Can a professor outside Cornell be on my exam committee?


Dear Dean,

I am in the process of trying to form my doctoral committee and realize that some of the expertise that I am seeking is currently unavailable at Cornell. I know that some students have committee members from other universities. I was hoping that you could provide me with the relevant University guidelines or policies on the same should I wish to ask a professor outside Cornell to be on my exam committee.


Exploring my options


Dear “Exploring my options”,

Cornell has over 1,900 graduate faculty members but it’s certainly true that students sometimes need specialized expertise from another university or even from an non-academic advisor.  For these situations, the Graduate School allows students to add non-Cornell affiliates to special committees using the ad hoc committee member request form.  An ad hoc member serves in addition to the regular Cornell special committee.   The policy is described on page 26 of the Code of Legislation of the Graduate Faculty, excerpted below:

The Dean of the Graduate School may approve an individual as a minor subject member on a special committee without conferring graduate faculty membership. The following individuals may be considered for such ad hoc appointments:

  • senior research associates,
  • senior lecturers,
  • senior extension associates,
  • tenured and tenure-track professors without the highest degree for the field,
  • other staff members of Cornell University, the Federal Nutrition Laboratory, or Boyce Thompson Institute, and
  • other qualified individuals, whether or not associated with Cornell University.

To be nominated, the individual must be recommended for ad hoc membership by the field’s Director of Graduate Studies. The individual’s curriculum vitae along with the student’s petition requesting the ad hoc member, must be submitted by the Director of Graduate Studies to the Dean of the Graduate School for final approval. Ad hoc special committee members serve in addition to the two required graduate faculty members on a master’s committee and the three on a doctoral committee. Ad Hoc members of a special committee have the right to participate in all special committee meetings, in the discussion of requirements, and in all examinations. They are not required to sign or otherwise approve the thesis or dissertation.

I encourage you to speak with your committee chair and DGS to see if this might be a good option for you!



Jason Kahabka
Associate Dean for Administration