Expectations for Students Who Are Employees of Outside Entities During Graduate Study in Horticulture
In recent years, employees of private entities (e.g., companies, not-for-profits, NGOs, etc.) have been accepted and matriculated for full or part-time graduate study in horticulture at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW). These private entities may pay all or part of salary, benefits, and tuition of their employee during their graduate studies in horticulture. Another scenario may be that a horticulture student supported by a fellowship or research assistantship completes an internship or research stay at a private entity. The student’s research expenses may be covered partially or entirely by the private entity, and may involve proprietary germplasms, analyses, and/or information. This relationship can be beneficial for the student, the private entity, and the research program of the faculty mentor. However, problems may develop that could jeopardize awarding of the graduate degree, the student-professor relationship, and incorporation of proprietary information into the thesis. The horticulture faculty recommends that the following items be addressed by the major professor, student, and the employing entity prior to matriculation of the student:
- Students paid as research assistants (RA) are expected to work towards their degree and commit the appropriate hours and effort to their faculty mentor’s research program commensurate with the RA percentage at which they are employed. The appointment percentage of a student’s research assistantship is a mechanism for setting the stipend amount, and does not correlate to any particular requirement for hours of work. Students should consult with their mentor regarding work schedule expectations. Students supported by outside entities such as foreign governments also are expected to participate in their faculty mentor’s research program at a level determined by the major professor. Note that students holding an F or J visa are permitted to engage in no more than 20 hours of compensated employment per week while the University is in session; hours beyond this limit must be entirely for the purpose of a student’s academic studies and completion of their thesis or dissertation. Therefore the Horticulture faculty discourages payment of RAs to students who are receiving a full salary from outside entities, and supports RAs for such students only as a supplement to part-time salary from outside entities.
- While some graduate coursework may occasionally be taken via distance education, the horticulture faculty encourage that required coursework and seminars be attended in person.
- Faculty must be aware of the UW System policy that “No agreement shall be entered into with any extramural sponsor which prohibits the right of a University employe[e] to publish the results of the project. The University and its employees have an obligation to assure that project results are made known to the general public.”
- The student and major professor must ensure that data and analyses for the dissertation are deposited in a secure, accessible site to avoid unexpected restricted or denied access by the private entity. The policy of the UW System on data ownership is that “No agreement shall be entered into with any extramural sponsor which allows for the transfer of the ownership of data.”
- If the student is an employee of a corporate entity and will attend lab meetings of the faculty mentor, confidentiality agreements may be necessary. It is the responsibility of the major professor to identify the need for such agreements, and discuss this matter with the UW Office of Industrial Partnerships.
- Because of the potential for conflict of interest when a student is employed by an outside entity in the same field as his/her graduate research, the major professor should verify that the letter of offer for graduate study includes a separate item where the student is asked to report any nexus between their research at UW and outside activities with the private entity. Students should update this disclosure annually for any potential conflicts of interest that may arise during their graduate tenure. The student is responsible for managing conflicts that may arise with a third party (such as an employer) and for notifying the major professor and the Office of Research Policy with the Vice-Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education of any changes that may affect the student’s ability to comply with UW policies and practices.
UW System policies are described in G2: Extramural Support Administration (https://www.wisconsin.edu/financial-administration/financial-administrative-policies-procedures/gapp-numeric-index/g2-extramural-support-administration/ )