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Contacts and Roles

All aspects of departmental administration are within the purview of the Department Head (DH). The rest of the employees of the CS Department report to the DH. However, the DH is rarely the appropriate person that graduate students should see about day-to-day issues related to the program.

All details of the graduate programs are within the purview of the Graduate Program Committee (GPC). GPC is a standing committee in the department with participation from faculty members along with a graduate student representative. The committee meets regularly and deliberates about all graduate program-related matters. Every year new members are elected into GPC and the duration of their terms varies according to the size of the committee and other departmental responsibilities. The committee is chaired by the Graduate Director (GD), which in our department is the same person as the Associate Department Head for Graduate Studies (ADH-GS). The department also has an Associate Department Head for Undergraduate Studies (ADH-US) who interacts with graduate students in certain affairs such as the Accelerated BS/MS program.

Other personnel play significant roles in the day to day operations of the graduate program. The graduate coordinator (GC), initial academic advisor (IAA), academic and research advisor (ARA), and graduate director (GD) are the key contacts for all matters of graduate studies in Computer Science.

The Graduate Coordinator (GC) implements day-to-day aspects of the graduate program and serves as an important focal point of contact for all graduate students. The GC’s responsibilities include responding to questions from students and keeping records of the different milestones for our graduate degrees. The GC's office is in the main office in the KWII building.

The Initial Academic Advisor (IAA) advises all incoming students until they find a research advisor (ARA). This person plays a significant role in the first year of studies for most graduate students. By the end of their first year, students should have identified their own ARA.

The Academic and Research Advisor (ARA) is responsible for advising a student regarding maters of academic and research progress. The ARA must do a yearly evaluation of each of his/her students and discuss this evaluation with the Graduate Program Committee on Green Thursday. The ARA must be a full-time Virginia Tech faculty position with either a regular, emeritus, or courtesy appointment in the Department of Computer Science, and hold a Ph.D. or equivalent terminal degree. It is the student's responsibility to select an ARA for their work. We do not assign an ARA to students.

The Graduate Director (GD) addresses program administration-related issues, such as design, implementation, and evolution of graduate degrees and approvals of Programs of Study. In CS, the Graduate Director is the same person as the ADH-GS. The GD is the chair of the GPC. The GD also works closely with the department head to make decisions pertaining to course registrations and financial assistance administered by the department (such as teaching assistantships and fellowships). The GC, DAO, and GD work closely to cover all aspects pertaining to the successful functioning of the graduate program.

The Director of Academic Operations (DAO) oversees the selection of both Graduate Teaching Assitants and Undergraduate Teaching Assistants, and assigns them to their course dutes.

As of this writing, the following people occupy the positions mentioned above:

  • DH is Dr. Cal Ribbens,,
  • GD/ADH-GS is Dr. Cliff Shaffer,,
  • ADH-US is Dr. Stephen Edwards,,
  • We have three GCs at the moment.
    •  Ms. Sharon Kinder-Potter (540-231-6932, KWII 1105, for Blacksburg MS and PhD students.
    • Ms. Roxanne Paul (703-538-8370, in the Northern Virginia Center for MS and PhD students.
    • Ms Samantha Pipkin ( in the Northern Virgina Center for MEng students at both campuses.
  • Advising:
    • IAA is Dr. Cliff Shaffer (, for research track students.
    • Dr. Sara Hooshangi ( advises MEng students.
  • DAO is Mr. Dwight Barnette,,