How can I provide feedback about the advising I received?

Date: July 2017


Dear Deans,

There seems to be no way for Ph.D. students to provide feedback to departments and the graduate school regarding the strengths and weaknesses of their advisors. Is it not a good idea to have an evaluation, similar to those for courses, to help with improving the advising?


Improvement-focused Graduate Student


Dear Improvement-focused Graduate Student,

Thank you for your Ask a Dean question. I appreciate your interest as a Ph.D. student in providing feedback regarding the strengths and weaknesses of faculty advisors. There are several mechanisms to do so.

Three times a year, corresponding with degree dates, every exiting Graduate School student (all degrees) are asked to complete an exit survey, including questions about their overall experience, the quality of academic programs including teaching, and a series of questions about their faculty advising relationship.

Every odd-numbered year in spring semester, doctoral students are asked to complete a doctoral experience survey. The most recent survey was conducted this past spring, and results will be posted when analysis has been completed. Summary results from the 2015 doctoral experience survey provide an overview of doctoral student perceptions about their faculty advisors. For example, 84 percent agreed to strongly agreed they are treated with respect by faculty, 83 percent met with their advisor once a month or more frequently, 75 percent felt the contact with their advisor was the right amount, and 81 percent agreed or strongly agreed their advisor had reasonable expectations. Students may also provide open-end narrative comments.

Summary data are posted publicly, and the Graduate School uses the detailed data, anonymized to protect student privacy. We publish detailed interactive student survey data reports for each of the graduate fields so that they can see how student perceptions in their graduate field compare to other Cornell graduate fields. We facilitate discussions with graduate faculty about best practices for graduate student advising and mentoring. We regularly discuss graduate student survey data with each faculty director of graduate studies (DGS) in our periodic review meetings of the Graduate School leadership team with each DGS, including some data specific to individual faculty members. 

If you have specific concerns (or suggestions) about your faculty advisor that you would like to discuss with someone, you can talk with your director of graduate studies (DGS), or talk with Associate Dean Jan Allen or Assistant Dean Janna Lamey

In addition, when faculty are reviewed for promotion and tenure, Cornell’s process includes inviting letters from current and former students, including graduate students, to comment on the faculty member’s abilities and accomplishments and to solicit suggestions for improvement.

I hope you will take advantage of the avenues available to you to provide feedback about the strengths and weaknesses you perceive regarding graduate faculty, so that we may continue to improve our collective ability to meet the needs of graduate students.

Warm regards,


Barbara A. Knuth
Senior Vice Provost and Dean of the Graduate School