfactorily completed.  Upon approval of the Dean of the Graduate College, the comprehensive exam will be recorded as “Unsatisfactory” as of that date.

Vote of Unsatisfactory: If at least two committee members evaluate the comprehensive exam as Unsatisfactory, the student has one opportunity to retake the exam in accord with procedural details as described in the Graduate College Manual of Rule and Regulations. If the student does not get an evaluation of satisfactory at the retake, the student is dismissed from the PhD.

Continuous Registration after Completion of the Comprehensive Examination

The student is required to register each fall and spring semester after satisfactorily completing the comprehensive examination until the degree is awarded.  In order to maintain continuous registration, doctoral students may register for (1) required or elective courses, research, and thesis hours to complete the plan of study or (2) Doctoral Continuous Registration (DCR).  DCR requires a 1 s.h. tuition fee payment.  No registration for the summer or winter session is required.  The exceptions are when the student is taking a degree at the end of the summer session.

Ph.D. Dissertation Proposal

The written research proposal does not need to be completed prior to sitting for the comprehensive exam.  The dissertation proposal should be a 10-20 page manuscript (length only intended as a guideline), outlining the intended dissertation research project of the student. The background and justification should be well-developed, as well as the hypotheses and proposed methods. All work should be properly referenced and comply with NIH or similar guidelines and format. The student must complete an oral defense of the proposal.  All dissertation committee members must be in attendance in person to review the quality and make a decision to pass or fail the student.  Graduate College approval is required to allow a committee member to join via phone or. All potential committee members must sign the student’s “Approval of Proposed Ph.D. Dissertation” form before the students can proceed.  Once signed, the dissertation committee becomes official.  Unanimous, written approval of the dissertation proposal is required by all dissertation committee members, prior to beginning the research. Substantial work should not be done on the dissertation until this form has been submitted.  Please go to Department of Community and behavioral Health Student Forms

Ph.D. Dissertation

The PhD Dissertation in CBH consists of three publishable manuscripts.  Original thought is required in the formulation and conduct of the research, although neither original data collection nor data analysis are strictly required.  A committee will be formed to guide the students as needed.  This committee will also be responsible during the dissertation defense to thoroughly examine the student’s area of knowledge associated with the context and content of the dissertation work.

The student is required to comply with Graduate College guidelines with regard to preparation of the dissertation and deadlines for graduation. The student should consult the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College and posted deadlines, and refer to the resources and rules of the Graduate College.  Dissertation costs are the responsibility of the student, including associated costs such as copying.  The format of the dissertation document must comply with all Graduate College guidelines.

Format for Ph.D. Dissertation

In the Department of Community and Behavioral Health, a PhD dissertation shall consist of at least three manuscripts that the dissertation committee deem suitable for publication on related subjects and submitted for publication. The scope of the manuscripts shall be negotiated with the dissertation committee in advance.  The dissertation shall include original thought in formulation and conduct of the research. However, original data collection may not be strictly required. For example, existing well-documented databases may be used as a research basis. The standard of quality will be judged relative to the probability the dissertation could withstand a peer reviewed publication process in English.  The format of the dissertation document should comply with all Graduate College guidelines. Consulting other standard dissertations and scientific writing guides is also recommended. Examples of the latter include:

Madsen D: Successful Dissertations and Theses, Jossey/Bass, 1992.

Katz MJ: Elements of the Scientific Paper, Yale University Press, 1985.

Gibaldi J: The MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers. Modern Languages Association of American, 1993.

When submitting work to dissertation committee members, students should expect a minimum of two-week turn around for feedback. This should, however, be agreed by the committee members and is subject to variability.

The final version of the dissertation must be approved by the chair and submitted to the committee a minimum of two weeks prior to the oral defense. Students should expect work to be returned with comments no later than three weeks from submitting the dissertation written work.

Dissertation Composition

  1. The dissertation will contain three sections:
    • An introductory chapter
    • A chapter, or chapters, containing the body of a publishable manuscript (one per chapter),
    • A concluding chapter
  2. The introductory chapter will:
    • outline the larger problems addressed in the research,
    • discuss the purpose and major goals of the research, and (if requested)
    • include a comprehensive literature review of the research area.
  3. The manuscripts drafts should contain publishable manuscripts. Each chapter will:
    • Be written with a target journal in mind and the level of detail, headings, etc. should reflect that target journal in order to minimize the need for revisions when the manuscripts are sent out for publication.
  4. The concluding chapter will:
  • show how the manuscripts shine light on the larger problems mentioned in the introduction,
  • address the significance of the research to the field of Community and Behavioral Health,
  • mention any aspect(s) of the research not included in the manuscripts but worthy of discussion, and
  • discuss the potential for future research.

