DGS Message

A Message from Landon Cox, Director of Graduate Studies (DGS)

As DGS, I am committed to continuing to improve the effectiveness of our graduate program and the quality of your experience as a graduate student. You are the most valuable resources of our department: You are the force behind our cutting-edge research, and you will be our best ambassadors when you graduate and become leaders in industry, academia, and society. We have high hope for you, and we are here to help you succeed.

As DGS, I oversee the graduate program budget and admissions, and represent our graduate program in its interactions with the University and the Graduate School. I will ensure that you receive clear communication regarding department policies that affect you, and that these policies are fair, reasonable, and consistently applied. I am the person who will ultimately (and happily) "sign you off" after verifying the completion of your degree requirements.

I could not afford the time to serve as DGS without our extremely capable Graduate Program Coordinator (GPC), Marilyn Butler. She handles many of the most important functions of the DGS office. To help us help yourself, please note the following guidelines in your interactions with the DGS office:

  • Contacting us. For official matters or assistance, please see our GPC or me, or email dgs at cs.duke.edu. The dgs alias will reach both of us. Please do not mail me directly; doing so will only delay our response. Our office may be extremely busy at times; if you feel that we are not being responsive enough, do not shy from pinging us again.
  • Taking responsibility for yourself. We expect a healthy level of maturity from graduate students. It is not our business to breathe constantly down your neck throughout your graduate career. Be proactive and take responsibility for yourself in meeting the requirements, rules, and expectations. Please carefully read our Graduate Degree Requirements and other Resources for Graduate Students; many questions can be answered simply by referring to these resources. Also, respond promptly to all requests (including emails) from the DGS office; ignoring them may lead to undesirable consequences.
  • Keeping us informed. We would like to hear from you---both good news and bad news. Take your annual progress review seriously. In addition, let us know of any potential problems early; that gives us more time to help you. We will not reveal any information given in confidence, unless required by law or necessary to protect health or safety.
  • Graduate Program Coordinator. Marilyn, our GPC, is an official representative of the DGS office, and should be treated with respect. Requests from GPC for action or information are official requests from the Department. Part of her job is to try to protect you from running afoul of the various regulations that govern student status at Duke. If you get into trouble in some way and she judges that you have not fulfilled your responsibilities, the faculty will generally defer to her opinion. If you want advice on degree requirements, procedures, dealing with faculty, getting access to resources at Duke, adjusting to graduate student life, special requirements and procedures for international students, she will be a good resource. In most cases, email responses from the DGS office will come from her rather than from me directly.
  • Seeking advice from others. Seek advice from sources other than the DGS office when appropriate. Questions about your direction as a student or researcher are best directed to your course instructor or faculty member in your intended research area. Senior students are also great sources of information. However, you should always consult with the DGS office for authoritative interpretation of the degree requirements whenever you have any doubts.
  • Importance of research. I cannot overstate the importance of research---it is the single most important aspect of a PhD student's career. In particular, if you are a first-year PhD student, you need to get out of your "comfort zone" (of taking courses, passing exams, and working on problems for which solutions are already known), and reserve enough time to speak with faculty and senior students, attend research seminars and group meetings, and get a head start on your Research Initiation Project (RIP).

In closing, your graduate career at Duke will be challenging and demanding, but above all, it should also be rewarding and fun. Let us know how we can help you.

Landon Cox
Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies