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General Academic Regulations (continued)

Editorial Assistance and Publication of Theses/Dissertations

All graduate students must follow University regulations regarding editorial assistance and publishing of theses and dissertations as detailed below.

Editorial Assistance

A student preparing a dissertation or other written work as part of academic requirements may, when appropriate, use the assistance of professional editors, provided that the following rules are observed:

  1. The student receives the approval of the research advisor or professor of the course in which written work is being submitted.
  2. The student receives assistance only in use of language and not in the subject matter of the written work.
  3. The student acknowledges and describes all editorial assistance in the report.

Publication of Theses and Dissertations

Any thesis or dissertation may be published, either by the University or through an outside agency, provided due credit is given the University. No form of publication, however, will relieve the student of his or her responsibility to fulfill the University's electronic theses or dissertation (ETD) requirements. Refer to the sections on Thesis Option or Dissertation and Abstract for specific requirements and to the ETD website at www.pitt.edu/~graduate/etd.

The doctoral candidate is required to execute an agreement with Proquest University Microfilms Inc. for the publication of the dissertation in the Proquest/UMI repository.

Advisors should exercise responsibility in approving research topics that will not endanger long-term research projects or the safety or welfare of informants. Dependent upon the circumstances and the research point at which the danger is recognized, the provost's office may authorize a delay in publication of a dissertation for up to a maximum of one calendar year. Similarly, a publication may be withheld for a maximum of one year, if required, for filing a patent application.

Regulations Pertaining to Master of Arts and Master of Science Degrees

The Master of Arts (MA) and Master of Science (MS) degree programs provide an introduction to scholarly activities and research and often serve as preparation for teaching careers. These degrees are awarded for the completion of a coherent program designed to assure the mastery of specified knowledge and skills, rather than a random accumulation of a certain number of courses. The overall form and content of the student's program of study is the responsibility of the faculty of the department. To carry out this responsibility, each student must be assigned a major advisor, who, in consultation with the student, plans a program of study and research in accord with school and departmental guidelines.

MA and MS Requirements

The Master of Arts and Master of Science degrees normally require the satisfactory completion of approximately 30 credits of graduate study approved by the department or school. No Master of Arts or Master of Science degree program may require fewer than 24 course credits. No more than 6 credits may be granted toward the completion of the requirements for a master's degree for work completed at another accredited graduate institution or for work previously completed at the University of Pittsburgh. See Acceptance of Transfer Credits section for further information.

At least four courses (12 credits) or one-half the master's degree program, whichever is greater, must be at the graduate-level (the 2000 or 3000 series) and must be completed with an average grade of B (3.00). No course numbered below 1000 may be applied toward graduate degree requirements.

Some master's programs may include approved areas of concentration or minors. Areas of concentration define and describe the student's training and expertise within the broader discipline. Minors represent significant course work completed in an area related to the student's specialty. Such areas of concentration or minors are added to the transcript upon the granting of the degree.

Master's degrees are conferred only on those students who have completed all courses required for the degree with an average grade of B (i.e., a 3.00 GPA).

The requirement of proficiency in second languages is at the discretion of individual departments or schools.

Departments provide students with a copy of school and departmental regulations appropriate for their program and/or maintain current and accurate Web sites covering this information. Students are expected to become familiar with these and to satisfy all prescribed degree requirements.

Comprehensive Examination

MA or MS degrees are conferred only upon those students who, in one or more comprehensive examinations or the equivalent, show that they have mastered the general field of their graduate study. Each department or similar unit is responsible for specifying the content and procedure for administration of the comprehensive examination and will specify for each candidate the field of his or her examination, which may vary from student to student. When a program substitutes an equivalent requirement for the comprehensive examination, the department should notify the University Council on Graduate Study and describe the substitution.

Students on inactive, special, or provisional status or on probation are not eligible to take a comprehensive examination. These examinations must be taken at least one month prior to the last day of the term in which the degree is to be granted. The results must be reported promptly to the office of the dean but no later than the last day of the term in which the examination is administered. A student who is unable to complete all degree requirements within a two-year period after passing the comprehensive examination may be re-examined at the discretion of the department program director, or dean.

