2015-2016 Graduate Catalog 
    Apr 13, 2024  
2015-2016 Graduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Academic Policies and Processes

Academic Integrity

“Academic Honesty, a necessary foundation of a learning community is expected of all students. Violations are unacceptable and are subject to academic penalties including failure of a course. A record of the violation is submitted to Academic Affairs; repeated violations may result in suspension or dismissal from the college. Violations of academic honesty include cheating on examinations, plagiarism, and submission of the same paper for credit in two or more courses.” Academic Honesty, (WSU Bulletin)

Students in the graduate program are expected to have high standards of integrity. Any graduate student who violates academic honesty through activity such as cheating or plagiarizing on examinations, papers, assignments or within a research setting is subject to dismissal from the program. Graduate students are required to follow departmental processes for field placements (e.g. prepracticum, practicum, internships). Failure to do so may be grounds for removal of students from the graduate program. Cases involving failure to follow process shall be referred to the Dean for adjudication.

Academic Standing Policy

The Division is authorized to award a Master’s degree for a program of study that includes an overall GPA of 3.0 (B) or better. To remain in good academic standing, students must maintain a 3.0 GPA throughout the course of study. Academic departments may also establish additional criteria by which a student is evaluated on academic standing and progress.

A student who does not maintain good academic standing or progress is placed on academic probation. The student and program advisor will receive notification of academic probation status from the Dean. Students on probation are required to meet with their advisor to establish a written plan for improvement. This plan is required to be placed in the student’s academic file in DGCE within 30 days of notification. Students without this plan on file will not be permitted to enroll in future terms. Students on academic probation must complete all outstanding incomplete grades before enrolling in future terms.

A student who does not maintain good academic standing for two consecutive semesters will lose matriculation status. The student may enroll as a non-degree student, but they will not be eligible for financial aid and must sign a waiver form acknowledging their academic status. The department may petition for a semester extension if it is believed the student will meet good academic standing in an additional term.

Earning an F grade for plagiarism at any stage of program completion is grounds for administrative dismissal from your academic program.

Students are immediately dismissed from a program if they receive two (2) F’s, or three (3) grades of B- or lower.

Deficient Grades and Course Repeat

Students may earn one C that will count toward their degree, provided an overall average GPA of at least 3.0 is maintained. A second C will not count toward a graduate degree. A second C or grade of F requires a course be repeated (elective courses may be repeated with a different elective). Students may only use the course repeat policy one time during their graduate program. Due to the greater number of credits, students in the traditional MSW track may be allowed two repeats with permission of the MSW chair and the Dean of DGCE.

Students must submit Graduate Course Repeat forms for a repeated course before the end of drop/add. Repeated course must be repeated with a B or better. A grade of B- is not a B and, therefore, is unacceptable as a replacement grade. All grades will remain on the transcript; however, when you repeat a course with a grade of B or better, the original grade will not be used in computing the cumulative average.

Grades of F earned as the result of proven plagiarism may not be repeated.

Academic Appeals

Questions or concerns relating directly to a college course should first be raised with the course instructor. Program directors and department chairs are available to consult on appeals at the program level. If you have questions or concerns about the academic policies and regulations of the Graduate School, you should direct them in writing to the Dean. A formal appeal form may be found at https://secure.blueoctane.net/forms/BPNDM84CF1BL 

Auditing of Courses

It is possible to audit any course offered by the Division. If you elect to audit courses, you have the privilege of attending classes, but are not required to take any test or examination or turn in any written assignments. Faculty does not evaluate your work. When you take a course as audit, you do not receive a grade or academic credit. Therefore, audited courses do not contribute to the completion of a graduate program of study. Should you want to change a course from audit to credit, you must notify the office of Graduate and Continuing Education prior to the third class meeting by completing the appropriate form. Audited courses may not be re-taken for credit toward a graduate program.

Capstone Project/Master’s Thesis

The Capstone Project/Master’s Thesis is an important culminating experience for many master’s degree candidates. The Capstone/Thesis is meant to demonstrate that candidate’s ability to engage in discipline specific research and/or focused study. The Capstone/Thesis must be conducted with the approval of, and under the direction of, a graduate advisor and program administrator. After the work is complete, it is presented in a public forum arranged by the faculty advisor and announced one week prior to presentation. The student is also required to provide bound copies of the Capstone/Thesis to the Department, Westfield State University Library, and the Dean of Graduate and Continuing Education. Individual programs may have additional requirements.

