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WSCUC Standard 2:

Achieving Educational Objectives through Core Functions

• Teaching and Learning

• Scholarship and Creative Activity

• Student Learning and Success

The institution achieves its purposes and attains its educational objectives at the institutional and program level through the core functions of teaching and learning, scholarship and creative activity, and support for student learning and success. The institution demonstrates that these core functions are performed effectively by evaluating valid and reliable evidence of learning and by supporting the success of every student.



Teaching and Learning

Criteria for Review

2.1 — The institution’s educational programs are appropriate in content, standards of performance, rigor, and nomenclature for the degree level awarded, regardless of mode of delivery. They are staffed by sufficient numbers of faculty qualified for the type and level of curriculum offered.

The Graduate Program at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) has a singular educational objective: to train the next generation of scientists in the biological and chemical sciences. With this single purpose, faculty are seldom diverted from this objective. Through curricular and laboratory research experiences, TSRI strives to offer access to multi-disciplinary science in a creative environment by hiring outstanding, innovative faculty.

As of March 2017, the total number of full-time faculty actively involved in the Graduate Program is 162; they provide the instruction and mentoring for 260 graduate students and 520 postdoctoral fellows. The course offerings can be found on the Web site.  

2.2 — All degrees—undergraduate and graduate—awarded by the institution are clearly defined in terms of entry-level requirements and levels of student achievement necessary for graduation that represent more than simply an accumulation of courses or credits. The institution has both a coherent philosophy, expressive of its mission, which guides the meaning of its degrees and processes that ensure the quality and integrity of its degrees.

The criteria for admissions to the Graduate Program at TSRI are outlined on the Web site and in recruitment materials.

TSRI's educational objective is tied to its ability to provide a curriculum that equips graduate students with new and in-depth scientific knowledge and laboratory techniques, as well as activities that enhance students' scientific communication skills. Students develop these skills through the core classes, electives, laboratory rotations, and programmatic activities. In order to ensure that these educational objectives are met, the Curriculum Committee and the Scientific Communications Committee were formed.

2.2a — Undergraduate programs engage students in an integrated course of study of sufficient breadth and depth to prepare them for work, citizenship, and life-long learning. These programs ensure the development of core competencies including, but not limited to, written and oral communication, quantitative reasoning, information literacy, and critical thinking. In addition, undergraduate programs actively foster creativity, innovation, an appreciation for diversity, ethical and civic responsibility, civic engagement, and the ability to work with others. Baccalaureate programs also ensure breadth for all students in cultural and aesthetic, social and political, and scientific and technical knowledge expected of educated persons. Baccalaureate degrees include significant in-depth study in a given area of knowledge (typically described in terms of a program or major).

Aside from limited-duration research experience programs for undergraduate students enrolled at other institutions, The Scripps Research Institute does not offer undergraduate programs.

2.2b — The institution’s graduate programs establish clearly stated objectives differentiated from and more advanced than undergraduate programs in terms of admissions, curricula, standards of performance, and student learning outcomes. Graduate programs foster students’ active engagement with the literature of the field and create a culture that promotes the importance of scholarship and/or professional practice. Ordinarily, a baccalaureate degree is required for admission to a graduate program.

While The Scripps Research Institute does not operate an undergraduate degree program, its Graduate Program is guided by the pursuit of several rigorous objectives that enable it to achieve its mission. These objectives are listed on various webpages of TSRI’s external website and internal Intranet site.


The Scripps Research Institutes Graduate Program seeks to recruit and enroll highly motivated individuals who thrive on challenges. There are no specific prerequisites; however, applicants must demonstrate good undergraduate training in the biomedical sciences or a related field and a strong commitment to research. While the Graduate Program requires applicants to submit GRE General Test scores, applications are considered overwhelmingly based on a student’s scientific interests, previous research experience, recommendations from research advisor(s) and a statement of purpose that demonstrates a developed sense of professional direction. Proof of a baccalaureate degree or the equivalent is required for matriculation into the Graduate Program. TSRI is committed to attracting a diverse array of students who share a passion for scientific discovery.


