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Learning Objectives

  • Learn who else has a stake in your completion of graduate school besides you, and how they affect your opportunities and progress through the program.


“We are all dependent on one another, every soul of us on earth.” — George Bernard Shaw

Stakeholders in Graduate School

Stakeholders in your graduate education include anyone who plays a role in and/or is affected by your progress in graduate school. Paying attention to the needs of these other stakeholders, such as your advisor, family, friends, and peers, is essential to your own success and satisfaction.



How you depend on them

How they depend on you


Responsible for guiding you through the requirements of your degree. Depending on the quality of this relationship and the level of involvement of your advisor, this relationship can serve as either a support or barrier to your graduation and success in graduate school.

Your advisor often depends on the work that you provide him or her. Your achievements and progress in graduate school reflects upon his or her reputation in the department.


Responsible for critiquing and ultimately approving your thesis/dissertation. Depending on the relationship you have with the members of your committee and the level of vested interest they have in your success, these faculty members can serve as either a support or barrier to your graduation and success in graduate school.

Faculty members are responsible for serving on committees. The quality of your thesis or dissertation can help or hurt their reputation in the department. Committee chairs usually have more vested interest in your success.


Establishes the policies and procedures for completing your degree. Depending on the changes in faculty positions and the most recently established policies, the obstacles you are required to overcome to graduate may become more difficult. Within your division and department are many administrators who oversee policy changes. The director of your program, the division director, and the dean of your college will make policy and funding decisions that affect your progress toward graduation.

Your department depends on students like you for its survival. Your success in graduate school and in your career contributes to the reputation of the department.


Your supervisor for your research or teaching assistantships, or those in charge of your fellowship, decide the requirements you must meet to receive continued financial support. The expectations these individuals have of you and your time will influence your progress through graduation.

Your supervisor usually has less interest in your degree completion and more interest in the quantity and quality of work/research you produce.

The graduate college

The graduate college provides prospective and current students with resources and support. They also work with staff and faculty to establish policies and programs aimed to strengthen the quality of education and help students complete degree requirements in a timely manner.

The graduate college depends on you to cooperate with the policies and procedures designed to keep you on track toward graduation.

The university board of regents

Convenes regularly to discuss and take action on the important issues facing higher education in your state. This board of professionals is integral in state legislation regarding college access and higher education. Depending on the policies set forth by the Board of Regents, you may experience greater supports or barriers to obtaining your degree.

In most instances, it is in the Board of Regents’ best interest to aid graduate students in the timely completion of their degrees.


You depend on co-authors to help create quality work and to help you get published.

Co-authors depend on you for the same.


You often depend on co-workers for the timely completion of group work and, perhaps, for moral support.

Co-workers depend on you for the same.

Stakeholders May Also Include Your

  • Dependents (e.g., children, aging parents, partner)
  • Financial Supports (e.g., boss, financial aid providers, parents, partner)
  • Moral Supports (e.g., friends, partner, family, cohort, co-workers, religious community)

Some stakeholders will play a more central role than others in your professional development and/or in your personal life. It is impossible to meet the needs of everyone involved in your graduate education, so it is important to clarify the key players.

Of course, you are the No. 1 stakeholder in your graduate education. If you don’t put your own needs first, no one else will. See the CareerWISE module Setting Priorities to learn tips on prioritizing the needs of different stakeholders.

Separate Advisors and Mentors
The importance of having a variety of mentors throughout your graduate experience.

Advisor Issues
How a positive advisor challenged his students to think for themselves.

Special Characteristics of Your Advisor and Struggling with Life Balance Issues
Advisor's experiences encourage well-informed career decisions.

Give Yourself Credit
Understanding your strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately giving yourself recognition for your successes.

Hearing from Students and Having an Impact
The importance of giving back to students and making an impact in their future education and career choices.

Developing a Scientific Identity in an Advisor's Shadow
Challenges faced with establishing yourself as an independent researcher separate from an influential advisor.

Trade Offs and Choices
The tradeoffs and choices of graduate life.

Stubbornness and Tenacity
Highlights the obstacles faced when trying to have research reviewed by the advisor and emphasizes the steps necessary to make adequate progress in the program.


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