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New Professional Development Opportunities for Grad Students

The recommendation of the Graduate Career and Professional Development Advisory committee for a dedicated position for graduate student professional development within The Graduate School came to fruition in February 2012 with the hiring of Dr. Melissa Bostrom as Assistant Dean. The task force, consisting of representatives from faculty, student body, and staff were unanimous in their sense of the importance of creating a position that supports the development of graduate students’ skills for the job market as it currently exists. The approval of the position by the Provost’s Office was a clear indication that graduate student professional development was perceived to be an institutional imperative.

When Dean Bostrom took up residence on the third floor of The Graduate School in this newly created position, she was tasked with creating and implementing a comprehensive model to meet the needs of graduate students as they prepare for life beyond Duke. In the time since her arrival, Bostrom has been busy doing just that—assembling and executing an impressive array of workshops and events as well as developing a strategic plan for graduate student professional development that extends through the next three years.

As part of this strategic plan, fall 2013 saw the rollout of the Professional Development Series, which is designed to broaden graduate students’ career perspectives and develop competencies in communication, self-awareness, professional adaptability, and leadership. During the fall semester, the series included the Academic Job Search, Communicating with the Media, Core Competencies, Entrepreneurship, and Ph.D. Career Paths. Events in the Professional Development Series will be offered on a two-year cycle and change each semester, with opportunities for graduate students to learn about career paths in academia, business, entrepreneurship, government, and nonprofit.

Highlights of the offerings included The Entrepreneurship Series, which featured four events, three of which were facilitated by entrepreneur and Visiting Associate Professor of Markets & Management Studies Carl Nordgren. These workshops focused on how to think like an entrepreneur, offering participants creative strategies to think about new business ideas. The fourth workshop in the series featured five successful Graduate School alumni who now pursue both for-profit and social entrepreneurship. Todd Brady, M.D., Ph.D., who is also on The Graduate School’s Board of Visitors, led the workshop, where he shared his path to his current roles as President and Chief Executive Officer at Aldexa Therapeutics as well as Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the venture capital firm Domain Associates. The workshop also offered participants the opportunity to learn from and connect with eminent alumni including Maya Ajmera, M.P.P., who founded The Global Fund for Children; Lucinda Camras, Ph.D., founder of Camras Vision; Micah Gilmer, Ph.D., Senior Partner at Frontline Solutions, Inc.; and Nathan Kundtz, Ph.D., Founder, Executive Vice President and Chief Technology Officer for the Kymeta Corporation.

The Communicating with the Media Series resulted from a new partnership between the Graduate School and the Office of News and Communications (ONC). ONC leadership adapted its highly successful series of faculty workshops to a graduate student audience. Topics included Talking to Reporters, Writing Op-Ed Articles, and Using Social Media Effectively. What was the impact of these workshops? Three articles written by participants saw publication in newspapers across the United States within days of the event.

What’s next for the Professional Development Series? The Academic Job Search Series continues in spring 2014 with a focus on careers in academia beyond the tenure track Additional professional development opportunities will be offered during Graduate Student Appreciation Week, which will be held from March 24-28, 2014.

Spring 2014 also sees the kick-off of the new Emerging Leaders Institute, which is open to Graduate School students and postdocs through a competitive application process and is co-sponsored by The Graduate School and the Office of Postdoctoral Services. The purpose of the institute is to develop participants’ leadership, professional adaptability, communication, self-awareness, and interdisciplinary teamwork skills.

In January, the Graduate School also kicked off a new professional development blog. The blog will offer a space for students who participate in professional development opportunities at Duke to share their reflections, write profiles of graduate alumni who have pursued interesting career options, and demonstrate their versatility in writing for broad audiences. According to Dean Bostrom, “Duke is unique among its peers in its investment in resources for career and professional development for graduate students. The array and depth of opportunities here is second to none, and they offer Duke students a unique competitive advantage as they seek employment after graduation.” To stay apprised of the opportunities the Graduate School offers, visit the professional development webpage. You can also find a listing of career and professional development events for graduate students posted on The Graduate School’s professional development calendar.


Top Ten Tips for Networking

Duke Graduate School alumnus and Board of Visitors member Todd Brady shared the following ten tips for networking with Entrepreneurship Workshop Series participants.

1. Talk to as many people as you can. The more you talk to, the better.

2. Crystallize your message in one sentence, e.g., “I’m interested in bioenergy.”

3. Get referrals. When you meet people, ask for at least three referrals.

4. Have a face-to-face meeting. I prefer coffee, lunch, then breakfast. Always buy, no matter what.

5. Keep the meeting short. Get in and get out. Never more than an hour in person or 20 to 30 minutes on the telephone.

6. Say as few words as possible. You should spend 90% of your time listening.

7. Get in touch with referrals.

8. Follow up. I like mailing things like articles with three-sentence hand-written notes.

9. Don't take anyone's advice too seriously. Most people will advise you to do what they did. It’s best to take advice in the aggregate.

10. Body language is important. Smile, give a firm handshake, stand up straight, and speak confidently with enthusiasm—impressions count.