Jul 19, 2024  
2010-2011 Catalog 
2010-2011 Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]

Graduate School


E-mail: gradschool@wwu.edu

Dr. Moheb A. Ghali, Dean, Old Main 530, 360-650-3170

WWU is authorized by the State Legislature to award seven graduate degrees:

  • Master of Arts (MA)
  • Master of Science (MS)
  • Master of Education (MEd)
  • Master of Business Administration (MBA)
  • Master of Music (MMus)
  • Master of Professional Accounting (MPAcc)
  • Master in Teaching (MIT)

The purpose of graduate study at WWU is to provide students quality graduate education with opportunities for research and professional development. Graduate programs are intended to prepare able students for (1) teaching, (2) entering professions, (3) career advancement and (4) further advanced study.

WWU’s graduate programs are accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Graduate programs which result in educator certification are also accredited by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). The College of Business and Economics is accredited by the AACSB International Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business at both the graduate and undergraduate levels. The Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders is accredited by the American Speech-Language- Hearing Association’s Council on Academic Accreditation in Audiology and Speech-Language Pathology (ASHA) and by the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE). The mental health and school counseling programs are accredited by Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP). The Rehabilitation Counseling program is accredited by the Council on Rehabilitation Education (CORE). The University is a member of the Council of Graduate Schools in the United States and adheres to the general policies and criteria established by this national association.

The graduate programs provide service to the state and its major divisions, to the business and commercial sector, and to a number of professions.

Several of WWU’s graduate programs offer courses or program elements at locations outside Bellingham, within the Puget Sound region and online. Refer to the University’s online Summer Session Bulletin (http://www.acadweb.wwu.edu/eesp/summer/index.shtml) for programs offering summer graduate courses.

Persons who plan to enter graduate study at WWU should read this section of the General Catalog closely before applying for admission to graduate study or enrolling in any course intended to count toward a master’s degree or advanced certificate of study. Students working toward a residency, continuing, or professional teaching certificate should contact the Certification Office in the Woodring College of Education. Students should consult with the appropriate graduate program advisor and the graduate office for additional admissions or program-related questions.


Admission is granted by the Graduate School of Western Washington University with the concurrence of the department or program unit in which the student will pursue graduate study. The Graduate School informs applicants of the admissions decision. Online application submission and credit card payment is available from the Graduate School Website. Paper application forms may be requested or downloaded from the Website forms page. A nonrefundable application fee of $50 (subject to change) is charged for each application submitted, whether initial application, or request to defer, change to another quarter of admission, or transfer into another WWU graduate program. A nonrefundable application fee of $100 (subject to change) is charged for each application submitted for an off-campus self-supporting graduate program. This applies to the initial application and each request to transfer into another off-campus self-supporting WWU graduate program. A fee of $50 (subject to change) is required of post-master’s degree applicants. Admission to the Graduate School is limited to a single graduate program unless two disciplines have an approved joint offering (see University Graduation Requirements section of this catalog for further discussion). Graduate School admission deadline dates are as follows, although many programs have earlier specific deadline dates and do not admit for all quarters.

Initial application with all supporting materials (see below) must be received in the Graduate School Office by June 1 for fall, October 1 for winter, February 1 for spring and May 1 for summer unless program-specific deadlines exist (see specific program information).

NOTE: The requirements and procedures listed below demand lead time. Applicants are urged to submit all necessary materials as early as possible before the beginning of the term for which admission is requested or by the earlier, program specific deadline dates. Timeliness of complete application materials may impact graduate assistantships and other sources of funding. Faculty review of application materials is unlikely during periods that the University is not in session.