Changing Concentrations/Programs

Students in Graduate Programs may change their concentration within a specific department with approval from the Department Chair and the Dean. You must complete a Graduate Degree Program Change of Major form, available in the office of Graduate and Continuing Education, to begin the process and complete a new Program of Study on acceptance into your new concentration. Students who wish to enter programs sponsored by another department (e.g., Education to English) must re-apply. In either case, a new Program of Study must be completed with your advisor’s approval and the signatures of your Department Chair and Graduate Dean.

Comprehensive Examinations

The comprehensive examination is the culminating experience of many of our graduate programs. The exam may be taken only after you complete all required courses and a total of 27 credits within your program. You should keep the exam in mind as you begin your program, retaining class notes, syllabi and bibliographies.  Please note that some master’s programs may accept a thesis, research project, public presentation or other capstone experience in addition to or in lieu of a comprehensive examination. It is important to check with each department concerning specific degree requirements, capstone experience options and departmental policy.

Examinations may be written or oral (or both), as determined by each department. Students must fill out a Comprehensive Examination form available in the Division of Graduate and Continuing Education (DGCE) Office to apply to take the comprehensive exam. No fee is required. A formal review of graduate folders will be made by the academic counselor to determine eligibility for the exam as explained in the criteria above.

Students who fail the comprehensive examination may be permitted to repeat the exam a second and subsequent time, provided the department and the Graduate Dean grant approval. Permission to take a second or subsequent exam will be granted when students have completed an approved program of remediation under the supervision of their graduate program advisor. The program of remediation will be designed by the student and the student’s advisor to address the areas of deficiency noted by the readers of the examination. Students who wish to retake the comprehensive examination must complete a program of remediation form with their advisor. A 45 day filing period is allotted to students who wish to submit a program of remediation form. The 45 day period will commence on the date of the letter of notification of failure to pass the examination. The nature of the proposal for remediation may vary from program to program. The chair of the student’s department and the Graduate Dean must approve the program of remediation. Students must fill out a form available in the DGCE Office to apply for permission to take the comprehensive examination for a second or subsequent time.

Previous graduate policy on time limits remains unchanged: a student is expected to complete all degree requirements, including passing the comprehensive examination, within six (6) years of the date of the first course credited toward their degree, including transfer credits from other accredited institutions. The Master of Arts in Psychology program allows students seven (7) years to complete the 48-credit program.

Comprehensive exams for the master’s degree candidates are administered on Saturday mornings in March and November. The exact date of the examination is announced early in the semester it is to be given. It is your responsibility to identify the date of the comprehensive exam and to apply to take it before the deadline. Students will be notified in writing of their eligibility to take the exam. Other guidelines follow:

  1. A candidate’s eligibility to take the comprehensive is approved by the Dean on recommendation by the candidate’s advisor after review and evaluation of the candidate’s Program of Study and completed course work and other program requirements.
  2. All candidates must take the exam at the time and place designated by DGCE. Any exception to this guideline is the decision of the Dean. Students with documented special needs or needing accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act should make their needs known at the time of application to take the examination. Students whose religious observations require an alternate scheduling of the exam should make their request known to the office as early as possible.
  3. Any written and/or oral comprehensive must be evaluated by at least three faculty members. A grade of Pass or Fail must be submitted in writing to the Division for each candidate.
  4. Written communication of exam results is the responsibility of DGCE.
  5. Successful outcomes of the Comprehensive Exam will be noted on student transcripts.

Course Cancellations

Graduate courses are funded solely by student fees and tuition. Unfortunately, each semester there are courses in which enrollments are not sufficient to compensate faculty. These courses are canceled at the discretion of the Dean. To allow students time to enroll in other courses, decisions to cancel are made on the basis of the number of enrollments prior to the start of classes. Therefore, students are urged to register early in order to give an accurate assessment of the number of students who want to enroll in each course. Students affected by course cancellations will be notified by phone, email, or mail. Students not wishing to enroll in an alternative course will receive a full refund as soon as it can be processed.

Course Descriptions

Should you need copies of course descriptions, you may send a written request or complete the transcript/course description request form, noting the specific course descriptions needed and dates the courses were taken, if applicable. Please allow five working days for processing.

Course Load

Full-time graduate students carry programs consisting of at least 9 semester hours per term. During the summer sessions, nine semester hours of credit across both summer sessions is equivalent to full-time study. Students who wish to exceed this limit may do so, but only with permission. Students who will be receiving benefits from the Veterans Administration or other sources should check with the funding source to be sure a sufficient number of credit hours are taken. Students needing assistance in determining appropriate course loads should consult their academic advisor.

