General Information

The Mission of Fisk University:

Fisk University produces graduates from diverse backgrounds with the integrity and intellect required for substantive contributions to society. Our undergraduate curriculum is grounded in the liberal arts. Our faculty and administrators emphasize the discovery and advancement of knowledge through research in the natural and social sciences, business and the humanities. We are committed to the success of scholars and leaders with a global perspective.


Fisk University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award the Associate of Arts (A.A.), Associate of Science (A.S.), Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Bachelor of Music (B.Mus.), Master of Arts (M.A.), and Master of Science (M.S.) degrees.

Questions about the accreditation of Fisk University may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (

About the Bulletin

This Bulletin represents the most current information available at the time of publication, effective July 1,2022 - June 30, 2023. As Fisk University continues to provide the highest quality of intellectual and leadership development opportunities, the curriculum is always expanding to meet the changes in graduate and professional training as well as the changing demands of the global workforce. New opportunities will arise and, subsequently, modifications may be made to existing programs and to the information contained in this Bulletin without prior notice. Thus, while the provisions of this Bulletin will be applied as stated, Fisk University retains the right to change the policies and programs contained herein at its discretion.

The Bulletin is not an irrevocable contract between Fisk University and a student. Updated versions of this Bulletin may be accessed online at Students are encouraged to maintain a positive working relationship with faculty academic advisors who can effectively help them chart a bright future at Fisk University and prepare for life upon graduation.

General Overview

Fisk University is a historically Black liberal arts college with a rich history and contribution to the development of leaders and scholars of color in our country. Matriculants to Fisk MA programs in 2020 are participating in our MA or MS programs in Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, and Social Justice. Fisk also is engaged in multiple partnerships with other institutions to link our Master’s trainees with PhD programs in their field of interest. Examples of those programs include the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program in Physics (including Materials Science and Astrophysics, Chemistry, and Biology (see

Administration of the Graduate Programs

The Dean of Graduate Studies is the Convener of the Graduate Council, made up of the Directors of Graduate Studies for all the Fisk graduate programs and critical staff members. The Council also may invite as ex officio any faculty members who serve as Principal Investigators on extramurally funded Programs that provide essential resources for student tuition and stipends.

Membership of the Graduate Council:

  • Bryan Wallace, Ed.D., Dean of Graduate Studies
  • Brian Nelms, PhD, DGS for Biology
  • Steven Damo, PhD, DGS for Chemistry
  • Duncan M. Pelly, PhD, DGS for Healthcare Management and Executive Leadership
  • Arnold Burger, PhD, DGS for Physics
  • Sheila Peters, PhD, DGS for Psychology
  • Tdka Kilimanjaro, PhD, DGS for Social Justice
  • Dina Myers Stroud, PhD, Exec. Dir. of the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-PhD Bridge Program
  • Brandon Owens, PhD, Dean of John Hope & Aurelia Franklin Library

Ex officio, invited but attendance is optional

  • Shirley Brown, PhD, Dean of Social Sciences and Humanities
  • Brian Nelms, PhD, Dean of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Computer Science
  • Robert Z. Carr, PhD, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

The Council is responsible for the ongoing review and improvement of the component graduate programs and the development of trans-program professional skills development programs for the Graduate Students.

Admission Requirements and Application Process

Admission to the Fisk University Graduate Program is open to persons who have graduated from an accredited college and earned a B.A. or B.S. degree in the field of interest of the graduate program. Specific course requirements are outlined for each of the graduate programs in the following materials.

Consideration for admission to the Graduate Program at Fisk University requires that the following materials are submitted to the Office of Graduate Studies ( or the Office of Admissions and Records at Fisk University. Admissions decisions will generally only be made once a complete application is received.

A completed application form for graduate study

The completed application should be sent electronically to the School of Graduate Studies at, including the application form (available online at For students applying to the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge program, additional application materials will be provided to you by Constantine Coca ( and all materials for that program should be sent to him.

Official transcripts of all undergraduate work

These must be submitted directly to the Office of Admissions and Records by the registrar of the institution awarding credit for the completed work; unofficial transcripts for the Bridge Program should be sent to

Personal statement

A personal statement addressing specific issues pertaining to knowledge, work and/or research experiences, as well as goals and/or interests in the chosen field and longer-term career goals.

Letters of Recommendation

Three letters of recommendation, directly from the recommenders to Fisk University, preferably from persons who are familiar with the applicant’s academic and/or professional capabilities.

College level English

Adequate skills on the college level in reading and in spoken and written English are expected of all graduate students. If English is not the student's primary language, a TOEFL examination is required for consideration by the admissions committee.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores are not required, but may be submitted as evidence. These scores should be sent as part of the application for admission.

Policy of Non-Discrimination:

Fisk University does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, age, marital status, sexual orientation, religion, national origin or disability in the administration and operation of its admission and educational policies, programs and activities. An equal opportunity employer, Fisk University adheres to federal, state and local government employment guidelines. Qualified individuals with disabilities may not, on the basis of disability, be denied admission (including re-admission) or be subjected to discrimination in admission, re- admission or recruitment by the University in violation of 34 C.F.R. § 104.42(a).

Veterans Affairs

The Office of Veteran Affairs 

Fisk University’s programs may be approved for students to use their VA Benefits. Please check the GI Bill® Comparison Tool for the list of currently approved programs at If your program is not listed, please contact the school certifying official. Students must submit their Certificate of Eligibility to the School Certifying Official to be certified to the VA.

“GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). More information about education benefits offered by VA is available at the official U.S. government website at"


Fisk University Veterans Affairs Department mission is to provide essential resources and support to active duty, service members, veterans, reservists, Guardsmen, and family members with U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) education benefits and services as they transition and learn to navigate through the higher learning college experience.  

Benefit Programs Offered 

Fisk University with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Offers the following benefits programs: 

  • Montgomery GI Bill®-Active Duty Chapter 30
  • Veterans Educational Assistance Program (VEAP) Chapter 32
  • Post 9’11 GI Bill® Chapter 33
  • Survivors and Dependents Educational Assistance Program (DEA) Chapter 35
  • Montgomery GI Bill®-Selected Reserves (MGIB-SR), Chapter 1606
  • Reserve Educational Assistance Program (REAP), Chapter 1607
  • Yellow Ribbon
  • Vocational Rehabilitation
  • TN Promise

GI Bill® is a registered trademark of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).