General Requirements

Full Admission to Master’s Degree Study

  • A four-year baccalaureate degree from a U.S. college or university that was regionally accredited at the time the degree was conferred, or an equivalent baccalaureate degree from a foreign university; the degree must be appropriate to the master’s study intended. Two recent, official transcripts from each college or university attended (no exceptions) must accompany the application in a sealed envelope prepared by the Registrar of each institution. WWU students do not need to submit a WWU transcript or transcripts previously submitted to WWU (unless there is a later period of attendance).
  • A 3.0 undergraduate grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) in the last 90-quarter or 60-semester hours of study. In order for post-baccalaureate credit to be included in the GPA computation, the coursework must be upper division. Post-baccalaureate coursework at community colleges will not be included in the GPA used for admission. Applicants with advanced degrees from accredited institutions are generally, at the discretion of the Graduate School, considered to have met GPA requirements.
  • Three current letters of reference from professors in the applicant’s undergraduate major field, or from professors of post-baccalaureate courses, or from others able to make an appropriate assessment of the applicant’s academic or professional competence (forms available from the Graduate School website). If the applicant selects confidential (rather than open) letters of recommendation, the confidential letters must be received in sealed envelopes, with the signature of the referee across the seal. The MBA and MPAC programs require a résumé in lieu of references. The Educational Administration program requires a professional recommendation.
  • Graduate Record Exam (GRE) or other test scores; applicants with advanced degrees from regionally accredited institutions applying to certain programs do not need to submit scores; see program admission requirements for specific test information and requirements. MBA and MPAC applicants must provide the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT), not the GRE, within the MBA and MPAC program deadlines. Some Woodring College of Education programs accept the Miller Analogies Test (MAT). Scores must be received in the Graduate School office by the program specific deadline date; if no program-specific deadline date, then by the Graduate School deadline date.
  • All applicants must demonstrate English language proficiency. Applicants who have received the bachelor’s or advanced degree from an accredited institution where instruction is in English do not need to submit scores from the TOEFL (see the International Applications section).
  • Favorable review and recommendation of applications by the graduate faculty in the program to which application is made.
  • Special Requirements. Certain programs have additional requirements or procedures; see the program descriptions. If a program requires a statement of purpose and/or writing sample(s), these must accompany the application. See specific program information for clarification.

Materials submitted in support of an application will not be returned, forwarded, or copied at the request of the applicant; materials are used only for the WWU Graduate School admissions and Teaching Assistant selection process. Incomplete or inactive applications are kept on file in the Graduate Office for three years, then destroyed. If during this three-year period an applicant reapplies, official documents (test scores, transcripts, current letters of recommendation) may be used for a new admission application.

The MAT generally is offered monthly through the Western Washington University Office of Institutional Assessment and Testing, 360-650-3080.

Contact Educational Testing Service in Princeton, N.J. at 866-473-4373 or www.gre.org for further information about the GRE testing program. The GRE bulletin is also available at the Graduate School and Western’s testing center, 360-650-3080. For information about the GMAT, visit www.mba.com/mba.

Current GRE board policy states that scores are reportable for five years. The Graduate School accepts only official test scores from admissions tests sent directly from the testing organization. Students should refer to the specific test website for information on the availability of official test scores.

Provisional Admission

Students who do not meet all the requirements for full admission may be granted provisional admission. The number of admissions on a provisional basis is limited under Higher Education Coordinating Board regulations. The faculty of the applicant’s intended graduate program must submit a statement of support for provisional admission to the graduate dean. If provisional admission is authorized by the Graduate School, the provisions are stated in the letter offering the student special admission to graduate study. No K (incomplete) grades are allowed until provisional status is removed. A provisionally admitted student is not eligible for a teaching assistantship or Graduate School-funded scholarships until the provisional status is removed.


Students in some master’s programs also apply for licensing or certification through professional organizations or state agencies. The certificate or license is separate from the master’s degree. It is the applicant’s responsibility to inquire about licensing or certification requirements prior to enrolling.

International Applicants

Students who are not native speakers of English must demonstrate competence in written and spoken English. This can be done by submitting a satisfactory score on the international TOEFL, taken within one year of the date of application. A minimum composite score of 567 is required for the paper-based test; the scaled score for the computer-based test is 227; the Internet-based score is 86. The TOEFL scores must be on file in the Graduate School prior to receipt of the application for graduate study. Applicants who have received the bachelor’s or advanced degree from an accredited institution in the U.S. or in an English-speaking country or from an accredited institution where instruction is in English do not need to submit scores from the TOEFL.

International students must submit official translations to English of all transcripts and diplomas. International applicants must have their credentials evaluated by a professional evaluation service for degree equivalency only; course by course evaluation is not required. The agency must belong to the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (naces.org). International students must file a satisfactory statement of financial responsibility with the Graduate School. Current expenses are approximately $29,000 for one academic year of study. An application for an international student cannot be processed unless accompanied by appropriate financial guarantee documentation. International students are not eligible for federal or state governmental financial aid.

International students are encouraged to complete the admission process as soon as possible to obtain a visa and make travel arrangements.