Degree Conferment

Master’s degrees are conferred during the months of August, December, January, and May. The Commencement ceremony is held in May. Applications are available online or in DGCE office.

Final Examination

Students shall have the right to inspect their own complete final examination papers in a course within one semester following the end of the course. However, the course instructor shall have the right to retain permanent possession of the original examination papers and each student’s submitted answer sheet.

Graduate Grading System

A (4.0) High Distinction
A- (3.7) Superior
B+ (3.3) Excellent
B (3.0) Good
B- (2.7) Marginal Pass. Not acceptable as transfer credit.
C (2.0) Acceptable as credit for only one 3-credit course in a student’s program. “C” is not acceptable as transfer credit.
P Pass - No grade point equivalent. May be used toward program of study.
R* Research - No grade point equivalent.
F Failure
I Incomplete
W Withdrawal
AU* Audit

* These designations have no grade point equivalent and will not earn graduate credit.

They are acceptable for Professional Development verification, however.

Graduate students must maintain a minimum overall average of 3.0 and meet all other degree requirements in order to be eligible for graduation. Graduate students in good academic standing are by definition honors students. The designation of Latin honors (Summa cum Laude, Magna cum Laude, Cum Laude) does not apply to graduate students..

Graduate Level Courses

All graduate courses are numbered above 400, generally at the 500 or 600 level. All courses with 600 level numbers carry graduate credit and are only open to graduate students. Courses at the 500 level may have a 300 matching number, which allows for the enrollment of upper-level undergraduate students.  Professional development courses are assigned the number 595 and  will not be included in Westfield’s graduate degree programs unless the program coordinator and the Dean grant an exception.


If you are nearing the completion of your graduate program requirements and plan to receive a Master’s degree, you should request the Application for Graduation in the Graduate Office. You should complete this form and submit it to the office no later than the deadline indicated in the college calendar. If you are planning to take the comprehensive exam, file the application to graduate simultaneously with the application to take the comprehensive. A commencement fee is required at the time of filing the application for graduation, whether or not you wish to participate in the formal ceremony. There is no fee to take the Comprehensive Exam. No degree or certificate will be conferred and no graduate transcripts will be issued unless all tuition and fees have been paid in full. Information regarding the graduation and Commencement ceremony is sent directly to all students who have applied for graduation.

Incomplete Grades

A grade of Incomplete (I) is assigned by the instructor only if you have completed 80% of the course work and have offered a valid reason for your inability to complete the course work within the prescribed semester. You must request a grade of Incomplete before the end of the semester and arrangements for the completion of the work must be made in writing with the instructor. Once you have been granted the incomplete grade, you must complete the work within the first 30 days of the next scheduled semester. If the work is not completed within that time, or if an extension is not granted, the incomplete grade automatically becomes an “F”. In certain extraordinary circumstances, faculty may complete an Extension Form (available in the Office) and submit it to the Office of Graduate Studies to permit a student additional time to satisfy the course requirements.

Independent/Directed Study

Opportunities for independent study are provided in each department on an advanced graduate level for one to six semester hours’ credit. Course admission requires the permission of the faculty member and approval of the Program advisor, Department Chair and Dean. Written plans for independent study projects must be approved in advance before registering for the independent study course. A maximum of six (6) credits of Independent/Directed Study is allowed within a degree program.


You should make certain that you have the necessary prerequisites for each course. Failure to do so may result in being inadequately prepared to take and succeed in the chosen course. Prerequisites are indicated in each course description in the online catalog. A Baccalaureate degree is an essential prerequisite for all of our graduate level courses.

Program of Study

Upon initial acceptance into a degree program, you will be assigned an advisor skilled in your area of specialization. Your individual program of study is worked out in consultation with your advisor and in accordance with the requirements for a degree in your major program. The planned degree program will include:

  1. prerequisites required by the department in your area of concentration,
  2. required courses,
  3. a planned program of courses necessary for competency in the field of concentration,
  4. in some cases, elective courses.

The program of study must have your signature and the signed approval of your advisor(s). The Coordinator of Graduate Records will circulate the program of study for the signature of the department chair and Graduate Dean. The original will then be placed in your file, a copy sent to your advisor and a third copy sent to you.

