Faculty Recruiting Support CICS

Defense and Graduation

ready to defend?

At least 6 weeks in advance of your preferred defense date you should email Eileen Hamel, Graduate Programs Manager (GPM), to verify all milestones have been met up to now and to discuss a possible defense date. You should allow sufficient time for your committee to read and prepare comments on your dissertation.  Three weeks is recommended. Please determine an appropriate deadline with your advisor to accommodate the schedules of all committee members.

*2020 Update: Due to the COVID-19 restrictions the graduate school is permitting virtual defenses. Please see the graduate school website for updates to this policy. 

Dissertation formatting

Graduate School Doctoral Degree Checklist

CICS will announce the event on the CICS Events Calendar. The Graduate School will make the formal announcement to the University's Graduate Faculty three weeks in advance of your defense, therefore, the Graduate School requires that the defense be scheduled a minimum of a month in advance.

To Do:

1. At least 30 days in advance of the defense date the student must submit a title, abstract, date, time, confirmation of committee names, and Zoom details to Eileen Hamel at ehamel@cs.umass.edu. If you need assistance with Zoom meeting setup please contact system@cs.umass.edu.

2. Two weeks in advance of the defense, or earlier, the student should sign and submit a  Doctoral Eligiblity Form to Eileen Hamel at ehamel@cs.umass.edu. Once the GPM verifies your residency requirement it will be sent to the Academic Dean for signature and forwarded to the Graduate School.

3. Prepare your signature page according to the formatting guidelines specific to the UMass Amherst Graduate School. It is the student's responsibility to obtain committee signatures. Students are allowed to obtain electronic signatures using DocuSign with your @umass.edu id. Once all committee signatures are on the document it should be sent to Eileen Hamel at ehamel@cs.umass.edu. Eileen will obtain the Chair of the Faculty signature and submit it to the Graduate School.

4. Follow the Graduate School Checklist steps for submitting a dissertation to UMass ScholarWorks and completing the Survey of Earned Doctorates.


dissertation defense

In Computer Science, the defense has two components: a defense and a public presentation.  If you combine them, you have an "open defense"; if you do not, you have a "closed defense".  Which you choose must be agreed upon by both you and your committee.  Some faculty members have very strong opinions one way or another.  In either case, there are two components to a defense:

  1. A public seminar that any member of the University community is invited to attend.
  2. An interaction between you and your committee, during which they deliberate and decide whether you have successfully defended your dissertation and whether they will insist on any modifications to your dissertation.  All members of your committee must be present on the Amherst campus for this portion of the defense.*2020 COVID exception applies

In an open defense, the public seminar is attended by your committee who continue the defense after the public audience is excused.  In a closed defense, you and your committee meet privately and you hold a public seminar sometime in the few days surrounding that meeting.

Note that by the rules of the Graduate School any member of the University's Graduate Faculty may attend the meeting between you and your committee.  For that reason the time of that meeting is announced publicly well in advance of your defense.  Courtesy suggests that individuals hoping to attend the meeting consult the chair of your committee.

In both cases, the committee may pass or fail your oral examination.  (It is extraordinarily rare for someone to fail a defense.)  Your chair will inform the Graduate Program Manager of the result of the defense. 

At the defense, the committee will also usually specify changes or additions that it requires to the dissertation itself.  After all members are satisfied with the dissertation, they will sign the dissertation's cover sheet.  Please bring this signature page that is formatted according to the Graduate School guidelines to the defense.  All committee members must sign the page.

2020-2021 Update: All signature pages may be signed electronically by all committee members. Submit your signed page to Eileen Hamel ehamel@cs.umass.edu for submission to the Graduate School. Use your UMass net id to obtain a DocuSign account.


Graduation deadlines

The University of Massachusetts Amherst awards graduate degrees in February, May, and September. Please review the Graduate School Doctoral Degree checklist for completion of all requirements and deadlines. Here are upcoming deadlines for graduation:

  • September 1, 2021 degree: August 31, 2021 (August 17, 2021 to department)
  • February 1, 2022 degree: January 10, 2022 (December 20, 2021 to department)
  • May 13, 2022 degree: April 13, 2022 (March 30, 2022 to department)

May is the only graduation date that students "walk". Students graduating in September, February and May are invited to "walk" at the May graduation ceremonies.

In addition to uploading your thesis to the Grad School, we also ask that you upload a .pdf file of your thesis to our publication DB, make sure you change the publication type to "Thesis".