Application Process 

Students who have any affiliation with the military can submit an application online The application is required to begin the process. Students who are receiving benefits for the first time under Montgomery G. I. Bill must complete and file an application VA Form 22-1990. Students who have received VA benefits at a prior institution must file a Request for Change of Program or Place of Training and fill and submit VA form 22-1995 to your School Certifying Official’s. A dependent of a veteran or a service member who requests a change in program or place of training must fill out and submit VA form 22-5495 to your School Certifying Official’s. Each student must provide a Certificate of Eligibility. Students applying for Chapter 33 in lieu of (or relinquishing) another benefit should complete a VA Form 22-1990.  

If the student is the Veteran, then a copy of his or her DD-214 or NOBE is also required. Student Previous training and experience (Joint Service Transcript) and life experience will be evaluated for credit. Life Experience credit has guidelines that students must follow. 

How to maintain Benefits  

Students receiving benefits must maintain satisfactory academic progress and attend classes regularly. Certification will not be allowed for any course(s) previously passed (D or above), unless a C or better is required. Any VA student who receives a non- punitive grade(s) (W, WP (Withdrawn Passing), and WF (Withdrawn Failing)) must be reported to VA. Students will not receive payment for non-punitive grade. 


Public Law 115-407

Any covered individual will be able to attend or participate in the course of education during the period beginning on the date on which the individual provides to the educational institution a certificate of eligibility for entitlement to educational assistance under chapter 31 or 33 (a “certificate of eligibility” can also include a “Statement of Benefits” obtained from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) website – eBenefits, or a VAF 28-1905 form for chapter 31 authorization purposes) and ending on the earlier of the following dates:

  1. The date on which payment from VA is made to the
  2. 90 days after the date the institution certified tuition
    and fees following the receipt of the certificate of

Fisk University will not impose any penalty, including the assessment of late fees, the denial of access to classes, libraries, or other institutional facilities, or the requirement that a covered individual borrow additional funds, on any covered individual because of the individual’s inability to meet his or her financial obligations to the institution due to the delayed disbursement funding from VA under chapter 31 or 33.

Public facing information should state that veterans receiving Chapter 31 or Chapter 33 benefits are required to notify the SCO each term either in writing or via email, that they plan to
use their education benefits for the ensuing term.

Public facing information should state that veterans receiving Chapter 31 or Chapter 33 benefits are required to verify their attendance to VA each month.


General Orientation:

Fisk University provides an orientation for all incoming graduate trainees to Graduate Studies at Fisk University and to their program, providing a perspective on the difference in academic maturity expected of graduate trainees when compared to the academic habits of undergraduate students. This general orientation is followed by individual program-specific meetings for each area, including a separate continuing orientation for the participants in the Fisk-Vanderbilt Masters-to-PhD Bridge Program.

Overall components of the Orientation:

  • Meeting one another and learning each of our career aspirations.
  • Welcome from the Dean and Assistant Dean of Graduate Studies
  • And the overall Roles and Responsibilities of Students, faculty advisors and graduate student mentors at Fisk University for the graduate experience as well as a philosophical transition from undergraduate to graduate student academic and professional expectations.
  • Review of the Graduate Student Handbook, and its significance.
  • Overview of the TIMELINE for completing each aspect of the Graduate Program.
  • Introduction of the Various Graduate Programs and their Directors for Graduate Studies.
  • Introduction of Resources for the Students: Writing Center; Counseling Center, Library Resources.

Personal Counseling.

The expectations for independent learning and resourcefulness that underlie graduate training, in concert with the high academic demands, can bring multiple sources of stress to the surface. We advise reaching out for confidential conversations with counselors at your earliest moment of need. Students can schedule a consultation via 615-329-8861, at the Fisk counseling Center, located on the 4th Floor/B wing of Shane Hall ( A Student Counseling Handbook is available at the same link. The EMERGENCY contact is Dr. Sheila Peters, 615-497-2963, a licensed clinical psychologist who in emergency situations can identify the most appropriate clinical professional to meet a particular student’s needs.

Occasionally, a student may be encouraged or even required to attend counseling sessions, advice intended with the student’s best interests in mind. Like for Fisk undergraduates, when a graduate student is required to attend counseling sessions with a University counselor or one outside Fisk, proof of completion of this counseling will be required to be provided to the Dean of Graduate Studies, particularly if this counseling has corresponded to a leave of absence by a student.

The Fisk University Writing Center

The Fisk University Writing Center is a resource for all Fisk students, undergraduate and graduate students alike. Students are encouraged to visit and meet with a tutor at any stage of the writing process, from brainstorming a topic to making final revisions. Tutoring to improve writing skills is also available. For graduate students, this guidance is provided by Dr Holly Hamby, Writing Center Director. To set up appointments with Dr Hamby, contact her at

Recommended Deadlines

General Acceptance Deadlines

Completed applications that will be most competitive for funding of Tuition and, for trainees in the Natural Sciences, Graduate Student Stipends are due by April 15th for the following fall term. Later applications are occasionally considered, but resource allocation for tuition and stipends may be completed by May 15th. Inquiry and application for financial aid is contingent on the resources of the University and special research or training funds available.

Notification of Admission

Notification of Admission is made by the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies in conjunction with the Director of Graduate Studies for the program for which a student applies.

Programs in the Natural Sciences:

The offer letter of admission for the MA degrees in the Natural Sciences comes from Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies. The offer letter of admission for the Bridge Program (MS degrees in the Natural Sciences) comes from the Bridge Program Directors and Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies, and also clarifies the funding for tuition and stipends, and will be cosigned by the person with authority over the resources for tuition and stipend for each particular student.

