OEH Student Handbook – Departmental Policies and Procedures

Departmental Responsibilities

It is the responsibility of every OEH student to:

  • Have a complete Plan of Study listing required courses and electives needed to meet the Departmental degree requirements.
  • Meet all degree requirements; including meeting all course requirements, thesis requirements, and meeting Graduate College deadlines for paperwork/forms needed for graduation (a detailed checklist with important deadlines is available from the Graduate Program Coordinator).
  • Know the information in the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College.
  • Check their uiowa email messages frequently and as this is how departmental information will be communicated.

UI Expectations of Graduate Students

A graduate student has the primary responsibility for successful completion of his or her degree. A graduate student should be committed to his or her graduate education and should demonstrate this by efforts in the classroom and in research. A graduate student is expected to maintain a high level of professionalism, self-motivation, engagement, excellence, scholarly curiosity, and ethical standards. The following list of expectations was formulated by the Graduate College to enhance the successful degree completion of graduate students. They are meant to be followed in cooperation with, and promotion by, their advisor.

A Graduate Student:

  • Should be knowledgeable of the policies and requirements of the Graduate College and the Department.
  • Should comply with all institutional policies, including academic program milestones. The student should comply with both the letter and spirit of all best practices and policies of the Department and University.
  • Shall work with his/her advisor to develop a thesis/dissertation project. This will include establishing a timeline for each phase of the work. The student should strive to meet the established deadlines.
  • Shall work with his/her advisor to select a thesis/dissertation committee.
  • Should meet regularly with the research advisor and the thesis/dissertation advisory committee members, and provide updates on the progress and results of ongoing research. The student should be responsive to the advice of and constructive criticism from the committee.
  • Should discuss policies on authorship and attendance at professional meetings with his/her advisor. The student should work with the advisor to submit all relevant research results that are ready for publication in a timely manner prior to graduation.
  • Should contribute to maintaining a research environment that is intellectually stimulating, emotionally supportive, safe, and free of harassment.
  • Shall attend the course Principles of Scholarly Integrity: Public Health (CPH:7270) and practice those guidelines in conducting thesis/dissertation research.
  • Should discuss policies on work hours, sick leave and vacation with the advisor or graduate director. The student should consult with the advisor in advance of any planned absences.
  • Should acknowledge primary responsibility to develop a career following the completion of the doctoral degree. The student should seek guidance from available resources, including the research advisor, career counseling services, thesis/dissertation committee, and any other mentors.

Departmental and University Policies

Graduate College Regulations

All Occupational and Environmental 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. Additional information about the Graduate College can be found here..

Grading System

With exceptions given below, Departmental courses are graded with the use of a traditional letter-grade system ranging from A to F with plus and minus to designate gradations of performance between letter grades. A grading system of Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) may only be used for courses offered by other departments, provided that the course instructor and the student’s advisor approve the registration. Neither the S nor the U is used in computing grade-point average. Approval for an S/U grade is 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 third week of a semester or the third day of the second week of a summer session.

For courses offered by this department, an S/U grading system is mandatory for thesis/dissertation credits (OEH:7000). An option of obtaining a letter grade or S/U designation exists for independent study (OEH:7020) and preceptorship (OEH:7040). For all courses offered by other departments, the number of semester hours that can be taken under the S/U grading system is limited to 6 for MS students and 12 for PhD students. This rule applies to courses taken while the student is a regular, conditional, or professional improvement student.

Degree Advancement

Any student desiring to enter a PhD-level program within the department will need to be approved by faculty vote. This policy implies that currently enrolled master’s students who wish to advance to a doctoral degree without completing the master’s degree must provide application materials for a faculty vote before progressing to the status of doctoral candidate. This application process will be internal to the department but will require the same materials as needed for Graduate Admissions.


Course registration is accomplished through the University of Iowa MyUI registration system at https://myui.uiowa.edu/. In order to register, students must request that their faculty advisor grant them permission via the registration authorization function in MAUI. Each student should consult with a faculty advisor before registering.

A student may register for no more than 15 graduate hours per semester during fall and spring semester, or eight hours during the summer session. Nine or more hours constitutes full-time student status.