The course offerings were designed to bring students to the forefront of knowledge and provide a solid foundation for conducting and evaluating biomedical research. While students may choose courses within one research area for focused studies, they are encouraged to develop a breadth of experience by taking multidisciplinary courses for a customized program of study.

Standards of Performance

TSRI Graduate Students are required to complete a minimum of 18 course credits. These courses must be taken for a letter grade, and the student must earn a minimum of a B- to receive credit for the course. In addition to the course requirement, students are expected to meet at least once per year with their advisory committee. Comprised of four or five TSRI faculty members with expertise broadly related to the student’s dissertation work, advisory committees continuously evaluate a student's:

    • Commitment to attain a doctoral degree;
    • Ability to develop a scientific focus;
    • Participation in journal clubs and scientific meetings;
    • Meeting the Graduate Program’s learning objectives: oral communication skills, technical research skills, and writing skills; and
    • Ability to bring the research project to completion in the form of scientific publications.

Student Learning Outcomes

The Learning Objectives of TSRI's Graduate Program are to:

    1. Equip graduate students with new and expanded scientific knowledge and laboratory techniques;
    2. Strengthen students’ critical thinking and scientific communication skills through innovative curricula, cutting-edge research, program activities and campus workshops and seminars;
    3. Support and develop students’ personal and professional skills; and
    4. Develop students’ ability to generate ideas and methodologies to answer some of the world's most perplexing scientific questions through multidisciplinary scientific collaborations.

Students are ready to graduate when they have generated peer-reviewed research, can develop creative approaches and methodologies to complex scientific questions, possess strong communication skills, and have mastered a potent set of technical research skills.

2.3 — The institution’s student learning outcomes and standards of performance are clearly stated at the course, program, and, as appropriate, institutional level. These outcomes and standards are reflected in academic programs, policies, and curricula, and are aligned with advisement, library, and information and technology resources, and the wider learning environment.

In order to ensure that the TSRI Graduate Program's learning outcomes, policies and expectations are communicated, they are listed on the Web site and the graduate student handbook.

The learning outcomes and expectations are categorized by academic year. Each year students are expected to have mastered specific core competencies, which are evaluated by a committee of faculty. The committee could be the faculty teaching a course, advisory committee for their thesis project, or qualifying exam committee who serve as critical evaluators of the students understanding of the research topic and feasibility of proposed project. To view an idealized timeline by academic year of student progression through the TSRI Graduate Program, including coursework and committee meetings, click here.

The graduate program also draws on the resources of the institute; both postdoctoral fellows and students have access to the Career and Postdoctoral Services Office and the libraries, which include the Kresge Library in California and the Elizabeth M. Fago Library in Florida. For more information about the libraries' resources, click here.

2.4 — The institution’s student learning outcomes and standards of performance are developed by faculty and widely shared among faculty, students, staff, and (where appropriate) external stakeholders. The institution’s faculty take collective responsibility for establishing appropriate standards of performance and demonstrating through assessment the achievement of these standards.

Mastery of program learning outcomes is assessed through rubrics which were developed during several expert-guided training workshops. Thirty-five faculty members discussed the rubric language and debated key points that identify the critical attributes for rating effective scientific writing, oral presentations, research experience, and proposal/manuscript writing. Rubrics are completed during the student’s annual committee meetings and are given to the student. Most students have earned a ‘proficient’ on the majority of the rubric attributes at graduation.

2.5 — The institution’s academic programs actively involve students in learning, take into account students’ prior knowledge of the subject matter, challenge students to meet high standards of performance, offer opportunities for them to practice, generalize, and apply what they have learned, and provide them with appropriate and ongoing feedback about their performance and how it can be improved.

The Scripps Research Institute's Graduate Program is an interdisciplinary program that provides rigorous training in chemistry, chemical biology, biology, neurosciences, immunology, cell biology, chemical physiology, and biophysics. When students matriculate into the graduate program, they do not join a department. Students have access to the entire curriculum and the entire faculty affiliated with the school regardless of the faculty member’s department. This approach allows students to be broadly trained in the area of scientific exploration and emphasizes the creation of basic knowledge in the biosciences. 