Programs in Psychology and Social Justice:

The offer letter of admission for programs in Psychology comes from the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies, co-signed by either the Director of Graduate Studies in Psychology, Dr. Sheila Peters, or the Director of Graduate Studies and outlines any partial tuition waiver support that may be available for the coming academic year. (Partial tuition waivers are provided on an academic year basis)

A subsequent letter also will be provided by the Office of Admissions, Fisk University.


A confirmed position in the Graduate School is only valid for the year in which it is offered. Whilst the Graduate School will do all it can to accommodate a deferral request, it may be that the institution is unable to guarantee a place for an upcoming year.

Fisk University Academic Calendars 2023-2024

Fall 2023

Day/Date Description
 Friday, August 4, 2023  All Faculty Return to Campus for the State of the
University/Faculty and Staff Institute
 Saturday, August 5, 2023  New students arrive; residence halls open at 9:00 A.M.
 Sunday, August 6, 2023  New Student and Parent Orientation
Monday-Friday, August 7 - 11, 2023 New Student Orientation continues (Students only)
 Thursday, August 10, 2023  Advisement and registration for new students only; continuing students arrive; move into residence halls.
 Friday, August 11, 2023  Advisement and registration for returning students.
 Friday-Friday, August 11-18, 2023  Senior audits: Faculty Advisors/Discipline Coordinators/Chairpersons to meet with students to conduct Senior Audits for all graduating seniors sent
to Registrar's Office via email. 
 Monday, August 14, 2023  Classes begin-first day of instruction. Add/Drop Period begins.
 Thursday, August 17, 2023  Opening Convocation – 10:00 am-12:00 P.M. – Fisk
Memorial Chapel; classes as usual at other hours
 Thursday-Friday, August 17 - 18, 2023  Credit by Examination administered (other times by permission of the provost)
 Monday, August 21, 2023  Add/Drop Period ends.  Last day to add courses (after this date students will be financially responsible for all attempted hours,
regardless of individual course withdrawals made)
 Tuesday, August 22, 2023  Course Withdrawal Period Begins, a student may withdraw with a grade of “W” without academic penalty.
 Tuesday, August 22, 2023  Attendance verification due in Colleague and EAB** by 5:00 P.M.
 Wednesday, August 23, 2023  Purge for Non-Attendance and Financial Balances (Students who have not attended classes or have a balance over $1500 with no payment plan will be purged from classes).
 Wednesday, August 23, 2023  Reinstatement Period Begins (Students may request to be reinstated into purged courses, instructor approval required).
 Wednesday, August 30, 2023 Reinstatement Period Ends
 Monday, September 4, 2023  Labor Day: University closed for students, faculty, staff, and administrators.
 Wednesday, September 6, 2023  Go "Official" (Bursar function) / University Census Date (Registrar function)
 Wednesday, September 6, 2023  Business Holds for balance and/or delinquent payment plan payments.
 Tuesday, September 12, 2023  Senior Audits due in the Registrar’s Office
 Sunday, September 17, 2023  Constitution Day
 Monday-Friday, –October 2-5, 2023  Mid-Semester evaluations
 Monday, October 6, 2023  Last day for faculty to submit mid-term grades via CAMS, grades due at 12:00 P.M. (noon)
 Friday, October 6, 2023  Jubilee Day Convocation, 10:00 A.M. -12:00 P.M. (noon)
 Friday-Friday, Oct 6 - Nov 3, 2023  Registration for Spring Semester 2024
 Monday - Tuesday, October 9 - 10, 2023  Fall Break: No classes, university closed.
 Monday - Friday, Oct 23 - Nov 10, 2023  Senior exit/major field examination period; Students should check with their Department Chairs for information on exact dates and times.
 Tuesday, November 3, 2023  Last day for students to submit graduation applications for May Commencement and December completion date.
 Wednesday, November 4, 2023  Withdrawn Failing Period begins students may withdraw with an academic penalty “WF” grade.
Sunday - Saturday, November 5 - 11, 2023  Homecoming Week
 Monday, November 13, 2023  Last day to submit work for completion of "I"(Incomplete) grade from the previous semester.
 Monday - Friday, Nov. 27 – Dec. 15, 2023  Decembermester Registration Dates (Online Classes Only)
 Wednesday - Friday, November 22 - 24, 2023  Thanksgiving Recess: University closed for students, faculty, staff, and administrators.
Tuesday, December 5, 2023
 Last Day for instruction
 Wednesday - Tuesday, December 6 - 12, 2023  Final Examinations Period for all Registered students
 Wednesday, December 13, 2023  Living-Learning Centers close at 5:00 pm, Cafeteria after lunch.
 Friday, December 15, 2023  Faculty must submit final grades via CAMS by 5:00 pm for all courses; Fall Semester Ends
Wednesday - Thursday, December 13 - 29, 2023  Decembermester Begins (Online Courses Only)
 Friday, December 15, 2023  Last day to add/drop courses for Decembermester
Monday - Tuesday, Dec 18 - Jan 2, 2024  Winter Holiday Break: University closed for faculty, staff, and administration.
Thursday, December 28, 2023  Decembermester Final Examinations
 Friday, December 29, 2023  Faculty must submit Decembermester final grades via CAMS by 12:00 noon.



*Essential personnel, to include Facilities & Grounds and Public Safety personnel may be required, if business operations warrant working on any of these designated holidays. When this occurs, the supervisor schedules time off as holiday time for the staff member within the next ninety (90) days. For hourly-paid staff, if the department cannot provide holiday time off within ninety (90) days, the staff member will be paid for that holiday.