Thesis Option

The requirement of a thesis or its equivalent is at the discretion of individual departments, programs, or schools. If a thesis is submitted, its form must be in accord with specifications stipulated in the ETD Format Guidelines. Each candidate must provide a suitable number of copies of the thesis for review and use as designated by the thesis examining committee, consisting of at least three members of the faculty recommended by the major advisor and approved by the department chair. The final oral examination in defense of the master's thesis is conducted by the thesis committee, and a report of this examination signed by all members of the committee must be filed in the office of the dean. After the examination, the approved ETD must be deposited to the ETD Online System where it will be reviewed by the ETD Student Services Staff in the dean's office of the student's school and submitted for microfilming by Compucom and deposit in the University Library System. A receipt for the ETD processing/microfilming fees and any necessary paperwork must be submitted to the appropriate ETD Student Services Staff in the Office of the Dean.

Non-Thesis Option

It is typical for a program to require additional course work if a thesis is not required.

For the Master of Arts degree, students must acceptably describe, in writing, one or more substantial intellectual experiences or accomplishments. In programs in which a master's thesis is optional, the student must satisfy this requirement by submitting a paper (or papers), as designated by the major department, and must demonstrate competence in using methods of scholarship.

For the Master of Science degree, a paper or research project is usually required.

Regulations Pertaining to Professional Master's Degrees

The professional master's degree programs are generally similar to those for the MA and MS except that they emphasize instruction in professional affairs and practice and serve as preparation for careers in the professions. The program of study is a coherent program designed to assure the mastery of specified knowledge and skills, rather than a random accumulation of a certain number of courses. The overall form and content of the student's program of study is the responsibility of the student's department or school. To carry out this responsibility, each student must be assigned a major advisor, who, in consultation with the student, plans a program of study and research in accord with school and departmental guidelines.

Professional Master's Degree Requirements

Professional master's degrees are conferred upon those students who demonstrate comprehensive mastery of their general field of study. The professional master's degrees normally require the satisfactory completion of more than 30 credits of graduate study approved by the department. No professional master's degree program may require fewer than 30 credits. No more than one-third of the total number of required credits may be granted to a student as transfer credit for work done at another accredited graduate institution. (See Acceptance of Transfer Credits section for further detail.) At least one-half of the credits earned in a master's degree program must be at the graduate level (the 2000 or 3000 series). No courses numbered below 1000 may be applied toward graduate degree requirements. Master's degrees are conferred only on those students who have completed all course requirements with at least a 3.00 GPA.

Most professional master's degree programs provide opportunities for theoretical studies and practical applications. Students are expected to acquire professional skills through course work, projects, internships, practica, and/or research papers as part of demonstrating their comprehensive mastery of their field of study.

Requirements vary from school to school. Departments provide students with a copy of school and departmental regulations or maintain current and accurate Web sites appropriate for their programs. Students are expected to become familiar with these and to satisfy all prescribed degree requirements.

Professional master's degrees are conferred upon those students who demonstrate comprehensive mastery of the general field of study. This includes: (a) satisfactory completion of all course requirements and (b) other performances that indicate comprehensive mastery such as examinations, internships, research projects, theses, and practica. These requirements vary from school to school; students should refer to the specific requirements of their program in the Schools, Departments, and Programs section of this bulletin.

Regulations Pertaining to Doctoral Degrees

While the regulations governing doctoral study in this section represent University-wide policy, students should check the Schools, Departments, and Programs section of this bulletin and with their advisor for any expansions of or exceptions to these rules.

Admission to Doctoral Study

In some doctoral programs, the requirements for admission to graduate study and for admission to doctoral study are identical, while other programs require the completion of a master's degree or its equivalent as a prerequisite for admission to doctoral study. Admission to doctoral study does not include any implication concerning admission to candidacy for the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Normally, only one major department of graduate study is permitted for the PhD degree. However, a few formal interdisciplinary programs and, under some circumstances, some independently designed interdisciplinary doctoral programs are available (see Interdisciplinary Doctoral Programs section).

Programs of Study

PhD programs offered at the University of Pittsburgh provide a coherent series of courses, seminars, and discussions designed to develop in the student a mature understanding of the content, methods, theories, and values of a field of knowledge and its relation to other fields. Each program trains the student in the methods of independent research appropriate to the discipline and provides an advisor and a committee to guide the student in an extended investigation of an original and independent research project of significance in the field.

The overall form and content of each student's program is the responsibility of the Graduate Faculty of the department or program. To carry out this responsibility, the departments or programs must ensure that each student has a major advisor who, in consultation with the student, plans a program of study and research in accord with school and departmental guidelines. The advisor may prescribe additional courses both within and outside the department that are essential and/or appropriate to the student's program.

Some doctoral programs may include approved areas of concentration used to define and describe the student's training and expertise within the broader discipline. Such an area of concentration is added to the transcript upon the granting of the degree.

Doctoral level courses are numbered in the 3000 series, but courses numbered in the 2000 series may also be appropriate for doctoral study. Normally, courses numbered below 2000 do not meet the minimum requirements for doctoral study, although they may be taken to supplement a doctoral program.

Students must maintain a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.00 in courses to be eligible to take the preliminary and comprehensive examinations as well as to graduate.

The requirement of proficiency in the use of second languages or other tools of research is at the discretion of individual departments or schools.

Departments or programs provide students with a copy of school and departmental regulations appropriate for their program and/or maintain current and accurate Web sites covering this information. In turn, students are expected to become familiar with these and to satisfy all prescribed degree requirements.

Credit Requirements

The minimum 72-credit requirement for the PhD degree is met by six terms of registration as a graduate student for 12 or more credits per term or the equivalent number of credits taken in a reduced load over a longer period of time. If the school requires completion of its master's degree program prior to admission into its doctoral program, at least four terms of registration for 12 or more credits per term or the equivalent number of credits in a reduced load are required as a minimum for the PhD degree. No more than 30 credits may be accepted for a master's degree awarded by another institution to meet the minimum credit requirement; some schools have more stringent requirements, including the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School of Public Health, both of which will accept only 24 credits for a master's degree awarded by another institution.

In recognition of graduate study beyond the master's degree successfully completed elsewhere, no more than 12 additional credits may be accepted at the time of admission to meet the minimum credit requirement. (See also Acceptance of Transfer Credits section.) No more than 30 credits may be accepted for a previously earned PhD degree in recognition of master's degree work, though some schools have more stringent requirements.

Graduate students already enrolled may, when approved in advance by their department or program and the dean, spend a term or more at another graduate institution to obtain training or experience not available at the University of Pittsburgh and transfer those credits toward the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of Pittsburgh. In all cases, at least three terms, or 36 credits, of full-time doctoral study or the equivalent in part-time study must be successfully completed at the University of Pittsburgh.

Residency Requirement

Students seeking the PhD degree are required to engage in a minimum of one term of full-time doctoral study, which excludes any other employment except as approved by their departments.

Preliminary Evaluation

The preliminary evaluation should be designed to assess the breadth of the student's knowledge of the discipline, the student's achievement during the first year of graduate study, and the potential to apply research methods independently. The form and nature of the evaluation should be approved at the school level and described in the school bulletin. It should be conducted at approximately the end of the first year of full-time graduate study. The evaluation is used to identify those students who may be expected to complete a doctoral program successfully and also to reveal areas of weakness in the student's preparation. Evaluation results must be reported promptly to the dean's office, but no later than the last day of the term in which the evaluation occurs. A student on provisional, inactive, or special status or on probation is not eligible to take the preliminary evaluation.

Comprehensive Examination

The comprehensive examination should be designed to assess the student's mastery of the general field of doctoral study, the student's acquisition of both depth and breadth in the area of specialization within the general field, and the ability to use the research methods of the discipline. In some programs, the comprehensive examination is combined with the overview or prospectus meeting. It should be administered at approximately the time of the completion of the formal course requirements and should be passed at least eight months before the scheduling of the final oral examination and dissertation defense. In no case may the comprehensive examination be taken in the same term in which the student is to graduate. Examination results must be reported promptly to the dean's office but no later than the last day of the term in which the examination is administered. A student who is unable to complete all degree requirements within a five-year period after passing the comprehensive examination may be re-examined at the discretion of the department or school. A student on provisional, inactive, or special status or on probation is not eligible to take the program comprehensive examination.