Funding and Support

Graduate Assistantships

Graduate assistantships are available in limited number in most graduate programs and are competitively awarded. Assistantships are not available in self-sustaining (non state-supported) programs. Only students with full admit, not provisional status, may be awarded the TA. To continue as a graduate assistant, the graduate student must meet or exceed all academic criteria pertaining to satisfactory progress toward the degree, and meet or exceed all departmental requirements and criteria for satisfactory service as a graduate teaching assistant. Graduate students are limited to no more than the equivalent of six full-time quarters of service as graduate teaching assistants. Graduate assistants must meet the Graduate School definition of full-time enrollment.

Duties vary according to the department and program, the needs of the program faculty and the student’s graduate plan of study. A full-time assistantship does not allow for additional salary or employment from the University. Graduate teaching assistantship applicants whose native language is not English must demonstrate English language proficiency required for classroom or laboratory instruction. Applicants to graduate programs check the TA box on the on-line application or submit the on-line graduate assistantship request for consideration (go to Graduate School website).

Financial Aid

Graduate students also are eligible for several types of financial aid; information can be obtained from the University’s Financial Aid Office, www.finaid.wwu.edu/.

Program Requirements

Graduate programs at WWU generally require a minimum of 45 credits with thesis (referred to as Option I) and 48 credits without thesis (referred to as Option II). The minimum basic program requirement generally contains at least 24 credits of approved 500- and 600-level courses other than the thesis (690); and no fewer than 5 credits and no more than 36 credits of thesis (690). For a non-thesis program, the minimum basic program requirement must contain at least 38 credits of approved 500- and 600-level courses. A maximum of 10 credits of approved 400-level courses can be applied to either Option I or Option II programs. All 400-level courses must meet the same standards as regular 500-level courses with regard to grading, time frame, et cetera.

For students who have taken a significant number of graduate level mathematics or computer science courses as undergraduates at WWU, and who as undergraduates were identified for admission to the Graduate School, the graduate programs in mathematics and computer science require only 36 500- and 600-level credits. Guidelines for this option are available from the departments.

It is recommended that no more than 10 credits of directed independent study be applied toward the degree, although some programs are more restrictive. A graduate student registering for a 500 or 400 independent study course used for the degree develops a contract (online form) with the instructor, which is then reviewed and approved by the graduate program advisor, department chair and the Graduate School. Independent study credit normally will not be given when the student is paid for engaging in the work described on the contract (e.g., internship, work-study projects, graduate assistantships).

Many programs require more than 45 or 48 credits to meet degree requirements. Also, certain undergraduate deficiencies may add additional credits to an individual student’s course of study. (See Plan of Study section that follows.) These deficiencies may affect financial aid awards.

Additional Requirements

Program descriptions in this catalog provide information about special requirements: statistics competency, second language competency, sequence of particular courses, et cetera. Most graduate programs provide information about such special requirements; the student should request this information from the program advisor.

Students whose research involves human subjects or live vertebrate animals must obtain approval prior to conducting research and comply with University policies regarding these types of research. Please refer to www.wwu.edu/depts/rsp.

Graduate students in departments with a foreign language requirement or a foreign language requirement option may satisfy the requirement by (a) successfully completing the final course in a second-year language sequence or (b) passing a reading competency exam in the language. Each department sets its own minimum standard to indicate the required level of competency. Graduate students are encouraged to complete the foreign language requirement early in their program.

Time Limits

All requirements for the degree must be completed within five years of the initial quarter of matriculation. Active graduate students within this five-year time period maintain access to library and computer resources. Students who have not completed their program after three years of study are required to file a plan for completion of the degree within the five-year limit. Otherwise it is understood that the student has decided to withdraw from the program, and the graduate file is inactivated. Student computer accounts which allow access to computer labs, e-mail, library privileges, and other student technology services are purged at the end of this five-year period. Incomplete or inactive applications are kept on file in the Graduate Office for three years, then destroyed. Files of students who are admitted and register for coursework but do not complete their programs are kept for five years after the five-year program requirement. Files of students who complete programs are archived for 35 years.

Academic Load

The maximum credit load for a graduate student is determined in consultation with the student’s graduate program advisor, within the policies set by the Registrar.

The Graduate School defines full-time enrollment as 8 or more credits per quarter. Graduate students who have successfully completed all coursework on the approved Plan of Study, except for thesis (690) or research (691) work, maintain eligibility for the teaching assistantship if enrolled for a minimum of two credit hours of continuous enrollment, thesis, or research. See the Financial Aid section for implications of being enrolled for 2 credits if the student requires financial aid.