Spring 2024

Day/Date  Description
Monday, January 1, 2024  New Year’s Day (observed): University Closed
 Tuesday, January 2, 2024  University opens: Faculty and Staff return to Campus.
 Thursday, January 4, 2024  State of the University/Faculty & Staff Institute
Friday, January 5, 2024  Students arrive; Living-Learning Centers open at 9:00 A.M. New Students and New Parents
 Monday, January 8, 2024  Classes begin-First day of instruction. ADD/DROP Period begins.
 Thursday, January 11, 2024  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Convocation – 10:00 A.M.- 12:00 P.M. – Fisk Memorial Chapel; classes as usual at all other hours
 Friday, January 12, 2024  Last day for Registration & to ADD/DROP courses without transcript designation & without financial impact.
 Monday, January 15, 2024  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. - University closed
 Tuesday, January 16, 2024  Course Withdrawal Period Begins, students may withdraw with a grade of “W” without academic penalty.
 Wednesday, January 17, 2024  Attendance verification is due in Colleague and EAB** by 5:00 P.M.
 Thursday, January 18, 2024  Purge for Non-Attendance and Financial Balances (Students who have not attended classes or have a balance over $1500 with no payment plan will be purged from classes).
 Thursday, January 25, 2024  Reinstatement Period Begins (Students may request to be reinstated into purged courses, instructor approval required).
 Thursday, February 1, 2024  Go "Official" (Bursar function)/University Census Date (Registrar function)
 Thursday, February 1, 2024  Business Holds for balance and/or delinquent payment plan payments.
 Monday, February 19, 2024  Last day for faculty to submit Mid-term Grades via Colleague, grades due 12:00 P.M. (noon)
 Wednesday, February 21, 2024  Faculty submit SU-24 course offerings to Provost.
 Thursday, February 22, 2024  Piersen-Mitchell Lecture – 7:00 P.M.
 Friday, February 23, 2024  W.E.B. DuBois Day
 Friday - Friday, February 23 - Mar 15, 2024  Junior Audits: Faculty Advisors to meet with students to conduct Junior Audits for all Juniors.
 Monday-Friday, February 26-March 1, 2024  Mid-Semester Evaluations
 Tuesday, February 27, 2024  Last day for faculty to submit changes to Fall 2024 course offerings to Provost; Last day for faculty to submit changes to SU-24 course offerings to Provost. 
 Monday - Friday, March 11 - 15, 2024  Spring Break: No classes, University closed.
 Monday, March 18, 2024  Classes Resume
 Thursday - Friday, March 14 - 15, 2024  Bulldog Registration Rally
 Thursday - Friday, Mar 14 - Jun 7, 2024  Registration for Fall Term 2024
 Wednesday, March 20, 2024  Last day to submit Junior Audits to the University Registrar
 Monday - Friday, Mar 18 - Apr 5, 2024  Registration for Summer Terms 2024
 Thursday, March 28, 2024  Last day to drop a course with a grade of “W” without academic penalty.
Friday, March 29, 2024  Good Friday: University is closed for students, faculty, staff, and administrators.
Monday, April 1, 2024  Withdrawn Failing Period begins students may withdraw with an academic penalty “WF” grade.
 Monday - Sunday, April 1 - 7, 2024  95th Annual Spring Arts Festival
 Monday, April 1, 2024  Final deadline for Graduation Applications and
Payment Due Date for Graduating Students (students cannot participate in the graduation ceremony with a balance)
 Wednesday - Thursday, April 3 - 4, 2024  25th Annual Fisk Research Symposium
 Thursday, April 4, 2024  Honors Convocation – 1:00 P.M.
 Wednesday, April 10, 2024  Last day to submit work for completion of “I”
(Incomplete) mark from the previous semester.
 Sunday - Monday, April 14 - 15, 2024  Scholars Weekend (Admissions function)
 Friday, April 19, 2024  Last day of instruction
 Monday, April 22, 2024  Grades for Graduating Seniors & Graduate Students due in Colleague by 12:00 P.M.
 Tuesday - Friday, April 23 - 26, 2024  Final Examination Period for all registered students (Seniors, April 17-21)
 Friday, April 26, 2024  Last day for faculty to submit final grades for Non-Seniors via CAMS; grades due in Colleague by 12:00 P.M. noon; end of Spring term graduation date; Living-Learning Centers close 5:00 P.M.
 Friday - Monday, May 3 - 6, 2024  Commencement/Reunion Weekend
 Sunday, May 5, 2024  Baccalaureate Service – 10:00 A.M. – Fisk Memorial Chapel
 Monday, May 6, 2024  Commencement – 9:00 A.M.
 Monday, May 6, 2024  Last day of Spring Semester; last official day for faculty, Living-Learning Centers close at 5pm (Seniors)



*Essential personnel, to include Facilities & Grounds and Public Safety personnel may be required, if business operations warrant working on any of these designated holidays. When this occurs, the supervisor schedules time off as holiday time for the staff member within the next ninety (90) days. For hourly-paid staff, if the department cannot provide holiday time off within ninety (90) days, the staff member will be paid for that holiday.

Tuition and Fees

A graduate student is classified as full-time if enrolled for nine or more credits (See Student Classifications). A graduate student, whether a master's candidate, a student in graduate standing, or a conditional graduate student, may be enrolled on a part-time basis only with the permission of the Director of Graduate Studies and approval by the Dean of the Graduate School.

Full graduate tuition is charged for 9-12 hours of graduate level courses (or a combination of undergraduate and graduate level courses). Students enrolled for more than twelve credit hours (overloads) are charged at the current rate of tuition per credit hour for Fisk University.

Financial assistance is available to qualified students through tuition waivers granted by the University and through graduate student stipends/research assistantships funded by various grants and contracts to the University or to Fisk University faculty members.

Students who receive fulltime stipend support are not permitted, based on the mandates of the Federal funding for these stipends, to engage in part-time or any outside work; the basis for the stipend funding is to permit students to focus fully on their learning and research discovery.

Part-time students or students without stipend funding will need to identify a source of living expenses; non-research related work should be reviewed with the thesis advisor and Director of Graduate Studies for the program in which the student is enrolled to make sure that the work schedule allows realistic completion of course or research expectations.

Learning and Living at Fisk

Student Classification

As a graduate student at Fisk University, you are expected to comply with all of the Students’ Standards of Conduct, as well as benefit from the Students’ Rights, that are in the Fisk University Student Handbook and posted on the Fisk Website at, pp 18-40.

Graduate Classification

Graduate Classification is in general given to students who have already earned a bachelor's degree. Students in graduate standing are those who have been admitted for study leading toward the Master of Arts degree.