Doctoral Committee

Before the student is admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree, the student's major advisor proposes, for the approval of the director of the school's doctoral program and the dean, a committee of four or more persons, including at least one from another department in the University of Pittsburgh or from an appropriate graduate program at another academic institution, to serve as the doctoral committee. The majority of the committee, including the major advisor, must be full or adjunct members of the Graduate Faculty. This committee must review and approve the proposed research project before the student may be admitted to candidacy. A published Graduate Faculty Membership Roster is updated three times a year.

This doctoral committee has the responsibility to advise the student during the progress of the candidate's research and has the authority to require high-quality research and/or the rewriting of any portion or all of the dissertation. It conducts the final oral examination and determines whether the dissertation meets accepted standards.

Meetings of the doctoral candidate and the dissertation committee must occur at least annually from the time the student gains admission to doctoral candidacy. During these meetings, the committee should assess the student's progress toward the degree and discuss objectives for the following year and a timetable for completing degree requirements. It is the responsibility of the dean of each school to determine a mechanism for monitoring the occurrence of these annual reviews.

The membership of the doctoral committee may be changed whenever it is appropriate or necessary, subject to the approval of the department chair, or program director and the dean.

When a doctoral committee member leaves the University, the member must be replaced unless the dissertation is almost complete or the member has an essential role on the committee. In the latter case, the dean's approval should be obtained. When the chair of a committee leaves and cannot be conveniently replaced, a cochair must be appointed from within the department, and the restructured committee requires the approval of the dean and either the department chair or the director of the school's doctoral program. If the defense takes place within a few months of the chair's departure, the requirement of the cochair is usually waived.

Retired faculty members may remain as members or chairs of committees if they are spending considerable time in Pittsburgh or the vicinity and are still professionally active. Retired faculty who meet these criteria may also be appointed as a member or as a cochair (but not chair) of a newly formed committee. Retired faculty who leave the Pittsburgh area and/or do not remain professionally active should be replaced on committees and the revised committee approved by the dean and either the department chair or the school's director of doctoral programs.

Overview or Prospectus Meeting

Each student must prepare a dissertation proposal for presentation to the doctoral committee at a formal dissertation overview or prospectus meeting. The overview requires the student to carefully formulate a plan and permits the doctoral committee members to provide guidance in shaping the conceptualization and methodology of that plan. The doctoral committee must unanimously approve the dissertation topic and research plan before the student may be admitted to candidacy for the doctoral degree. Approval of the proposal does not imply either the acceptance of a dissertation; prepared in accord with the proposal or the restriction of the dissertation to this original proposal. The student is responsible for ensuring that all appropriate regulatory approvals are obtained for the proposed research. For example, if the research proposed in the overview or prospectus involves human subjects, that proposed research must be approved by the University Institutional Review Board (IRB) before it may be carried out.

Admission to Candidacy for the Doctor of Philosophy Degree

Admission to candidacy for the Doctor of Philosophy degree constitutes a promotion of the student to the most advanced stage of graduate study and provides formal approval to devote essentially exclusive attention to the research and the writing of the dissertation. To qualify for admission to candidacy, students must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Be in full graduate status
  • Have satisfied the requirement of the preliminary evaluation
  • Have completed formal course work with a minimum grade point average of 3.00
  • Have passed the comprehensive examination
  • Have received approval of the proposed subject and plan of the dissertation from the doctoral committee following an overview or prospectus meeting of the committee
  • In some schools, admission to candidacy is a prerequisite to registration for dissertation credits. Students are informed of admission to candidacy by written notification from the dean, who also states the approved doctoral committee's composition.

    Registering for Full-Time Dissertation Study

    Doctoral students who have completed all credit requirements for the degree, including any minimum dissertation credit requirements, and are working full-time on their dissertations may register for Full-Time Dissertation Study, which carries no credits or letter grade but provides students full-time status. Students so enrolled are assessed a special tuition fee but are still responsible for the full-time computer and network, security/transportation, student health, and activity fees. Students must consult with the dean's office of their school for permission to register for full-time dissertation study.

    Dissertation and Abstract

    Each student must write a dissertation that presents the results of his or her research project. An appropriate research project involves a substantive piece of original and independent research grounded in an appropriate body of literature. The dissertation must be relevant to an identifiable field as it is currently practiced, present a hypothesis tested by data and analysis, and provide a significant contribution or advancement in that field. It is the responsibility of the student's doctoral committee to evaluate the dissertation in these terms and to recommend the awarding of the doctoral degree only if the dissertation is judged to demonstrate these qualities.

