Thesis or Dissertation Defense and Public Seminar Presentation

Policy in Catalog:
MS Degree Requirements in the School of Marine Science Graduate Catalog
PhD Degree Requirements in the School of Marine Science Graduate Catalog
Final Draft Distribution & Defense Scheduling Form (DocuSign)
Defense Acceptance Form (DocuSign)
Important Deadlines and Dates for Graduation
Roles and Responsibilities of Students, Advisors, and Committees
Interim Guidelines for Exams and Defenses
Interim Guidelines for Moderators
Select a Moderator
Reserve a Room


Interim Guidelines for Defenses:

Interim guidelines for defenses are in effect until further notice, due to COVID-19 continuity planning. View the interim guidelines, approved on 3/18/2020.

General Information:
When and How to Schedule Defense
When Should I Schedule My Defense?

Begin with your anticipated graduation date and work backwards to determine your defense timeline. Keep in mind, students are expected to distribute a final draft of the thesis or dissertation to the advisory committee at least thirty (30) days prior to the defense date. In the event the final draft is distributed less than (30) days from the defense date due to unforeseen extenuating circumstances, signatures from all members of the advisory committee and the moderator will be required before the defense can be scheduled. The final draft distribution and defense scheduling form will route automatically to the [[registrar, SMS Registrar]] after all approvals have been obtained through DocuSign.

Following the defense, students should allow enough time to incorporate any additional edits recommended by the Advisory Committee before the thesis or dissertation submission deadline.

Refer to Important Deadlines and Dates for Graduation.

How Do I Schedule My Defense?
  • Advisor approval is required before the defense can be scheduled. The student should arrange the date and time for the seminar and defense with all members of the advisory committee as well as select a moderator and reserve rooms in EMS for both the seminar and defense.
  • If the seminar will be held in McHugh Auditorium, the student can book the auditorium in EMS on his/her own. Once the reservation is confirmed in EMS, also send a request to [[dlheadden, Dana Headden]] so that the Visitor's Center can be reserved. This extra step is highly encouraged as it eliminates public tours being booked for the same time as the seminar presentation. 
  • Determine if any committee members need to participate from a remote location. Committee members are expected to attend the seminar and defense in person. Should a committee member need to participate remotely, however, the advisor should alert the moderator and confirm the availability of adequate means of communications, both at VIMS and at the remote location. The approval of the Associate Dean of Academic Studies is required in the event that more than one committee member participates remotely. Indicate remote participation on the defense scheduling form.
  • Contact [[bob, Bob Polley]] in ITNS to request special AV setup requirements at least 30 days in advance of your defense date. ITNS needs to know how many committee members will participate remotely and if you prefer to have the seminar recorded. Seminars are not automatically recorded as it requires additional setup by ITNS, however recording is available with proper advance notification.
  • The student must initiate the final draft distribution and defense scheduling form in DocuSign when the final draft of the thesis or dissertation is distributed to the advisory committee (preferably 30 days prior to the defense date). If the student prefers to use an alternate professional-like photo (besides the photo that is available on the VIMS student directory listing) on the defense announcement, the student should email the image file to the [[registrar, SMS Registrar]] when the scheduling form is distributed to the committee. Announcements will be distributed to the campus community no less than two weeks prior to the defense date as well as via the Academic Studies Digest on Tuesdays. 
Seminar Presentation and Defense

All students are required to present a seminar to the marine science faculty, staff and students on their thesis or dissertation research. The seminar is open to any interested individuals and will be advertised by the SMS Registrar in the Academic Studies Digest and on the VIMS Internal Events calendar.

Immediately following the seminar, students will undergo an oral examination, the defense of his or her thesis or dissertation, by the student's Advisory Committee. The defense will be chaired and administered by a moderator who is not a member of the student's committee. SMS policy prohibits audio or video recording of exams and defenses, although exceptions may be made for students with documented disabilities.

Additional guidelines for the defense can be found here.

At least one business day prior to the defense date, the SMS Registrar will send an email to the moderator, advisor(s), and student with the DocuSign link to the form needing signed at the defense. The student must initiate the defense acceptance form in order for CAS authentication to pre-populate some of the form fields. The form will then route automatically in DocuSign to the moderator, advisor(s), and to the committee for approval. Once all signatures have been obtained, the student and the SMS Registrar will receive a copy of the completed form. The SMS Registrar will send a follow-up confirmation to the student after the defense milestone has been recorded in Banner.

Last Updated: August 5, 2021 by J. Hay