Graduate Special Students

Graduate Special Students are those who hold bachelor's degrees and are enrolled in the University but have not been admitted for study toward the Master's degree and may or may not intend to seek degree candidacy. Graduate special students often enroll in order to pursue undergraduate courses required as prerequisites to full graduate standing, and must have the permission of the instructor for enrollment in any courses at the graduate level (numbered 500 or above). Graduate special students also may wish to pursue studies in those Fisk departments that do not offer the master's degree.

Conditional Graduate Standing

Conditional Graduate Standing is primarily used for students who seek a graduate degree but have not met the normal requirements for full graduate standing. Students in conditional graduate standing may seek full graduate standing when the deficiencies have been corrected. Special conditions may apply to students in this status. They are expected to attain a 3.0 GPA or better and may, in addition, be expected to pass a particular required course or demonstrate proficiency in a particular subject, in order to be placed in full graduate standing at the end of one semester of study. Ordinarily, students may remain in conditional standing for no more than one semester.

Full-time graduate students

Full-time graduate students are enrolled for nine or more credits. Graduate students carrying fewer than nine credits are also regarded as full-time, however, if they are enrolled for Thesis Research or Thesis Preparation, or if they are engaged in an approved graduate practicum. A graduate student, whether a Master's candidate, a student in graduate standing, or a conditional graduate student, may be enrolled on a part-time basis only with the permission of the Graduate Program and approval by the Dean for Graduate Studies.

Master’s Candidates

Master’s Candidates are those who have completed approximately half of the requirements for the M.A. degree and have been formally admitted to degree candidacy and to thesis research by the graduate faculty of the particular graduate program.

Withdrawal and Leave of Absence

A student may request to withdraw from their program of study at any time during a study period. In some cases, the student will ask to delay commencement or continuation of course studies normally to the start of the next study period. Students must notify the Dean of Graduate Studies in writing stating the reason for their request; it is assumed that this withdrawal will first have been discussed with the thesis supervisor as well as with the Director of Graduate Studies of the Program.

A Leave of Absence in good standing may be granted for a variety of reasons to students wishing to interrupt their studies at Fisk and request time away from the University. Students wishing leave for a specified period must obtain the withdrawal form from the Office of the Registrar. Upon approval by Dean of Graduate Studies and the Provost, the student must specify a time period during which the leave of absence will be valid. Upon conclusion of the leave or at any time thereafter, the student may return by making formal application for re-admission. Students who depart from the University without obtaining the permission of the Provost may be denied permission to re-enter.

Students on leave of absence will not be granted credit for college work done out of residence, unless they have received prior approval from the Provost. A student who takes a leave of absence in good standing receives grades according to normal Fisk grading practices.

Students unable to officially withdraw from the University due to an emergency (illness, death in the immediate family, military deployment, etc.) must submit a written statement of the emergency to the Dean for Graduate Studies, the Provost, the Vice President of Student Life, or the Director of University Counseling Services, Dr. Sheila Peters. If the student is incapacitated, any of the above individuals can submit a letter on behalf of the student based on communication received from the student’s parents, family, etc., stating the effective withdrawal date to the Office of the Registrar.


The Graduate School Council has the right to dismiss a student if the conditions for re-admittance are not met within the allocated period. Absence for more than two years may require the student to prepare a new study plan meeting new requirements as amended since the student’s initial matriculation.


The University reserves the right to withdraw students from the University in response to serious misbehavior or misconduct. These students’ academic records will reflect “WA” (Withdrawn Administratively) for all enrolled courses. Please note, financial aid adjustments will occur for recipients receiving Federal Financial Aid withdrawn administratively before the 60% point in the semester.

Grading System

The course grading system at Fisk for graduate studies is as follows:

  • The grade of “A” indicates work of high quality.
  • The grade of “B” indicates good work.
  • The grade of “C” indicates unacceptable work.
  • The grade of “D” indicates failure in the course.

Plus and minus grades may be attached to letter grades. Grades awarded with a minus (“-”) indicate achievement at the lower limit for that grade; grades awarded with a plus (“+”) indicate achievement at the upper limit for that grade.

The minimum acceptable grade point average in all coursework towards the degree is a "B-” (2.7). Courses completed with grades of C+ (2.3) or below are not counted toward degree requirements, but such grades will be counted in calculating a student’s grade point average. Students may either retake the course for a higher grade to count toward their MA or MS degree, or take another course instead. HOWEVER, since all didactic courses are counted in calculating a student’s GPA, it is important to clarify that an “A” grade in Thesis Research (or in Thesis Preparation) may not be used to offset “C” grades in other graduate courses. The overall GPA of a graduate student must be 3.0 or above to qualify for graduation with the master's degree. For students in the Bridge Program enrolled at Fisk and taking a Vanderbilt course, a B- in that course, the credit can be applied to their MA work but it will not transfer for credit at the PhD level at Vanderbilt. Only a B grade or above will transfer.

Grade Points
A 4.00
A- 3.70
B+ 3.30
B 3.00
B- 2.70
C+ 2.30
C 2.00
C- 1.70
D 1.00
E 0.00

The grade of “I” (Incomplete) is given when a student has substantially and satisfactorily completed most of the work in a class, but cannot complete all course requirements within the semester. The student must have achieved an average of “B” or better in work completed for the course to request an “I” grade, and is responsible for assuring that both student and instructor have a clear understanding of the requirements and timeline for completion of the “I” grade. The “I” grade must be removed prior to obtaining permission to defend the Master’s thesis.

Pass-fail registration for graduate students is permitted under certain circumstances:

  • Graduate students may take non-required undergraduate courses outside the major field on a pass-fail basis. These courses are not considered in computing grade point average, nor are they counted toward the total hours necessary for graduation. A "pass" grade in such a course indicates work equivalent at least to a letter grade of "B".
  • No more than one course per semester may be taken on a pass-fail basis.
  • At the time of registration, the student must indicate any course to be taken on a pass-fail basis.
  • Students entering courses on a pass-fail basis are held to the same standards of achievement as other students. They are expected to meet recitations, tests, papers, and examinations.
  • The Registrar sends each instructor, at the beginning of the semester, a list of students registered on a pass-fail basis in that instructor's classes.
  • No student, once registered for pass-fail evaluation in a given course, may subsequently change registration to a letter-grade basis; nor may a student once registered for a letter grade subsequently elect the pass-fail option.