Transfer, Correspondence, and Workshop Courses

Coursework taken prior to formal admission to a WWU master’s degree program, whether at Western or another accredited institution, can be considered for transfer credit if the criteria listed below are met. Credit taken at another accredited institution, concurrent with graduate status in a WWU master’s degree program, can also be considered for transfer credit if the criteria listed below are met. (Such coursework should be approved in advance of registration to prevent any misunderstanding or false expectations.) The criteria are: a limit of nine quarter (six semester) credits; graded with a B, 3.0, or better; taken no more than three years prior to a student’s quarter of admission; be acceptable to the granting institution for its master’s degree; and meet the requirements and conditions of approved courses offered by WWU. The request for transfer credit, including a copy of the course syllabus, is submitted by the graduate program advisor and student for approval by the Graduate School. At the recommendation of the graduate program advisor and the approval of the Graduate School, some course requirements may be waived, depending on a student’s previous academic experience. However, the total number of credits required for the degree must still be met.

No credit is given for correspondence courses. No credit is allowed by challenge examination or performance.

Courses offered as workshops or in a shortened time frame, even under regular course numbers, do not qualify for graduate credit toward a degree, unless the department obtains prior permission for each specific instance from Graduate Council. To ensure that prior approval has been granted, students should obtain written permission from the Graduate School prior to enrolling.

Thesis and Comprehensive Examinations

Master’s degree programs are Option I (thesis) or Option II (additional coursework and, in most programs, a comprehensive exam). See specific program descriptions for information. Minimally, the thesis committee has three members. The chair and a second member must be regular graduate faculty members from the student’s department or program. Guidelines for the thesis are available online at the Graduate School Website. Joint manuscripts are not permitted. Only an individually authored manuscript will meet the thesis requirements. Departments that require the thesis customarily provide additional guidance.

Refer to the Graduate School website for current information on Graduate School requirements pertaining to thesis publication.

Prior to registration for thesis, departments and the Graduate School require that a student be advanced to candidacy and have an approved thesis topic on file in the Graduate Office. Students whose research involves human subjects or live vertebrate animals must comply with University policies regarding these types of research. Please refer to www.wwu.edu/depts/rsp. Registering for thesis credits beyond the maximum allowed for the degree may affect a student’s eligibility for certain kinds of financial aid.

Comprehensive exams or assessments vary among programs. Students should consult their respective programs for information.

The comprehensive exam should be scheduled for the final quarter of the student’s enrollment. It may be deferred upon request by the student and agreement by the graduate advisor until all coursework has been completed. Comprehensive exams, if failed, may be repeated, but only if the graduate faculty of the particular program approves the student’s request to repeat the exam.

Plan of Study

During the first quarter of graduate study at WWU, the student and graduate program advisor together develop a “Plan of Study” in accordance with the requirements described in the catalog’s program narrative. This plan is signed by both the student and program advisor and submitted to the Graduate School for approval. Copies of the approved plan are sent to the student and advisor and the financial aid office. Plans of study may be amended as necessary, upon the request of the student and program advisor and final approval by the Graduate School. Failure to have an approved plan of study on file may result in loss of registration privileges.

Scholarship Standards

A maximum of 10 credits of C grades (C+, C, C-) is allowed towards completion of a grad program (courses listed on the approved plan of study). Courses in which a D+ or lower is earned may not be applied towards completion of a grad program. The accumulation of more than 10 credits of C+ or lower (including U) grades will result in the student being withdrawn from the master’s program. There are certain courses that must be passed with a grade of B or better; course descriptions note such requirements. A grade of C+ or lower and U count toward the 10-credit maximum, even if the course is retaken and a grade of B or better, or S, is earned. A graduate student may be required by the department to repeat a course to document attainment of a certain level of competence or knowledge. Pass/No Pass grades are not applicable toward a graduate degree. S grades are applicable, but not computed in the GPA. An incomplete (K) grade may be assigned in accordance with the regulations outlined in the Academic Policies section of this catalog. If, after a calendar year, the course requirements have not been met, the K grade lapses to a Z. These Z grades are computed as failing grades in a student’s grade point average and may affect retention in the master’s program. Exceptions to the K grade rule are K grades which are received for thesis and certain research courses. In these cases, the K grades are allowed to stand until the thesis or research is completed, whereupon the grade is changed to the earned grade.