Formatting Guidelines

In general, all instructions of The University of Iowa Graduate College are to be followed when preparing the dissertation can be found in the manual for dissertations.

Deadlines Relative to Dissertations

Deadlines are set by the Graduate College for the dissertation submission. See the Graduate College website for deadlines associated with the semester you plan to obtain the degree.

Departmental Format for Conducting the Defense (Final Exam) of a PhD Dissertation

This is the usual process below for a CBH dissertation defense, also called the final exam.  However, the chair may choose to vary from this process within the parameters allowed by the Graduate College.

  • Dissertations will be presented for review and critical assessment in a public forum.
  • Announcements, in the form of an email to all College of Public Health faculty, staff and students, and a news item, are made giving the dissertation title, student name, date, place, and time of defense.  A brief abstract is posted two weeks prior to the defense date. The student is responsible for coordinating this with the CBH Graduate Program Coordinator.
  • If an audience is present in addition to the student’s committee members, the defense will consist of the following format.
    • The chairperson introduces the student and explains the format that will be followed to the audience.
      • This may include asking the student to give a brief history of his or her academic/work history (for example, “what brought you to this point?”).
    • The student then gives a summary or overview of the objectives and important findings associated with his or her work.
      • Time limit is 20-40 minutes.
      • Talk should be addressed more towards audience than committee members who have already read the dissertation.
    • The question-and-answer period then follows in which the audience is allowed up to 20 minutes to ask questions. Following that time period, the committee members only will ask any additional questions.
    • Upon completion of the question-and-answer period, the committee members will convene a closed-door session to discuss the student’s performance, review academic information, and sign form as desired.
    • The student is informed of the result of the committee’s decision.

Ph.D. Defense Responsibilities

It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that all work is performed, and all forms are submitted, in a timely manner to obtain the degree. The forms and timelines originate from the Graduate College, which ultimately confers the degree, not the department. A detailed checklist of duties and responsibilities required for obtaining a degree is available from the Graduate Program Coordinator.

  • Reviews required forms for the Graduate College
  • Enrolls during the semester of the defense and planned graduation.
  • Notifies Graduate Program Coordinator of intent to defend.
  • Sends requests to committee members.
  • Schedules defense date with advisor and committee members.
  • Completes dissertation for review by dissertation committee.
  • Prints and sends copies of dissertation to advisor and committee members at least two weeks prior to defense.
  • Works with Graduate Program Coordinator to satisfy all Graduate College requirements.
  • Satisfies all departmental requirements as given in the Detailed Checklist.
  • Prints a Certificate of Approval form for committee members signature
Student and Dissertation Advisor
  • Select committee members.
  • Determine potential defense date.
  • Review/edit student’s dissertation prior to submission to committee members.
  • Distribute announcement of dissertation defense.
  • Complete first deposit checklist prior to submission to Graduate College.
Dissertation Advisor
  • Advises student on dissertation content.
  • Chairs dissertation defense.
  • Brings student file and final examination form to defense.
  • Signs required forms.
Graduate Program Coordinator
  • Supplies needed forms and advice when asked by student.
  • Submits the necessary forms for the defense to the Graduate College.
  • Finds a room for the defense.
  • Sends out the announcement of the scheduled dissertation defense.
  • Provides advisor with student file for defense (containing necessary forms for committee signatures).
  • Returns all forms to Graduate College.

Timing of the Defense

The dissertation defense is also referred to as the final exam, and may not be held until the next academic session after passing the comprehensive examination and the written dissertation is ready for committee review. However, a student must pass the final examination no later than five years after passing the comprehensive examination. Failure to meet this deadline will result in a reexamination of the student to determine his or her qualifications for taking the final examination.

Evaluation of the Doctoral Defense

The report of the final examination, the form committee members use to approve the final exam (thesis defense), is due in the Graduate College office no later than 48 hours after the examination. The final examination will be evaluated as satisfactory or unsatisfactory. Two unsatisfactory votes will make the student’s performance unsatisfactory. In case of a report of unsatisfactory in the final examination, the candidate may present himself or herself for reexamination not sooner than four months after the first examination. The examination may be repeated only once. Refer to Section XII. K. of the Graduate College Manual of Rules and Regulations for these rules relative to the comprehensive examination.

[^] FERPA guidelines permit the Department of Community and Behavioral Health to hold a faculty meeting to discuss doctoral student reviews; however, each CBH faculty member, in consultation with the Department Executive Officer (DEO), retains the right to request an individual review for a student when confidential or privileged information is relevant to a student’s degree progress.  Upon agreement from the DEO, the faculty