Acceptance of Transfer Credit in the Graduate Program

Fisk University will accept a maximum of six (6) graduate credit hours in course work from an accredited institution that offers at least the M.A. degree. Students must have earned a minimum grade of “B” or better in a course to request the transfer of course hours. Hours from accepted transfer courses must have been above and beyond those needed for an earned undergraduate degree. Any courses requested for transfer must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies for the Program, the Dean of Graduate Studies, and the Registrar’s Office. The Director of Graduate Studies, in consultation with the relevant Department Chair, will determine whether the courses substantially match courses offered at Fisk in level and content. Denial of transfer credit by the Graduate Program Director ends the request. The Registrar has ultimate responsibility for all student academic records and will verify the credentials of the institution from which the transfer credit is sought. The transfer credit policy does not apply to schools that are a part of the consortium to which Fisk is a member or other institutions where formal agreements exist for the graduate program, where the transfer of credits may be automatic. Under these circumstances, students should consult with the appropriate Director of Graduate Studies for their program.

Behaviors Expected of our Graduate Trainees

Graduate students must comply with all of the requirements for student behavior outlined in the Undergraduate Student Handbook. Of particular note, however, is that Fisk University does not condone and will not tolerate inappropriate conduct toward any individual based on a person’s skin color, ethnicity, or national origin. It should go without saying that at an HBCU, racial misconduct is unacceptable and prohibited. Such racial misconduct includes but is not limited to jokes, pictures, inappropriate racial comments, slurs, objects, threats, physical assaults, intimidation, unequal application of policies, and unequal or biased grading. Our policy also encompasses offensiveness and misconduct that does not reach the level of racism but that is sufficiently severe and pervasive that it rises to the level of racial harassment or discrimination. All members of the campus community are encouraged to reflect upon the issue of racial misconduct as it directly affects the lives and conducts of others.

How to Formally Register Graduate Student Complaints:

The complaint process for graduate trainees at Fisk closely mirrors that for undergraduate student complaints ( A Formal Graduate Trainee Complaint Form is available in the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies. Different situations lead to the submission of the Complaint Form to different Offices.

For Criminal Complaints:

The completed form should be taken to the Office of Campus Safety in a sealed envelope addressed to: Director of Public Safety, CONFIDENTIAL.

For Academic Complaints:

The completed form should be taken to the Office of the Dean of Graduate Studies and labeled: Office of the Graduate Dean, CONFIDENTIAL. The following process will then be pursued: The Dean of Graduate Studies will call together the trainee making the complaint and involved faculty as well as the Director of Graduate Studies for the program in which the graduate trainee is enrolled. A goal of this meeting is to identify a solution(s) to the complaint and to clarify, simultaneously, any communication deficiencies that are contributing to the complaint. The Graduate Dean will summarize the conversation and decided-on next steps to those in attendance in the conversation and will also inform the Provost of the complaint and its process for resolution. At the time of resolution, the Dean of Graduate Studies will prepare a summary memorandum to the student, faculty participants in the early conversation, and to the Dean. A copy will be maintained as a part of the graduate trainee’s portfolio for their future use, if needed. If the graduate trainee want to pursue the complaint further after the attempted resolution by the Dean of Graduate Studies, then the graduate trainee is encouraged to report the complaint and response to date in writing to the Office of the Provost in a document taken to the Office of the Provost in a sealed envelope and labeled CONFIDENTIAL.

SACSCOC Complaint Process

Fisk University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees. The SACSCOC should be contacted only on matters related to any significant non-compliance with the Commission's standards, policies, or procedures related to accreditation. Information regarding the SACSCOC complaint process can be found on the SACSCOC website (

Requirements for the Graduation

  1. Completion of at least 30 semester hours of coursework, with an average grade of "B" or above in each course approved for the program, including both didactic courses and research. Students can obtain no more than two grades of C, and these credit hours must be balanced out by the same number of credit hours in a didactic course in which a student obtains an A. This ‘balancing’ cannot occur using by grades from Thesis Research or the Graduate Seminar in a particular discipline.
  2. The required 30 hours of coursework should include least 21 hours in courses intended principally for graduate students (numbered 500 or above). A maximum of six hours of graduate coursework may be transferred from another accredited institution. These 30 hours of coursework should include at least 3 registered hours, and no more than 6-9 hours (depending on the graduate program) in Thesis Research, that count toward this 30 hour requirement. In some programs, when explicitly stated, the number of credits required may exceed 30 credits.

    To allow students to be registered for at least 9 hours per semester (i.e., as a full-time graduate student) during their training, students may also register for Thesis Preparation, but the hours registered for Thesis Preparation do NOT count toward the 30 hours of graduate work.

    The grade requirements beyond the minimum 30 hours may be set by the graduate faculty of the program, but the overall GPA of a graduate student must be 3.0 or above to qualify for graduation with the Master's degree. Courses may be repeated no more than once for a higher grade, and when this is done, only the last grade received is counted toward the degree or in computation of grade point average.

    For the MS specifically:

  3. Completion of a satisfactory Master's thesis on a subject approved by the student’s research mentor/supervisor and the members of the student’s thesis committee.
  4. Completion, at a passing level, of an oral defense of the thesis, or an oral/written exam, depending on the program, administered by the graduate faculty of that program.
  5. Receipt and approval of the final copy of the thesis. Students have NOT earned their degree after their presentation of their thesis research but only after that presentation is followed by a completed thesis document.

    Review of the final thesis document is no longer a responsibility of the Fisk University Library, but is the responsibility of the Dean of Graduate Studies. An electronic copy of this thesis must be submitted to and after all corrections have been made in response to requests from the thesis committee. After review and approval of this document by the Dean of Graduate studies, the Registrar of Fisk University will be informed, electronically, that the graduate student has met all of the requirements for the Master’s degree.

    Students may wish to have a bound copy of their thesis for themselves or for their thesis mentor, which they can obtain by printing the document on bond or other paper, and then having it bound by FedEx Office or other services.

