Grad Student Handbook

Agronomy & Horticulture graduate students are members of the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture, and as such the Department will make every effort necessary to enable its graduate students to be part of its overall mission and to have the opportunity to successfully complete their graduate programs. The advisor will provide frequent and thorough advice on coursework and research. The department will provide the necessary tools and the environment for the growth and professional development of its graduate students. The students must exhibit the motivation, integrity, and professional ambition to use the resources available. Hopefully, completing the academic program, conducting research, and associating with the staff will be enjoyable and will satisfactorily prepare graduate students in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture for their professional goals.

General Admission Requirements

Credentials of applicants are evaluated without consideration of gender, age, disability, race, color, religion, marital status, veteran's status, national or ethnic origin or sexual orientation.  The applicant's grade point average (GPA) and letters of recommendation are the primary factors considered in the evaluation.  A GPA of 3.0 or above is generally required, although strong letters of recommendation or a trend toward academic improvement later in the undergraduate or graduate program may warrant provisional admittance.

INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS and/or applicants from non-English speaking countries must show evidence of adequate proficiency in the English language.

The department requires that all graduate students complete an M.S. degree before entering a Ph.D. program unless special approval is given by the Graduate Committee. 

The department requires that all graduate student applicants meet the following basic science requirements for the thesis option:

  • calculus -- one semester
  • chemistry -- one semester
  • physics (not soil physics) -- one semester
  • physics or chemistry -- a second semester of either
  • biological science --  two semesters

The following admissions requirements are for the Option II (non-thesis masters program):

  • plant production or plant system management - one semester
  • soil science - one semester
  • biological science - one semester
  • chemistry - one semester
  • algebra - one semester

These requirements can be met by any of the following:

  • completing the above courses with a minimum grade of 2.0
  • completing equivalent courses  
  • testing out of the above courses
  • providing the syllabus from a prior course which included the required subject matter


The Department currently offers graduate programs leading to the Master of Science (thesis and non-thesis) and the Doctor of Philosophy degrees. Students study within one of the following areas:

  • Agricultural Meteorology
  • Applied Ecology (Ph.D.)
  • Crop Physiology and Production
  • Environmental Studies (interdepartmental program)
  • Horticulture
  • Plant Breeding and Genetics
  • Plant Pathology
  • Range and Forage Sciences
  • Soil and Water Sciences
  • Weed Science

The Department also offers a non-thesis Master of Science in Agronomy via distance.

Admission Status

Full Graduate Standing -- Acceptance with full standing is extended to students who have met the minimum requirements for admission and who have been accepted by the department for work leading to a graduate degree or stated professional goal.

Provisional Status -- Acceptance with provisional status is extended to students who show potential for successful graduate work but do not meet prerequisite coursework requirements or who have a low scholastic standing. Provisional status is expected to be removed by the end of the student's first year.

Deficiencies in prerequisite coursework

Specific coursework deficiencies will be stipulated by the Agronomy and Horticulture Graduate Committee prior to acceptance.  The course deficiencies will be indicated on the student's admission form and will require completion with a "C" (2.0) or above.  The advisor has the option of determining whether a deficiency course may be taken P/N (pass/no pass).  Additional requests may be made by the student's committee.  Students who are admitted on a provisional basis due to course deficiencies may be eligible for financial assistance.  Coursework deficiencies should be completed within 12 months of beginning the graduate program and prior to submitting the Memorandum of Courses.

Full-standing status will be granted after the required courses are completed and a memorandum requesting full standing is forwarded to the Graduate College.  The student must work through his/her advisor to submit the memorandum to the chair of the Agronomy and Horticulture Graduate Committee.  The Graduate Committee will recommend to the Graduate College that the student be granted full-standing status.

Low scholastic standing

M.S. students with a low scholastic standing (GPA lower than 3.0) may be given provisional acceptance.  These students must complete nine graduate credit hours, all of which must be with a grade of at least a "B" (3.0) or better in each course.  The student must also have (or maintain) a "B" (3.0) overall GPA in the graduate program (7/1/98).

The student, working through his/her advisor, should submit a memorandum to the chair of the Graduate Committee requesting that the provisional status based on GPA be removed.  The Graduate Committee will forward a recommendation to the Graduate College.  Students admitted on a provisional basis because of low scholastic standing are not eligible for financial assistance until they receive full graduate standing

Ph.D. students are not accepted with a low scholastic standing.  They are placed provisionally in the M.S. program until they have demonstrated the ability to do acceptable Ph.D. level work.

Seminar Requirements

  • AGRO/HORT 991: Seminar Presentation and Evaluation - required of all MS students

  • AGRO/HORT 992: General Seminar - expected of all graduate students.  Presentation of thesis/dissertation or non-thesis topics in agronomy, horticulture or related subjects.  Ph.D. students should enroll in this course twice.

  • Plant Pathology and Agricultural Meterology students should enroll in at least one AGRO or HORT seminar.

Comprehensive Exams

Written comprehensive exams are required for all Ph.D. and Option I (thesis) M.S. students.  The type and format of the examination will be determined by the student's advisor and examination committee.  These examinations are usually taken after the completion of all coursework requirements.

Oral comprehensive exams are required for all Ph.D. students.  M.S.Option I (thesis)  students may be subject to an oral exam at the discretion of the student's committee.  For M.S. students, the written and/or oral comprehensive examination in the minor field(s) may be waived subject to the approval of the minor department(s), provided all grades in the minor department(s) are at least a B or pass.

Progress Report Procedure and Academic Issues

Progress Reports are to be completed annually for all M.S. and Ph.D. students.  The purpose of these reports is to assist and guide graduate students, their advisors, and their supervisory committees towards regular and meaningful updates regarding progress and expectations within each student's program.  The Progress Report and associated review with advisors can help increase communication between faculty and students, anticipate problems or differences in expectations and resolve them before they become unmanageable or negative.  In addition, students experience an evaluation process that is common among professionals.

All graduate students should complete this Progress Report.  This includes M.S. students, Ph.D. students, international and domestic students, and full and part-time students. 

Grievance and Academic Appeals - Refer to UNL Graduate Studies Bulletin.

Graduate Student Participation

Each student should take the opportunity to assist in teaching or do guest lecturing at Nebraska.  The experience is invaluable and also exposes undergraduates to current research.  The student's teaching experience should be noted in the annual Progress Report.

Each student is encouraged to attend field days and participate when possible.

Each student is encouraged to participate in service through participation in University wide or department graduate student association.

Personnel and Accounting

The staff at the HAPPI Business Center can assist with GRA, payroll, travel authorization, and supply order etc. For specific or more information visit the HAPPI Business Center website.