To remain a candidate for the degree, a student must maintain at least a 3.0 GPA in courses listed on the plan of study. The GPA is calculated on letter grades earned (on record) at the time grades are posted, i.e., K grades are not considered. A student also must be making satisfactory progress in the graduate program to which he or she has been admitted.

Degree Candidacy

Advancement to degree candidacy is formal recognition that the student has completed all admission requirements and has demonstrated satisfactory performance in at least 12 credits of graduate study as listed on an approved plan of study. Advancement to candidacy is a prerequisite to earning the master’s degree and should be accomplished as early as the student is eligible. Advancement is granted by the student’s program upon completion of minimum requirements as stated above. A student must be advanced to candidacy before submitting the application for degree. Confer with your advisor if you have questions about your status or eligibility for advancement to candidacy.

Awarding of the Master’s Degree

The master’s degree is earned at the end of the quarter in which the student has completed all degree requirements and has filed the application for degree. Recommendation for the degree is made to the Graduate Council by the student’s advisor (option I and II) and thesis committee (option I). Application for the degree must be made by the last day of classes of the quarter prior to the quarter the student intends to graduate. A student must also be enrolled for at least two state-supported credits at WWU during the quarter in which the degree is awarded or during the preceding (calendar) quarter. Auditing a course for this purpose is not permitted. A commencement ceremony is held at the end of each quarter. Students participate in the commencement ceremony for the quarter in which degree requirements are met, including filing the application for degree and paying the diploma fee by the stated deadline.

Teacher Certification

The Woodring College of Education, not the Graduate School, administers the certification of P-12 teachers. Students interested in certification at the P-12 or secondary level, contact the Secondary Education Department, MH 173 360-650-3327. Students interested in Special Education P-12 certification, contact the Special Education Department, MH 161, 360-650-3330. Other certification questions can be directed to the Teacher Certification, Student Services, MH 250, 360-650-4930 or www.wce.wwu.edu/resources/certification/.

Undergraduate and Post-Baccalaureate Enrollment in 500/600 Level Courses

Undergraduates at WWU who are in their senior year and have at least a 3.0 grade point average can take a single graduate course during any quarter, but under certain provisions. There must not be an appropriate undergraduate course in their field that is equally available; permission must be obtained in advance from the department chair and graduate program advisor of the department offering the graduate course; and the Graduate Office must approve the enrollment. A senior who later enters a  master’s program at WWU may transfer up to nine credits of coursework into the master’s program. The credit must not have been used for the baccalaureate degree and must meet all criteria for transfer credit. To register, contact the Graduate School office for a registration system override. Post-baccalaureate students may enroll for 500- level courses. All prerequisites must be met and permission obtained from the department.

Neither undergraduate nor post-baccalaureate students may enroll in 600-level courses.

The Graduate Council

The Graduate Council, comprised of representatives from graduate faculty, colleges with graduate programs, and graduate students, is assigned responsibility within the University for graduate policy and procedures. The Council reviews all graduate course proposals and graduate program requirements and conducts periodic reviews of graduate programs. The Council also hears and decides on requests for exceptions from standing policies and procedures that regulate graduate study.

Faculty/Student-Designed Programs


At times students and faculty develop programs that are more interdisciplinary than the master’s programs described in this catalog. In each instance this requires a complete Graduate School application and a proposed plan of study that has been approved by the graduate faculty and departments the student intends to work with and by the University’s Graduate Council. At least two or more graduate disciplines must be involved.

Programs of this type are restricted by several factors: current offerings which can provide a basis for the individual program; availability of appropriate faculty; the applicant’s academic preparation and ability; and the internal logic, or relationship of the elements of the proposed program. Each case is considered on its merits.

For candidates who are currently enrolled as graduate students no more than 15 credits of course work (completed by the end of the quarter the petition is approved) can apply toward the designated program.

Detailed information can be obtained by contacting the Graduate Office. Ask for Fact Sheet: Faculty/Student-Designed Programs. Procedures for applying are contained in the Fact Sheet.

Graduate Departments and Programs


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Communication Sciences and Disorders

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Computer Science

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Educational Leadership

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Elementary Education

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Engineering Technology

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Environmental Sciences

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Environmental Studies

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Human Services and Rehabilitation

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Master of Business Administration Program

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Physical Education, Health and Recreation

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Political Science

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Science Education

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Secondary Education

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Special Education

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Theatre and Dance

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