  6. The student is expected to take responsibility for knowing and complying with any additional requirements specific to the student's graduate program.

Overall Timeline for Graduate Studies

The Master’s degree at Fisk University in the Natural Sciences should reasonably be completed within two calendar years. A consistent timeline for the MA in biology, chemistry, and physics is provided below. Because of the clinical practicum requirements of the Master’s Program in Clinical Psychology, this timeline will differ for those students.

Fall Semester, first year:

  • Required courses, determined in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies in your program.
  • Participation in the Professional Skills for Graduate Study Success Seminar (0.5 Cr.; weekly, required- described in more detail below). The final assignment in this course is an electronic Poster Presentation of the overall research area under investigation in your anticipated research advisor’s laboratory and the probable research project that you will undertake as your research thesis. Note that this assignment assumes (and requires) that students have been aggressively pursuing the identification of their research mentor.
    • Selection of research mentor: In the Natural Science graduate programs, students will enter graduate studies knowing who their research mentor will be. When students are accepted with already-defined research supervisors/mentor, the student’s mentor will take responsibility for introducing the graduate student to other ongoing work in the discipline ongoing at Fisk and at our collaborating institutions. Because students already have been matched with a mentor at Fisk, students will be expected to spend a defined minimum amount of time in that laboratory learning methods and reading relevant papers during the Fall semester.
    • Declaration of master’s thesis research mentor/supervisor is required by the close of the Fall semester.
  • Fulfillment of any other program-specific requirements, as outlined in specific sections.

Spring Semester, first year:

  • Coursework required by the program or electives identified by student and or graduate student advisor. Remember that courses at Fisk and Vanderbilt Universities are available for Fisk student registration.
  • Continued participation in the Professional Skills for Graduate Study Success Seminar (0.5 Cr.)
  • In concert with Master’s thesis advisor, begin to outline a detailed research project and plan, as this summary will be the focus of your first thesis committee meeting which should occur early in the Spring semester of the first year.
  • Begin a literature summary of state of knowledge in this area, unanswered questions or gaps in understanding, and what aspects of this your research will address. Developing this written review provides an opportunity to hone scientific writing skills as well as provide the written background for the student’s first thesis committee meeting and the written thesis proposal. Finally, this summary ultimately will be the backbone of the Literature Review section and the Introduction (Chapter 1) of the Master’s thesis to the thesis proposal. For students taking Scientific Writing, completion of a draft Chapter 1 will be the course project.
  • Create a thesis committee; and summarize your proposed research in a short document to share with the rest of your thesis committee in advance of your Committee meeting. Schedule your first Committee Meeting in the SPRING SEMESTER of your first year, no later than MARCH 1! The goal of these Committees is to be proactive and provide input regarding both your research and the courses and other experiences that will support for scientific development; thus, early and often meetings are essential in accomplishing this goal.
  • Participation in Graduate Program-specific required programs, such as seminars, Colloquia, etc.
  • Participate in Fisk Research Symposium.
  • Students whose academic performance is below the required B average (GPA of 3.0) at the end of the Spring semester will be put on academic probation; the status of continued or interrupted funding during academic probation will be decided after consultation of the student’s research supervisor/mentor and the DGS for the program, with approval of their decision by the Dean for Graduate Studies. Students will not be eligible for tuition waivers from Fisk University while on academic probation.

Summer, at the end of the First Year

  • This time is set aside for full-time research.
  • Elective courses that are only available in the summer may be taken, but only with written approval of the Director of Graduate Studies of the Program, cosigned by the Dean of the Graduate School Selection of appropriate courses for the Fall should be identified in consultation with your thesis advisor and thesis committee, with input as appropriate from the Director of Graduate Studies for each student’s particular program.

Fall Semester, Second Year

  • Courses, as advised by the thesis research advisor and Director of Graduate Studies, including electives relevant for student’s research project.
  • Participation in Graduate Program-specific required programs, such as seminars, Colloquia, etc.
  • Meet with Thesis Committee early in the Fall semester to review the progress of the summer.
  • Submit, in December, Sections A (Student personal information) and B (graduate school academic audit) of the form “Request for Permission to Graduate” to the Office for Graduate Studies, who will provide this information to the Registrar’s office. This form is due in the Registrar’s office by the stated December deadline for the Academic Calendar of that year (each Academic Year’s calendar is available on line). Students whose coursework, coursework performance, and/or research have not progressed in a timely fashion will need to develop a timeline for delayed graduation. HOWEVER, please note that stipend funding is only committed for 24 months; therefore, students who wish to extend the graduation timeline must check with their advisors about funding plans.

Spring Semester, Second Year

  • Continuing research, finding national and regional meetings and other venues for continuing presentation of project results and experimental plans;
  • Presentation at Fisk Annual Research Day in the Spring is expected (read: required)
  • Participation in Graduate Program-specific required programs, such as seminars, Colloquia, etc.
  • Meet with thesis committee to update members on progress and establish if work is complete enough to begin the development of the thesis document.

Planning for completion of the Master’s degree

Though each program will have additional discipline-specific recommendations regarding the overall timeline for thesis document: 1) preparation; 2) review and approval by the research mentor/supervisor; 3) and consideration by the Thesis Committee, below we outline a PROACTIVE plan for successfully completing you MA program with a degree in hand. We use the MAY commencement completion time as our specific example in outlining these recommendations. HOWEVER, note that for students in the Fisk-Vanderbilt Master’s-to-PhD Bridge program, completion of the Master’s degree is planned to occur in AUGUST of the second year, so that there is no gap in stipend funding between completing the MA requirements in full and the initiation of the PhD phase if attending Vanderbilt (August 15th of the second year).

Please also note: Students have NOT officially met requirements of their MS degree UNTIL their corrected and the committee-approved thesis has been received electronically, reviewed and received final approval by the Dean of Graduate Studies. The Dean of Graduate Studies will then forward that thesis document and all necessary forms to the Registrar as documentation that you have completed all that is necessary to be awarded a Master’s degree from Fisk University. As emphasized repeatedly, please do not be misled and think that presentation of your thesis research in a defense seminar equates with receiving an MS degree, because it does not!