Adding/Dropping Courses

Changes in registration must be initiated by the student. Students should be aware that failure to drop classes by the established deadline will result in a successively increased percentage of the tuition fee assessment. Significant deadlines for each semester are given on the Registrar’s website: http://registrar.uiowa.edu/

Change of Registration form is available at: http://registrar.uiowa.edu/changes-registration

General University Policies

General University policies associated with student rights at the University level are given at the following website: http://dos.uiowa.edu/policies/

Information on Academic Standing, Probation and Dismissal: http://www.grad.uiowa.edu/manual-part-1-section-iv-academic-standing-probation-and-dismissal

The University of Iowa Academic Grievance Procedures

Policy on Sexual Harassment and Consensual Relationships: http://opsmanual.uiowa.edu/

Human Subject Research

If you have a significant research role in a project that deals with human subjects, you will be required to take a short course on human subject research. Ask you advisor or the Graduate Program Coordinator for information on this.


If you have or suspect you may have a disability which could affect your potential to successfully complete your educational objectives, contact Student Disability Services to arrange for academic accommodations: http://sds.studentlife.uiowa.edu/


When an applicant is admitted to the Department of Occupational and Environmental Health, the student is assigned a faculty advisor and notified by the department. 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. Pending approval by the new advisor, the student must then notify the prior advisor, the Department Head, and the departmental 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 to remain with the same advisor throughout one’s academic career.

A student is initially assigned a faculty advisor upon being admitted to the Department but establishes a research project towards a thesis or dissertation under the direction of possibly another faculty member. In that case, the thesis director will assume the responsibility of also being the student’s academic advisor.

In addition to the advisor, two other personnel within the department will provide advice and information when requested: the Associate Head for Student Affairs and Curriculum, Dr. Patrick O’Shaughnessy, and the Graduate Program Coordinator, Ms. Brianne Schwarz. Dr. O’Shaughnessy oversees all student-related issues within the department and is a good resource for information related to both departmental and Graduate College regulations. Ms. Schwarz maintains student files, ensures that all paperwork is completed, and can advise students on procedural issues related to obtaining their degrees.

Departmental Plan of Study

A Departmental Plan of Study must be completed in the first semester of the student’s program. The purpose of the plan is to list all the required and elective courses that the student will take to receive a degree. Additionally, the Plan of Study will also be used to ensure that any requested waivers or transfer credits are approved and meet Graduate College and Departmental requirements. The Departmental Plan of Study must be developed with the student’s advisor, signed by the student and advisor, and submitted to the Graduate Program Coordinator for review. In some cases, the Plan of Study may go to the Departmental faculty for final approval. Changes in the Plan of Study must be made within five days of the semester of change.

Transfer Credits

Courses taken from other colleges and universities are evaluated by the University of Iowa Graduate Admissions Office and a list is made of those which the Graduate College will allow to be transferred. Inclusion on this list does not automatically indicate that a course will be transferable as a course satisfying the requirements of one of our degree programs. However, the department can only approve transfer hours from courses already approved by Graduate Admissions. Students requesting transfer of credit hours from other institutions to be applied toward their degree must provide information about the course (institution, course title, number of credit hours and grade) and a course description sufficient to determine whether the course is applicable to their degree program.

Courses taken ten or more years prior to, a) the session in which the master’s degree is to be conferred, or b) the doctoral comprehensive examination, cannot generally be used to fulfill degree requirements. If the department determines that courses older than 10 years may be used to fulfill graduation requirements, then a letter of petition must be sent to the Graduate College requesting the use of those credits.

The number of credit hours that can be transferred is related to the total number of hours required for your degree program and the “academic registration requirement” of this University. The academic registration requirement is defined as the minimum number of semester hours that must be obtained from courses administered by The University of Iowa in order to obtain a degree from this University.

MS Degree. To satisfy the academic registration requirement for the MS degree, at least 24 graduate semester hours must be completed under the auspices of the University of Iowa after admission to the department. This implies, for example, that a maximum of 14 graduate semester hours may be transferred to complete the 38 hours needed for an MS in OEH.

PhD Degree. To satisfy the academic registration requirement for the PhD degree, a student must earn at least 39 semester hours while registered in the University of Iowa Graduate College, and after admission to the department. This rule implies that a maximum of 33 semester hours can be transferred toward the 72 hours needed for a PhD degree. All courses to be applied to the degree must be completed within 10 years of the graduation date.