The signed Program of Study form must be on file within your first semester of study after acceptance. Failure to comply may result in a hold being placed on future registration. Any changes to the Program of Study must have advance written approval. These approved changes must be filed with the Graduate Office. The advisor is not responsible for his/her advisee’s meeting Graduate School regulations and deadlines. You are personally responsible for knowing all College rules and regulations, as well as your program requirements.

Registration for Courses

Current and accurate information about courses and enrollment is available on the college web site through  http://www.westfield.ma.edu/academics/continuing-education-massachusetts/register-for-classes . The schedule of courses is available in catalog form several weeks prior to the start of a semester.

The registration form is included in each semester’s course catalog book and is also available in the office and on our website. Payment is expected at time of registration. The Office accepts MasterCard, VISA, Discover, American Express, personal check, money order, or traveler’s checks. Students are offered the opportunity to register through the mail within specified dates. You may also register online with no additional service fee. The dates for registration are available in each semester’s catalog.

Student Responsibilities

It is your responsibility to become familiar with all requirements required by the relevant graduate program. In no case should you expect a waiver or exception to published program requirements by pleading ignorance of the regulation or by asserting that an advisor or other authority did not directly present the information. All students should become familiar with all academic policies and specific college/departmental program requirements. Only the Dean of Graduate and Continuing Education, supported by the Graduate Education Council, has the authority to waive the basic requirements stated in this catalog. No statements made by any person regarding waiver of admission or program requirement shall in any way bind the Graduate Dean or Graduate Education Council.

Summer School

The Graduate School is an integral part of the summer program at Westfield State University, offering a variety of graduate offerings from May through August in the evening and with both intensive day and evening sessions during the second summer session (July and August). The summer calendar is designed to allow students to accelerate their degree program or lighten their course load during the regular academic year. A summer catalog offers information on course offerings and course descriptions that enhance the information are available on the college web site. Program advisors are available during April and May to offer both prospective and matriculated students assistance in making course choices appropriate to their curricular goals.

Time Limit

You are expected to complete your degree requirements within six (6) years (seven (7) in Psychology M.A. programs) from the date of the first course credited toward your degree, including transfer credits from other accredited institutions. No credit will be given for a course older than six years at the time of graduation. If you fail to meet this time requirement, you must apply in writing for an extension, stating in detail the reasons for the request. The college does not guarantee that the extension will be granted, and the Dean of Graduate and Continuing Education may impose additional requirements before the degree will be granted.


Official transcripts may be obtained from the Office of Graduate and Continuing Education by mailing in a written request or filling out a transcript request form, available in the office and on the university web site. The signature of the student is required on the form before a transcript can be released or sent and a fee of $2.00 per transcript must be submitted with the transcript request form. Please allow five working days for our office to process the request. There will be an additional charge for processing of transcript requests within one business day ($5.00). Transcripts that include the final grades of the present semester will be available approximately three weeks after the close of the term.

Winter Session

An intensive January session has been added to the Westfield State University Academic year. Offered in response to requests for accelerated classes which could be completed during the January break, this comprehensive schedule offers undergraduate, post-baccalaureate and graduate students the opportunity to complete credit classes in an intensive academic format of three weeks or less. Please consult the Winter/Spring course catalog for winter offerings.

Withdrawal Policy

Enrollment in a course implies a serious intention to complete the work of that course. You may drop a course by withdrawing before the first scheduled class meeting without notation on your permanent record. After the second class meeting, you will receive a grade of “W”, if you properly withdraw in writing before the deadline. The withdrawal form (available in the office and online) requires both the student’s and the faculty member’s signatures. The deadline date is published in each semester’s schedule of courses and is set close to mid-term. Verbal messages of intent to the instructor or staff do not constitute withdrawal. Unless a withdrawal form has been completed, signed by you and the instructor, and submitted to the Graduate and Continuing Education Office, you have not officially withdrawn.

Students who can document an “extenuating circumstance” may be allowed to drop a course with a “W” notation on their transcript prior to the final exam. They should contact the Dean of Graduate and Continuing Education to discuss their situation. Students who enroll for a course and fail to attend the first two classes may be withdrawn at the discretion of the professor. Professors are asked to justify such a decision at the time of the recommended withdrawal. Beginning with the third week of classes (or with the third class meeting in summer sessions), faculty may not submit a “W.”

Refunds of tuition and appropriate fees, if any, are made on the basis of the date and time of receipt of a student’s withdrawal notification in the DGCE Office, and in accordance with the refund schedule in force during the session within which the refund is requested.