Formal Commencement activities are only available in May.

Schedule for Completion of Work to Graduate in the MAY Commencement. Specific dates for EACH year are available on the Academic Calendar (available online) AND in the Registrar’s Office.


Complete Relevant Sections (A, B) of the Multi-Part Form “Request to Permit Conferring Master of Arts Degree” and submit to Graduate School Office.

A. Student Information (due the semester before graduating)

B. Academic Information (also known as the ‘graduate school audit’)


Research Mentor Approves Thesis before distributing to Committee members.


Thesis distributed to Committee at least two weeks prior to the Defense date.

Submit Form C.

Permission to set a Defense Date. The Public Defense MUST OCCUR at Least TEN DAYS prior to the deadline for completion of all requirements for the degree (including submission of a committee-approved and Dean of Graduate Studies reviewed and approved thesis document), in order to permit completion of any corrections to the thesis document identified by the Thesis Committee at the time of the Public Defense. Date required posted by the Registrar each year.

Receipt obtained from the Dean of the School of Graduate Studies that your thesis is complete and has met all of the requirements of the Graduate School, which is submitted by the Graduate School Dean to the Registrar, as documentation that you have met all of the expectations and requirements for conferring the Master’s Degree.


Graduate and, if desired, participate in Commencement Exercises.

For a Recommended timeline for completion of the Thesis Research, Document and Defense of the Thesis and Submission of the Approved Thesis document for AUGUST COMPLETION, a recommended schedule for trainees in the Biology Graduate Program.

Graduation Dates on the Transcript:

Deadline dates for materials are published at the beginning of each academic year on the Academic Calendar (available online) and strictly adhered to. The Office of the Registrar will record graduation dates according to when all materials are completed. Three possible dates that may be recorded:

  1. The May graduation date (whose deadlines are summarized above) is the only date associated with a Commencement Exercise. (Materials due May 1st for a May 15th conferral)
  2. August completion date. All materials must be completed and submitted appropriately by the date summer school grades are due. (Materials due August 15th for an August 15th conferral)
  3. December completion date. All required materials and activities are completed and submitted after the start of the Fall Semester, but before Spring semester begins (Materials due Dec. 1st for a Dec. 15th conferral)

Master’s Degree Checklist for Fisk University conferred MA in Biology, Chemistry, and Physics

Milestone Due date – for exact date, confer with the Academic Calendar for each academic year.
Establish your Master’s Degree Thesis Committee, composed of your Faculty Research Advisor and at least 2 additional faculty members (maximum of 5). Members must be selected in consultation with your Faculty Advisor and aligned with the expectations of the particular graduate program. For Bridge trainees, at least one of the Committee members just be a fulltime faculty member at Vanderbilt University. Have your FIRST COMMITTEE MEETING by March 1 of your second semester, to avoid being in “Warning”. Committee Should be selected by end of 1st Semester; FIRST COMMITTEE MEETING must occur by MARCH 1, or you are in ‘Warning’ status.
Use Forms for tracking students’ progress in their MA program as provided in Appendix B of the Graduate Student Manual: 1) Request to Appoint Thesis Committee; 2) Request to Change Thesis Committee (if necessary); 3) Summary of Thesis committee meeting, this 2 page summary is required following EACH meeting of the thesis committee. Beginning in the Spring Semester of the First Year.

Summary of Committee meetings due within 5 days.
Submit to Graduate Studies Program ( or, for Bridge trainees, to, sections of (Sections A-G) of the multi-part form “ ‘Request for Permission to Confer the Master’s of Arts Degree’, provided in Appendix B of the Handbook. Sections A and B: due in early December of the year before you plan to graduate. Section C: Usually spring of year 2. Section D: After thesis advisor has approved the entire thesis text for distribution to the Committee, and at least two weeks before the Defense date. Sections E, F- after defense. Sections due at Different Times:

Sections A, B – December before graduation

Sections C- Spring, year 2

Section D- after thesis advisor has approved thesis text for distribution

Sections E, F- after thesis defense
Maintain a cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 to avoid being placed on academic probation. A graduate student on probation must raise the cumulative GPA to 3.0 within one semester.
Register for Research hours. Before graduation you must have registered for at least 3 and at most 9 credit hours of Thesis Research (depending on program)
Register for Thesis Preparation hours. Register for Thesis Preparation to allow you to maintain full-time status.
Thesis Defense. It is your responsibility, in consultation with your research advisor, to schedule the thesis defense. For Bridge trainees, the thesis defense must be scheduled through the Program Coordinator ( To be properly advertised, please notify Constantine Coca of the thesis defense date, time, and title.
Submit an electronic version of your thesis, with signed committee cover page, and formatted according to the Office of Graduate Studies regulations. Instructions for thesis document preparation is found at the end of this Handbook. Receipt and approval of your committee-approved thesis document by the Dean of Graduate studies will be forwarded to the Registrar with a signed receipt of these materials. For the Fisk-Vanderbilt Bridge trainees, all of these materials are first provided to Constantine Coca (, for him to scan them for our records. Receipt of a memo from the Dean of Graduate Studies to the Registrar, NOT your final oral defense!!! , is what constitutes the formal completion of your MA Degree. April for May diploma;

July for August diploma;

December for December diploma

Bridge students completing after the first day of FALL CLASSES will have a December date on their diploma.

Reminder to Trainees in all Graduate Programs

It is the responsibility of the GRADUATE STUDENT to keep aware of changes in the program, requirements, and timelines.

Directors of Graduate Studies will serve as your guide. THEY are the faculty members from whom you should obtain your information regarding your graduate program, always keeping your research advisor/mentor aware of relevant deadlines and policies.

Reminder of Directors of Graduate Studies:

  • Biology: Brian Nelms, PhD
  • Chemistry: Steven Damo, PhD
  • Physics: Arnold Burger, PhD
  • Psychology: Sheila Peters, PhD
  • Social Justice: Tdka Kilimanjaro, PhD
  • Healthcare Management: Sharon Schembri, PhD

All of us wish you the best on your journey!

Brian L. Nelms, PhD, Dean of the School of Graduate Studies