    A dissertation should demonstrate the following characteristics:

  • The establishment of an historical context for the presentation of an innovative and creative approach to the problem, analysis, and solution
  • A clear understanding of the problem area as revealed by analysis and synthesis of a broad literature base
  • A well-defined research design
  • Clarity in composition and careful documentation
  • Results of sufficient merit to be published in refereed journals or to form the basis of a book or monograph
  • Sufficient detail so that other scholars can build on it in subsequent work
  • The preparation of the author to assume a position within the profession
  • If the dissertation is the result of a collaborative research effort, the project should be structured in such a way that the student's dissertation results from one clearly identified piece of work in which the student has unquestionably supplied the major effort. The contributions of the student and the other collaborators must be clearly identified.

    Published articles authored by the student and based on research conducted for the dissertation study may be included in the dissertation if the student's department and school have a written policy that this is acceptable. In any case, the published work must be logically connected and integrated into the dissertation in a coherent manner, and sufficient detail must be presented to satisfy the characteristics of a dissertation. The student should be the sole or primary author of the published work. If the published articles were coauthored, the contribution of the student must be clearly delineated in the introduction so the committee can ascertain that the student's own work satisfies the requirements of a dissertation. The ETD Format Guidelines gives instructions on incorporating articles into the dissertation.

    Candidates for the doctoral degree must provide a suitable number of copies of the dissertation, as determined by the doctoral committee and school policy, for review and use during the final oral examination. The general format of the dissertation and the abstract is determined by the Office of the Provost and is set forth in the ETD Format Guidelines. Specific instructions should be available in the office of the dean of the school. After the final oral examination is successfully completed, the candidate must deposit the approved ETD to the ETD Online System where it will be reviewed by the ETD Student Services Staff in the dean's office of the student's school. At least two additional copies of the dissertation abstract, a receipt for payment of the dissertation processing/microfilm fees and any necessary paperwork must be submitted to the appropriate ETD Student Services Staff in the office of the dean of the student's school. The candidate is also required to execute an agreement with Proquest Information and Learning for the publication of the dissertation on microform and in an electronic format and submit the Survey of Earned Doctorates (Forms are available in the dean's office). Students should check with their school for any additional supporting documents and/or requirements.

    Language of the Doctoral Dissertation

    The language in which doctoral dissertations are written shall normally be English. Exceptions may be granted by the student's dean with the approval of the dissertation advisor and committee, but only for sound reasons of scholarship. Permission shall never be granted on the grounds of the student's inadequate command of English.

    Final Oral Examination

    The final oral examination in defense of the doctoral dissertation is conducted by the doctoral committee and need not be confined to materials in and related to the dissertation. Any member of the Graduate Faculty of the University may attend and participate in the examination. The date, place, and time of the examination should be published well in advance in the University Times or the Pitt Chronicle. Other qualified individuals may be invited by the committee to participate in the examination. Only members of the doctoral committee may be present during the final deliberations and vote on the passing of the candidate. A report of this examination, signed by all the members of the doctoral committee, must be sent to the dean. If the decision of the committee is not unanimous, the case is referred to the dean for resolution. The chair of the doctoral committee should ensure that the dissertation is in final form before requesting signatures of the members of the committee.

    Interdisciplinary Doctoral Programs

    A student may be admitted into one of two types of interdisciplinary doctoral programs, generic and individualized.

    Generic Programs

    Generic programs are ongoing, formally structured, and approved doctoral programs. Admission to these programs follows the same procedures as those of departmental programs.

    Individualized Programs

    Individualized programs are specially designed to permit an exceptionally able student who has earned a master's degree or the equivalent to pursue an interdisciplinary doctoral program structured to satisfy his or her unique goals. Such students should apply to the dean of the school if the departments involved in the proposed program are organized within one school or to the Provost if the departments are organized within more than one school. The student must satisfy the admission requirements of each of the departments or schools involved in the proposed program.

    If the request is approved, the dean or the Provost, in consultation with the departments concerned, will designate five members from these departments to serve as an advisory committee. After these advisors meet with the student, a chief advisor is selected to assume responsibility for general guidance to the student. These advisors continue their responsibility until the student is admitted to candidacy for the PhD degree and may, if it is appropriate, continue as the doctoral committee for this student.

