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Graduate School Creates Grant for Targeted Professional Development for Students

The Duke University Graduate School is offering a new source of funding for professional development opportunities tailored to the discipline-specific needs of its students and academic programs.

The Professional Development Grant offers up to $2,000 to help graduate students and departments provide professional development programming and resources. The grant can be used to cover expenses such as honoraria and travel costs for guest speakers, operational costs of events, and publicity and printing costs.

Proposals for the 2014–15 award year are due November 21. Doctoral and research master’s students in The Graduate School, as well as directors or administrators of any of the school’s academic programs, are eligible to apply. For details, visit

Melissa Bostrom, assistant dean for graduate student professional development at The Graduate School, says the grant is a way for the school to support more events aimed at specific disciplines.

“The Graduate School has more than 70 academic programs that run the gamut from art history to biomedical engineering,” Bostrom says. “So while we organize many professional development opportunities, most of them have to be applicable across disciplines.

“However, we also need to tackle topics that may be relevant only to students in one particular discipline but are very important to those students. So we created the Professional Development Grant to help meet that need. Also, in our experience, students often have innovative ideas for professional development programming, so we want to help them bring those ideas to fruition.”

As an added bonus, applying for the grant is itself a professional development opportunity, Bostrom says. Students gain experience writing a grant proposal, managing a project, and collaborating with their departments and The Graduate School.

The grant requirements stipulate that proposed programming must explore nonacademic career paths in addition to academic options. The Graduate School piloted the grant in April by providing funding for students in the history department to organize a panel discussion about careers outside academia for humanities Ph.Ds.

“Although many departments and programs already provide support for students seeking a tenure-track faculty position, increasingly, our students are interested in exploring career opportunities beyond the traditional path,” Bostrom says. “At The Graduate School, we want to support both, and this grant provides funding to serve the interests of all our students.”

Pictured: L. Maren Wood (back), founder and lead researcher of an education-consulting firm, speaks at the Humanities Careers Beyond the Tenure Track panel in April, which served as a pilot for The Graduate School's new Professional Development Grant.