The Graduate Program offers 35 courses offered annually, any of which can be taken and count toward the students 18-credit course requirement. Course offerings were designed to bring students to the forefront of knowledge and provide a solid foundation for conducting and evaluating biomedical research. While students may choose courses within one research area for focused studies, they are encouraged to develop a breadth of experience by taking multidisciplinary courses for a customized program of study.

Students are expected to meet at least once per year with their Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee is crucial in ensuring students remain in good standing and serves as a key component of a student’s ongoing support and training. Advisory committees are comprised of four or five faculty members with expertise broadly related to the student’s dissertation work. The committee serves several purposes: it conducts the qualifying examination, meets annually to provide advice and guidance on the student’s dissertation project, and mentors the student through the Graduate Program.

The committee will continuously evaluate the student's:

    • Commitment to attain a doctoral degree;
    • Ability to develop a scientific focus;
    • Participation in journal clubs and scientific meetings;
    • Meeting the Program’s learning objectives: oral communication skills, technical research skills, and writing skills; and
    • Ability to bring the research project to completion in the form of scientific publications.

2.6 — The institution demonstrates that its graduates consistently achieve its stated learning outcomes and established standards of performance. The institution ensures that its expectations for student learning are embedded in the standards that faculty use to evaluate student work.

To consistently assess how students are progressing in their program, students are required to pass core classes with a grade of A or B. If a student fails a core class, s/he must repeat the course. Credit for the course will NOT be granted. Students are also required to pass the qualifying examination for admission to Ph.D. candidacy. Guidelines for the written and oral portion of the examination are available on the Web site and in the Student Handbook. Students also have access to the Qualifying Examination Rubric that faculty will submit to the Graduate Office at the conclusion of the examination.

2.7 — All programs offered by the institution are subject to systematic program review. The program review process includes, but is not limited to, analyses of student achievement of the program’s learning outcomes; retention and graduation rates; and, where appropriate, results of licensing examination and placement, and evidence from external constituencies such as employers and professional organizations.

The Scripps Research Institute’s Graduate Program follows a five-step cycle of program review that includes self-study and external program review. The five-step review process, which evaluates both curricular and non-curricular departments consists of the following steps:

    1. The process begins with faculty and administrators gathering meaningful data that demonstrate how effectively the program is meeting its mission. These data, which focus on ten areas central to the ongoing success of the Graduate Program, are collected annually and presented in an annual report. The ten areas are admissions, students, faculty, courses, student publications, rubrics, attrition, graduation rates, outreach, and professional development.
    2. During self-study and reflection, TSRI faculty and administrators review the annual report and draw conclusions on how teaching and learning, administrative processes, curricula, and pedagogy might be improved. The self-study process is an opportunity for faculty to develop a shared understanding of how curriculum and laboratory experiences are meeting program learning outcomes and the objectives and mission of TSRI’s Graduate Program.
    3. After reviewing evidence and reflecting on next steps, an action plan is designed that details how changes will be implemented. After changes are implemented, evidence on their impact is documented.
    4. Implemented changes are then presented and assessed by an external program review committee.
    5. The preparation of a long-term action plan is the final step in the review process, articulating specific follow-up actions that are required, the groups and individuals responsible for execution of these actions, and a determination of resource and budgetary needs.

Scholarship and Creative Activity

Criteria for Review

2.8 — The institution clearly defines expectations for research, scholarship, and creative activity for its students and all categories of faculty. The institution actively values and promotes scholarship, creative activity, and curricular and instructional innovation, and their dissemination appropriate to the institution’s purposes and character.

All TSRI faculty appointments, renewals and promotions are overseen by the Vice President of Academic Affairs. Decisions are made primarily on the basis of scholarship, creative work and service to TSRI and are subject to the provisions of the institute’s bylaws. Appointments, renewals, promotions, or terminations shall not in any way be based upon race, gender, color, religion, age, national origin, disability, sexual orientation or any other protected class. Specific details can be found on the faculty portal on the TSRI Web site.