    Other Research Doctoral Degrees

    The University of Pittsburgh, through its professional schools, offers the following doctoral degrees in professional fields of study: Doctor of Education and Doctor of Public Health.

    These doctoral degree programs are similar to those for the PhD in the degree of rigor required; the minimum total credit requirements and permissible transfer credits; the requirements for the successful completion of a preliminary evaluation and a comprehensive examination; the admission to doctoral candidacy; the nomination of a doctoral committee; the preparation of the dissertation and abstract; the publication of the dissertation; and the successful completion of the final oral examination. These doctoral dissertations are usually based on an in-depth empirical research project by the student and are intended to permit the student to apply relevant theory and knowledge as well as to demonstrate skills in analysis of a major problem and to contribute to the improvement of practice in the student's area of specialization.

    Other Professional Doctoral Degrees

    The University of Pittsburgh also offers professional doctoral degree programs for practitioners, including the JSD (Law), DNP (Nursing), AuD (Audiology), DPT (Physical Therapy), PharmD (Pharmacy), and CScD (Clinical Science). These programs provide a coherent curriculum designed to impart the mastery of a substantial and complex body of knowledge that will serve as preparation for leadership and excellence in the practice of the profession. The curriculum should contain a research component to achieve the goal for the research competence of the graduate. Students should deliver a report based on research that demonstrates both mastery of their subject matter and a high level of communication skills. The curriculum should contain an internship, a practicum or a clinical component. Each experience should have associated with it clear goals and objective, a statement of what skills the student should master, at statement how those skills will be assessed objectively by the academic program, and what steps the program will take in response to those assessments. In addition, the program should have an objective way to evaluate the site where internships and/or clinical rotations take place and assure the expertise of those responsible for administering training and instruction. If the program is an accredited program, the standards of the accrediting body for a professional doctorate must be met.

    To attain the depth of knowledge and experience required by someone earning a doctorate, a minimum nine semesters of full-time study is required. Of this no more than one-third should be internships or clinical work. A comprehensive examination will be used to assess the student’s mastery of a substantial and complex body of knowledge.

    The minimum admission requirements must be the same as for all graduate programs at the University of Pittsburgh. In addition, the student must have completed a defined set of prerequisites so that all students will enter with required basic knowledge. A student must attain a 3.00 GPA in order to maintain good standing and be graduated.

    Statute of Limitations/Leaves of Absence

    The purpose of the statute of limitations is to ensure that a graduate degree from the University of Pittsburgh represents mastery of current knowledge in the field of study. Individual schools within the University may adopt policies that are more stringent, but not less, than those stated here.

    All requirements for MA and MS degrees must be completed within a period of four consecutive calendar years from the student's initial registration for graduate study; all professional master's degrees, within five years. Dual degrees and joint degrees that require course work in excess of 50 credit hours may be granted a longer statute of limitations by the University Council on Graduate Study.

    From the student's initial registration for graduate study, all requirements for the PhD degree must be completed within a period of 10 years, or within eight years if the student has received credit for a master's degree appropriate to the field of study. A student who is unable to complete all degree requirements within a five-year period after passing the comprehensive examination may be re-examined at the discretion of the department or school. Programs for professional doctoral degrees, for which the majority of candidates pursue part-time study while working full-time within their chosen disciplines, may be granted a longer statute of limitations by the schools offering the degrees.

    Under exceptional circumstances, a candidate for an advanced degree may apply for an extension of the statute of limitations. The request must be approved by the department or departmental committee (master's or doctoral) and submitted to the dean for final action. Requests for an extension of the statute of limitations must be accompanied by a departmental assessment of the work required of the student to complete the degree as well as documented evidence of the extenuating circumstances leading to the requested extension. Students who request an extension of the statute of limitations must demonstrate proper preparation for the completion of all current degree requirements.

    Under special conditions, graduate students may be granted one leave of absence. A maximum leave of two years may be granted to doctoral students or one year to master's students. The length and rationale for the leave of absence must be stated in advance, recommended to the dean by the department, and approved by the dean. If approved, the time of the leave shall not count against the total time allowed for the degree being sought by the student. Readmission following an approved leave of absence is a formality.



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