Waiver of Courses

If a student has taken a graduate-level course equivalent to a required course, the student may request that the course be waived. If this criteria is not met, a student may petition the faculty of this department to waive a required course. A waiver means that the student is not required to enroll in the course; however the equivalent number of credit hours must be taken to meet the total course degree requirements by enrolling in an elective course. To have a required course waived, the student must obtain a form from the Graduate Program Coordinator that explains the waiver approval process and required information.

Independent Study

Independent study credits may be earned only when arranged in advance and approval of the project has been given. Work is to be performed concurrent with registration. To obtain approval for an independent study (OEH:7020), a written agreement between the student and the faculty advisor will be made that specifies the outcome of the work, the number of semester hours to be applied, and the grading system to be used – S/U or letter grade. A form for this purpose is available from the Graduate Program Coordinator, and will be returned to the Coordinator after completion.

Graduate Student Dismissal Procedures

Student Dismissal: When a student is dismissed they will be denied permission to reregister within any departmental program. A letter to the student will be written by the Department’s Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) that explains the reasons for dismissal. Reasons for dismissal and an appeal process are defined below.

Dismissal Due to Inadequate GPA

The department follows the Graduate College (GC) policy for dismissal due to an inadequate cumulative grade-point average (GPA) with no exceptions. This policy can be found at: http://www.grad.uiowa.edu/manual-part-1-section-iv-academic-standing-probation-and-dismissal.

In brief, while pursuing a degree, MS degree students are expected to maintain a 2.75 or better cumulative GPA, and PhD degree students are expected to maintain a 3.00 or better cumulative GPA. A student with less than the minimum GPA after 9 or more semester hours of graded (A, B, C, D, F) graduate work will be placed on academic probation by the Graduate College. If, after completing 9 more semester hours of graded (A, B, C, D, F) graduate work, the student’s GPA remains below the minimum, the student will be dismissed; otherwise the student will be restored to good standing. A student on probation shall not be permitted to take comprehensive or final examinations leading to any degree or certificate, nor may the student receive any graduate degree or certificate. To avoid dismissal by a PhD student based on this rule, the student may request to be admitted into a departmental MS program to complete its requirements to obtain an MS degree. Acceptance into an MS program, in that case, will require a departmental faculty vote.

Dismissal Due to Poor Course Performance

In addition to following GC policies concerning a cumulative GPA, the department maintains a more stringent standard regarding course grades applied to a degree. Students with a transcript containing more than 6 semester hours of courses applied toward their degree with a grade of C+ or lower will not be allowed to graduate. If this requirement is exceeded, a student may elect to retake a course, or courses, in which a C+ or lower was obtained. A subsequent grade of B- or higher will negate the lower grade when evaluating this standard, but will not remove the first grade from a student’s transcript. Furthermore, the semester hours obtained from retaking a course will not count toward the total needed to complete the degree.

Dismissal Due to Failure of the PhD Comprehensive Examination

At least two unsatisfactory votes by the examining committee signify a failure of the PhD Comprehensive Examination. If a failure is ruled, the student may retake the exam one time, no sooner than 4 months after the examination and no later than 6 months. A second failure will result in dismissal. To avoid dismissal after a second failure, the student may request to be admitted into a departmental MS program to complete its requirements to obtain an MS degree. Acceptance into an MS program, in that case, will require a departmental faculty vote.

Dismissal Due to Failure of the Final PhD Examination or Final MS Examination (Thesis Defense)

For both the MS and PhD Final Examination two unsatisfactory votes will make the committee report unsatisfactory, which constitutes a failure of the examination. If a failure is ruled, the student may retake the exam one time, no sooner than the next session (fall, spring, or summer) and no later than one year. A second failure will result in dismissal.

Dismissal Due to Failure to Make Satisfactory Progress
An MS student who fails to complete the Final Examination within 10 years of the first semester of courses applied to the degree will be dismissed. A PhD student may be dismissed for failure to make reasonable progress toward completion of the degree. Information regarding sufficient academic progress towards a PhD degree and the consequences for failing to meet those expectations is provided in the section, “Doctoral Student Academic Progress Expectations”.

