Carnegie Mellon University
March 16, 2022

Expanding Holistic Support to Enhance the CMU Doctoral Student Experience

Dear Carnegie Mellon Doctoral Students:

We are pleased to share an update regarding progress that will advance holistic support of the doctoral student experience at CMU.

Over the past several years, CMU’s leadership, the academic units and the Graduate Student Assembly (GSA) have collaborated through a genuine partnership to establish more uniform practices and minimum standards intended to enhance the experience of our doctoral students. The first phase of this effort was implemented two years ago when we established consistent, minimum health care coverage representing 50% of individual premium costs paid by the university for all eligible doctoral students.

Following the success of the first phase, these groups have continued to work together to study a set of strategic priorities, develop a holistic view and prioritize possible doctoral support elements, which culminated this spring in a proposal for the next phase. At its March 1 meeting, the university Deans’ Council voted in favor of the proposal to implement phase two of a holistic support model. The GSA Executive Committee also affirmed support at its recent Provost Graduate Advisory Board meeting following an update by Vice Provost for Education Amy Burkert at the March GSA general body meeting. Work is now ongoing with individual graduate programs to prepare for implementation starting in fall 2022.

The key changes that will be offered to all qualifying doctoral students beginning this fall are:

  • Increasing university support to 100% of individual premium cost for coverage through the Student Healthcare Insurance Program (SHIP);
  • Establishing a university-wide minimum monthly stipend of $2,250/month for qualifying, stipend-supported, doctoral students during the period of their enrollment based on the individual program structure and policies; and
  • Setting guidelines for annual time-away-from-program of seven days for nine-month programs and 10 days for 12-month programs, in addition to official university holidays, to encourage student well-being and balance.

Qualifying doctoral students are defined as having full-time enrollment in a CMU doctoral program, are making satisfactory progress toward their degree in line with program policy, and are stipend-supported and not receiving full external support from another source.

While maintaining their autonomy and addressing the specific needs and contexts of both students and departments, individual graduate programs will apply these new minimum levels of support to their existing doctoral support packages for the fall semester. In anticipation of questions, we will coordinate with departments and programs on follow-up communications.

University academic and administrative leadership, college representatives and GSA will continue to review proposals that would expand the current student maternity accommodation program to include parental leave options and establish an academic ombudsperson to serve as a resource for all students.

We are grateful to the leadership of Vice Provost Burkert, the Holistic Support Working Group, the GSA Executive Committee and GSA department representatives, and the academic deans, whose partnership helped us reach this milestone following many months of dedicated study and effort to understand the nuances of individual programs and the needs of our doctoral students. As we advance these priorities, we remain committed to further collaboration to continually improve the graduate student experience at Carnegie Mellon.


Jim Garrett
Provost and Chief Academic Officer

Divyansh Kaushik
Graduate Student Assembly President

Gina Casalegno
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students