Graduate School hands out grants for professional guidance

A new grant program launched by the Graduate School aims to create professional development programs that fit the varied needs of exiting students.

The program is designed to give different departments more ability to direct their professional development programs to their specific set of students. It will also highlight the range of career options for graduate students outside of academia. Groups from within the Graduate School—including both students and faculty—have each received up to $2,000 in funding to create narrowly-tailored professional development opportunities for students in various departments. The program was announced in October 2014 and applications were accepted through November.

“A lot of people undersell how many careers there are available to people with PhDs,” said Kathryn Picard, a doctoral candidate in biology.

Currently, the Graduate School offers professional development programs to all students, but does not have specific programs for students in each department, said Melissa Bostrom, assistant dean for graduate student professional development.

“The Graduate School offers a broad array of professional development programs and opportunities for graduate students, but we recognize that we can’t provide everything to all students,” Bostrom said.

Of the 28 applications received by the selection committee in November, eight were granted funding. Bostrom said the selection committee planned on giving fewer grants but received many strong applications. Most proposals were issued by groups that included both faculty and students. Only two of the 28 were from faculty only.

The next cycle of funding will be moved up to the Spring or Summer so that grants given will be available for the full calendar year, Bostrom said.

A variety of applications were granted funding, with some looking to revamp old programs and others looking to create new ones. The University Program in Genetics and Genomics will use its funding to improve its annual retreat by bringing more alumni to give career guidance.

The biology department received funding for a completely new program, a twelve-week course called “Biology Boot Camp” which focuses on professional development and exploration for a wide range of careers in biology.

Dr. Mohamed Noor, the biology professor who initiated the project, said that he originally intended to apply for the funding with the idea of a one-time workshop, but after discussion with graduate students in his department decided a course was more appropriate.

“That was a glaring need that we saw, especially because of… how few doctorate holders actually get a job in the academy as professors,” Picard said.

She part of a group from the biology department, which developed the boot camp with Noor and secured funding from the grant program for speakers and incentives for students to attend the course. Picard says that these incentives have already drawn more students to the program.

“We entice them with free pizza,” she said.

Topics covered in this course include effective time management, interpersonal relationships, interview skills and learning how to recognize transferable skills learned in graduate school and leverage them in the job market.

“Having this program to push faculty and students into creating these activities…it makes things happen that wouldn’t have otherwise happened,” Noor said. “It’s to the advantage of the University as a whole…that our PhD students are successful."

Picard echoed these sentiments.

“This is definitely something that we think is important, and its importance cannot be overstated,” she said


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