Thinking of applying for grad school at Carleton? Along with excellent programs, strong mentorship and great financial support opportunities, the Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Affairs (FGPA) at Carleton offers one of the most fulsome professional development (PD) program for its grad students.

Says PD coordinator David Lafferty: “We know that students need more than just a series of workshops to help them succeed while at Carleton and beyond.”

The team of Lafferty and Karim Abuawad have developed a new, interactive approach to professional development. They reconfigured the delivery of PD resources using methods that are more personalized, holistic and systematic.

Abuawad has been offering individual writing support, which provides students with a non-evaluative, supportive environment for discussing any challenges they are facing in their writing. These consultations support students as they plan and write their theses and dissertations. In addition to consultations, Abuawad has also been delivering professional writing modules on topics such as report writing, grant proposals and structuring academic articles.

In career assistance sessions, students are guided to create an Individual Development Plan (IDP) in order to facilitate realistic self-evaluation and goal setting.

Explains Abuawad: “As part of our new program Establish Your Career Narrative, we encourage students to create IDPs by reflecting on their transferrable skills, researching various career options, and developing any needed skills through taking advantage of professional development opportunities they have identified. We provide personalized and flexible approaches because we recognize that each student is in a unique situation.”

The PD team has developed new programs and events adapted to online delivery, including a series of live interviews with Carleton alumni. During the interviews, alumni talk about their field of employment, discuss their experiences and the lessons they learned on the job market and answer students’ questions. The discussions focus on working outside of academia and on securing “alternative academic” positions.

To keep graduate students connected and to foster the exchange of idea, the PD team has established the Grad Café, a forum dedicated to informal discussions on a variety of topics pertinent to grad school life.

In an effort to enhance their outreach, the PD team conducts class visits to talk to students about career development. They are also tracking and contacting Carleton alumni who are then invited to conduct live and written interviews and to advise individual students interested in careers within their field of employment.

Lafferty also organizes the annual Three Minute Thesis competition in which grad students talk about their research in three minutes or less, while vying for prizes. The 3MT, along with other research competitions, helps students learn how to talk about their research to the media and the general public. Coaching is provided.

Grad students at Carleton appear to be quite satisfied with their student experience according to the 2019 Canadian Graduate and Professional Student Survey (CGPSS).

One area which the CGPSS covers is professional skills development. In the last CGPSS, master’s respondents in course-based programs were more satisfied on almost all items while doctoral respondents in research-based programs reported similar to master’s respondents’ satisfaction levels with the professional skill development occurring in and around their programs.

“Since 2013, we have made continual upgrades to our professional development program,” says Lafferty. “We were delighted to see some of our efforts reflected in last year’s CGPSS and are excited to see how grad students will view our newest initiatives in the next CGPSS (2022).”

Lafferty notes that professional development is a team activity and emphasizes that it’s a combination of work by individual departments, the Education Development Centre, graduate supervisors, the Library, Career Services, FGPA initiatives, etc. that make the entire platform work effectively.

FGPA pulls together workshops and initiatives offered by other departments under one roof: the Professional Development website.



Tuesday, December 15, 2020 in
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