2.9 — The institution recognizes and promotes appropriate linkages among scholarship, teaching, assessment, student learning, and service.

The Scripps Research Institute has established a teaching award, in honor of Bernie Gilula, the first dean of the Graduate Program; the Bernie Gilula Teaching Award for Faculty Excellence in Graduate Education recognizing exceptional contribution to the graduate program at the Doctoral Program in Chemical and Biological Sciences. The award is handed out at Commencement every two years.

Student Learning and Success

Criteria for Review

2.10 — The institution demonstrates that students make timely progress toward the completion of their degrees and that an acceptable proportion of students complete their degrees in a timely fashion, given the institution’s mission, the nature of the students it serves, and the kinds of programs it offers. The institution collects and analyzes student data, disaggregated by appropriate demographic categories and areas of study. It tracks achievement, satisfaction, and the extent to which the campus climate supports student success. The institution regularly identifies the characteristics of its students; assesses their preparation, needs, and experiences; and uses these data to improve student achievement.

The Scripps Research Institute's Graduate Program offers students the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns directly to the dean through informal monthly lunches with the dean or through surveys. Surveys are sent to specific groups, such as first-year students, graduating students, and alumni. Surveys are also sent to students in specific classes or preparing for qualifying examinations.

2.11 — Consistent with its purposes, the institution offers co-curricular programs that are aligned with its academic goals, integrated with academic programs, and designed to support all students’ personal and professional development. The institution assesses the effectiveness of its co-curricular programs and uses the results for improvement.

The Scripps Research Institute's Graduate Program supports a number of para-scientific and personal development workshops including the Career Workshop Series, Distinguished Lecture Series, and teaching assistantships.

2.12 — The institution ensures that all students understand the requirements of their academic programs and receive timely, useful, and complete information and advising about relevant academic requirements.

Every fall, TSRI's Graduate Program offers an orientation which meticulously explains the program's requirements and expectations. Included in the orientation, the students are introduced to the Intranet Web site, where are all the programmatic forms and information resides.

2.13 — The institution provides academic and other student support services such as tutoring, services for students with disabilities, financial aid counseling, career counseling and placement, residential life, athletics, and other services and programs as appropriate, which meet the needs of the specific types of students that the institution serves and the programs it offers.

The Scripps Research Institute's Graduate Program offers its students a multitude of support services, including relocation support, academic advising, psychological counseling, career counseling, international student services, IT services, and library services. Many of these resources can be found on TSRI's external web pages, but a complete list of services can be found on the Graduate Program section of TSRI's Intranet website. (on-campus access only)

2.14 — Institutions that serve transfer students provide clear, accurate, and timely information, ensure equitable treatment under academic policies, provide such students access to student services, and ensure that they are not unduly disadvantaged by the transfer process.

Transfer credit is reviewed by the Office of Graduate Studies and awarded by the Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies. A maximum of 12 credits will be allowed to be transferred into the TSRI Graduate Program. While TSRI has no articulation agreements with any college or institution, a course generally receives transfer credit if it meets the following conditions: It is completed at an accredited institution; It is substantially similar to a TSRI course; It is completed with a grade of B- or better. TSRI will not grant credit for: Online of distance education courses; Courses outside of the 12 research areas, e.g. accounting, English.

TSRI's on-campus Intranet website also lists information for students who are transferring out of TSRI due to their advisor's relocation to another institution. In these situations, a student who has passed his/her candidacy examination can choose to join their advisor at the new institution and remain a TSRI graduate student. This relocation will require written approval from both the advisor and the Dean. The student will be expected to follow the same program timeline as if they were on a TSRI campus. The Graduate Program will provide funding to allow the student to travel to TSRI for annual committee meetings. If travel is not possible, meetings will be held via the institute's bicoastal video conferencing system.

If the student remains in TSRI's Graduate Program, the student will be encouraged to participate in the annual Graduate Student Symposium. Travel funds will be provided and air travel will be booked through TSRI's travel agency.

If the student has not passed his/her candidacy examination, the student has the choice of transferring to the graduate program of the advisor’s new institution or remaining at TSRI and choosing a new advisor.