Qualifying Portfolio

PhD students turn this in on the first day of classes in their 4th semester.




The Graduate College allows for considerable latitude in how individual programs conduct the Qualifying Exam, from formal timed exams to relatively informal assessment processes. The Qualifying Portfolio is a key mentoring opportunity for doctoral students. It is due the first day of classes of the student’s fourth semester.

Three objectives drive the Qualifying Portfolio in RCTE:

  1. retain the important mentoring component that occurs for students who have completed their first year in the Program;
  2. establish the Qualifying Portfolio as a bridge between the important formative work done in the first year with the more advanced scholarly and professional identity-building work done in subsequent years;
  3. encourage students’ development of wider faculty connections within the Program.


  1. In the Spring semester of their first year, all students take the Inquiry & Innovation seminar, an advanced form of the Colloquium.
  2. One objective of this course will be for students to explore the disciplines in which they are interested professionally, and to craft a statement of specialization that will inform their selection of courses in subsequent years (their “Specialization Curriculum”).
  3. By an agreed upon date, all Inquiry & Innovation Seminar students will have a complete draft of their Specialization Statement, which will have been vetted by the course instructor. These statements will be no more than 500 words long. The Specialization Statement will include:
    1. the name of the specialization;
    2. an explanation of why it’s an important avenue of inquiry;
    3. a list of 3-5 representative questions that indicate the sorts of research directions the student hopes to pursue;
    4. a statement of personal location, that is, the student describes her or his own subjectivity in the world and comments briefly on how this necessarily impacts the ways in which she or he approaches research and teaching.
  4. Each student will consult with their Faculty Mentor (assigned by the Graduate Director at the beginning of the first year) to receive feedback on the Specialization Statement. Students will also be encouraged (but not required) to contact a scholar outside the Program to make an inquiry about some aspect of the specialization.
  5. The Faculty Mentor’s feedback should include both written comments (modest) and at least a 30 minute meeting with the student to discuss the proposed area of specialization. This discussion should address issues such as (but not limited to):
    1. feasibility of pursuing the specialization within the Program (i.e., with whom will the student work?);
    2. importance of the specialization for the discipline;
    3. impact of the specialization in the world;
    4. marketability of the specialization when conducting a job search.
  6. Once the Faculty Mentor has offered feedback on the Specialization Statement (comments and meeting), she or he may ask the student to revise the statement to reflect important elements of their discussion.
  7. When the Faculty Mentor feels the specialization statement is in good shape, she or he will sign off on it.
  8. The Portfolio includes the revised and approved Specialization Statement, plus the grades in all four of the student’s required first and second-year courses, and will be holistically evaluated by all available faculty in a separate faculty meeting dedicated to this topic (by the end of February in a cohort’s fourth semester in the Program).
  9. Please be sure your portfolio contains the following materials:
  • Specialization Statement (drafted in the Inquiry & Innovations seminar and signed off on by your faculty mentor)
  • Vita
  • Reflective essay that includes an assessment of the your perceived strengths and weaknesses as an academic writer and researcher
  • Sample of academic writing that demonstrates strong research, writing, and critical thinking skills (graded, with comments from a faculty member);
  • Proposal for fulfilling the comparative cultural requirement
  1. Possible result of the faculty evaluation of Qualifying Exams are:
    1. Pass
    2. Pass with Minor Revisions (student is asked to make small changes to the Specialization Statement);
    3. Pass with Major Revisions (student is asked to make small or large changes to the Specialization Statement and/or (re)take a course.

Qualifying Portfolio Cover Sheet

NB: While the Specialization Statement is not a binding document, it is a directive one. It is to be understood by students and faculty to be orienting all of a student’s future coursework, teaching, and service commitments (possibly excepting minor and CCR-related coursework). Consequently, any significant variation away from the research direction outlined in the revised and approved Specialization Statement must be explained in the Preliminary Exam Portfolio (i.e., a newly revised Specialization Statement becomes a mandatory Context Document in the PEP).


College of Social and Behavioral Sciences