Dismissal Due to Unethical Behavior and Transgressions of the Iowa Code of Student Life

Unethical behavior may result in dismissal. Unethical behavior includes research misconduct such as the fabrication or falsification of data and plagiarism as defined the US HHS Office of Research Integrity (definition of misconduct ) Other behaviors or actions that may result in dismissal are described in the University of Iowa Code of Student Life (http://opsmanual.uiowa.edu/). Students are advised to review the Code. For any act of unethical behavior or transgression of the Iowa Code of Student Life, the department will follow the GC policy for dismissal given in Section IV.F of the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College (http://www.grad.uiowa.edu/manual-part-1-section-iv-academic-standing-probation-and-dismissal)

Egregious acts of research misconduct may also result in additional action by the University as stated in section 27.6, Ethics in Research, of the University’s Operations Manual (http://opsmanual.uiowa.edu/community-policies/research/ethics-research).

Appeal of Dismissal

If a student judges the dismissal decision to be improper, the student has the right to request a review. In that case, a committee will be formed consisting of three department faculty members not including the student’s advisor. The committee will review the materials that document the case against the student. The result of their deliberations will be submitted in a letter to the DGS and DEO stating their opinion as to whether there was sufficient cause to dismiss the student. If sufficient cause is not found, the student will be re-instated in good standing.

If the student believes that there was a procedural irregularity in the dismissal, the student has the right to request a review. In that case, the GC policy given in Section IV.G of the Manual of Rules and Regulations of the Graduate College will be followed. This policy is described here: http://www.grad.uiowa.edu/manual-part-1-section-iv-academic-standing-probation-and-dismissal. The policy mentions a formal grievance procedure.

Doctoral Student Academic Progress Expectations

Reasonable progress: To be in good standing, a doctoral student must satisfy all departmental and Graduate College requirements and deadlines and must make reasonable progress toward completion of the degree as judged by the student’s advisor. A student who fails to make reasonable progress will not be considered in good standing and provides cause for dismissal.

To aid in assuring reasonable progress toward their degree, the student will develop and maintain two documents.

  1. By the end of the student’s first semester, a Departmental Plan of Study will be completed by the student in consultation with the advisor. This document lists courses and research credit hours needed to satisfy degree requirements in the semesters they will be taken. The plan will also specify the semesters in which the Preliminary Assessment and Comprehensive Exam are to be taken. Departmental expectations for the number of semesters by which these requirements are to be completed are given in the Student Handbook. A signed copy of the Plan of Study is to be maintained by the advisor and the Graduate Program Coordinator.
  2. The student will maintain a curriculum vitae (CV) that will be updated annually. The CV will provide a record of all accomplishments, including a list of courses taken, awards, presentations, grants, and service activities. It will also contain a paragraph explaining progress toward the degree, including research and writing associated with completion of the dissertation and any reasons for not meeting the deadlines established in the Plan of Study.

The student’s academic progress will be reviewed annually by the advisor. This assessment will utilize the student’s CV and will be based on the timely completion of:

  1. courses applied to the degree,
  2. the Preliminary Assessment, and Comprehensive Exam within the semesters specified in the Plan of Study,
  3. research – including data collection, data analysis, and written summaries (thesis, journal papers) – associated with the degree, and
  4. research associated with a graduate research assistantship (GRA) appointment (if applicable).

The advisor will summarize her/his assessment of progress in an email to the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS).

If a student fails to meet expectations for reasonable progress, the DGS will inform the student of this fact in writing. The notification will specify the way(s) that the student is failing to meet the standards. The student will then be placed on probationary status for the following six months. The student, with guidance from the advisor, will develop a written plan and timeframe for meeting required expectations. This plan will be signed by both advisor and student. Copies of the plan will be kept by the student and advisor and sent to the DGS.

If by the end of the six-month probationary period the advisor believes the student has not satisfied expectations for reasonable progress, the student will be dismissed. The student will be notified of this fact in writing by the DGS with reasons for the action. If the student is advised by the DGS, the DEO will oversee all aspects of the dismissal including writing the letter of dismissal.

Appeal of Dismissal Due to Failure to Meet Departmental Deadlines:
If a student judges the dismissal decision to be improper, the student has a right to request a review. The appeal process is described in Graduate Student Dismissal Procedures.