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PhD in Psychology: Best practices: finding a chair & committee member

Formulate your idea

It is important to have a clear idea of your topic area of interest and the rationale for your study as well as the gap in the literature your study is designed to address. You can outline this through the use of the prospectus document if you have already taken the prospectus course or the premise document if you are not finished with the prospectus course.  

See the PhD in Psychology Dissertation Process Documents

Although your premise/prospectus may evolve as you work directly with a chair and as you read and become an expert in the literature on your topic of interest, having a solid content foundation is something that many faculty members look for when determining whether they are able or qualified to chair a particular dissertation or sit on a committee. 

Begin your search

Search for a dissertation chair before a committee member

Your chair will be your primary contact person and mentor during the entire dissertation process. Your chair also has the responsibility to approve your prospectus (again, keep in mind that your initial prospectus, if you have one, is likely to change and evolve as you develop expertise in your area of interest and identify gaps in the literature that are worth exploring).

After you secure a chair, a committee member and URR will be assigned to you. You are free, however, to search for a second committee member/methodologist if you choose. 

When you are ready to search for a chair and/or SCM

  1. Obtain the current mentoring availability list from our Senior Research Coordinator, Dr. Elisha Galaif ( This list is updated frequently, so request the list only when you are ready to contact prospective faculty to be your chair or committee member – when you have a premise or prospectus that is ready to circulate as outlined in the first part of this document.

  2. Both the chair and your SCM must be from the School of Psychology. While you may contact any faculty from any program of specialization within the School of Psychology that are listed as being available to mentor as a chair and/or SCM, it is strongly suggested that your chair be from your program of specialization. Also, your chair can be either your content expert or your methodology expert, however it is also recommended that your chair be your content expert. If you chair is your methodology expert, then your SCM will be your content expert. If your chair is your content expert, then your SCM will be your methodologist. If your chair is your content expert, Dr. Galaif can assign a SCM as your methodologist. The URR will be assigned by Dr. Galaif once the prospectus has been approved by your chair and SCM.

  3. For your content expert search for a faculty member whose interests overlap generally with your own. It is not necessary that the faculty member’s research interests are exactly the same as yours. However, the greater the degree of interest similarity, the more likely the faculty member will accept the assignment of chair or SCM.

  4. Once you have identified faculty members whose content area and/or methodology match with your own, contact them individually. Do not send a mass email to all faculty members. Such a strategy is not likely to be successful. Rather, write an individually tailored note to each faculty member to whom you are going to send your request for mentorship. Several requests should be sent at the same time. Do not send one request to a prospective faculty member and wait until you hear back from that faculty to send another request as this can delay the process of finding a committee member. Rather, contact as many faculty as you can who are listed as being available to be a chair (YES in column 1 on the faculty mentor availability list) or a SCM (YES in column 2 on the faculty mentor availability list).

  5. Keep track of the faculty that you contact, including their responses or note the lack of a response. You may send follow up emails if faculty are delayed in responding

  6. When you contact prospective faculty, emphasize your shared interest area, content and/or methodological match so you can ‘sell’ faculty on your proposed research idea. The more you can describe and articulate your study in-depth (via a scholarly written premise or prospectus), the more likely it is that faculty will consider being your mentor.

  7. Be sure that your writing is of the highest quality. If your email and attached prospectus contain inaccuracies, typos, grammatical errors, etc., faculty will be less likely or unwilling to accept your invitation for mentorship. You may seek assistance from the writing center on this matter prior to sending out your prospectus.

  8. If a faculty member declines your request, do not take it personally as they are likely managing workload and it takes significant time to be a mentor at Walden. Most Walden faculty mentors work part-time for Walden (Contributing Faculty), and therefore have other professional commitments and responsibilities.

Process once you obtain a chair or committee member

  1. Once you have obtained your chair and/or SCM, send them the Nomination Form.  The chair and/or SCM will complete the form and send it directly to the Senior Research Coordinator (SRC), Dr. Galaif at Please understand that your chair and/or SCM are not officially assigned until SRC or Program Director (PD) approve the assignment.

See the Dissertation Supervisory Committee forms including:

  • Dissertation Committee Process

  • URR Steps for Dissertation 

  • Committee Member Nomination Form

  • URR Request Form

  1. Fill out your name and program of affiliation on the form. Once the chair/SCM receives the form with your name and program of affiliation filled in, they should complete the form (indicating if they are your content or methodologist) and send it directly to while cc’ng you on their email so that you know they have sent in the nomination form.

  2. Once the SRC receives the nomination form, she will either approve the nomination or forward it to your PD, who will then review the nomination and decide whether to approve or deny based on factors such as workload, etc.

  3. Once the nomination has been approved, you will be automatically enrolled in your chair’s section of dissertation (Psyc 9000) for the next term.

If you are unable to locate a chair by the 8th week of the term prior to starting dissertation please send your premise/prospectus document to Dr. Galaif requesting assignment. A chair will be solicited for you or assigned to you by the beginning of the next term.