Award announcement: Graduate School Awards A Record 12 Professional Development Grants for 2022

Duke Institute for Brain Sciences

The award supports a professional development experience on the fundamental principles of a good mentoring relationship geared toward graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. Over four two-hour sessions led by senior graduate students trained in the NRMN “Entering Mentoring” curriculum, attendees will learn practical strategies for identifying research projects for mentees, setting expectations, communicating and assessing understanding, giving feedback, mentoring inclusively, and promoting professionalism. This program will be included in the DIBS Inclusion & Power Dynamics workshop series, which focuses on addressing issues of diversity and inclusion, professionalism, and climate and culture in academia.

Graduate Liberal Studies

The Graduate Liberal Studies Program will sponsor a two-day event featuring recent GLS alumni in conversation with current students around the topic “What Can You Do with a Master’s in Liberal Studies?”  The event will feature two parts:  1. A panel discussion with four alumni of the program whose professional and educational profiles reflect the range of backgrounds students typically bring to our program. The alumni will be asked to talk about what brought them to GLS, what their path through the program looked like (courses, other experiences), most useful skills and knowledge gained, things they wished they’d known or done, and how they have leveraged what they got out of the program for next career or educational steps. 2.  A day of individual appointments for current students to meet with one of the alumni to talk about specific professional issues and get guidance and support.

Integrated Toxicology & Environmental Health Program

The combined entities of the Integrated Toxicology and Environmental Health Program (ITEHP) and the Duke University Superfund Research Program (DUSRC) will host a three-part series for graduate student trainees on “Leveraging Your Strengths, Learning From Alumni.”  Graduate trainees in both ITEHP and DUSRC are part of a highly interdisciplinary community, and it can be hard for students to communicate the advantages of their interdisciplinarity during a job search. This series will assist graduate students in identifying their key strengths and leveraging those strengths into their career paths, learning along the way from alumni with shared strengths.  Students and local alumni will first participate in a CliftonStrengths Workshop, identifying and connecting with their top five strengths.  Students will then take part in a networking workshop, where they will learn to talk about themselves “away from the bench.”  This series will culminate in a highly interactive capstone alumni networking event, where students will meet one-on-one with our local alumni, connecting via shared strengths and learning from each alum’s experience with their strengths throughout graduate school and their career path.  After completing this three-part series, ITEHP and DUSRC students will have gained a better understanding of their personal strengths, learned valuable networking skills, and forged connections with our alumni that will continue beyond the capstone networking event.

Program in Literature

As part of a new Post-Examinations Initiative, the Program in Literature will host a Professionalization Colloquium Series in Literature to discuss perspectives on both the academic and the nonacademic job markets for students with a doctorate degree in Literature. In the Spring of 2022, the colloquium will bring together three alums from the Graduate Program in Literature, each representing a different professional option: tenure-track, non-tenure, and non-academic career. The colloquium will focus on the panelists’ own take on the strength of a Ph.D. in Literature for positions ranging from higher education, postdocs, and K-12 instruction, to publishing, media industries and non-profits. Current doctoral candidates will be able to learn recommended strategies for job hunting, while the faculty will acquire invaluable insights into best practices to implement within the program so as to endow students with a flexible and wide skill set.

Medieval and Renaissance Studies

In the changed job landscape for new humanities PhDs, job postings more and more are seeking faculty who can, in addition to their teaching and research, slot into other roles: being a Jack or Jill of several trades is the new calling card in the humanities ecosystem. This grant will fund a workshop in academic publishing. Directed by the managing editor of the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies published by Duke University Press, the intensive workshop will lead PhD students affiliated with the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program through the entire publication process of copyediting and proofreading an article to be published in the journal. The experience gained will give students some proficiency in editorial procedures, while the workshop will also give students a basic level of experience that could help them apply for a job with an academic publisher as an alternative to a faculty position.


This grant will fund a six-part series titled "Maintaining a Vibrant Creative and Academic Career." In this series, graduate students will have the opportunity to connect with a diverse pool of professional artists and scholars both in and outside of the academy to develop tools that will help maintain their creative and academic careers post-graduation. Guest lecturers will include professionals working as business owners, freelancers, K-12 educators, and government employees. These events will cover a wide range of hard and soft skills that can be leveraged in a number of markets, including interdisciplinary collaboration, grant-writing, publishing, project management, and finance. This programming will complement current lecture and professional development programming in the music department by providing students with tools to transition out of the academy or sustain them between graduation and securing an academic post. Though this series will be hosted in the music department, these guest lectures will provide tools that are applicable across several art disciplines.


The graduate students of the Duke Neurobiology Department will host a career seminar series that provides the opportunity for neuroscience graduate students and postdoctoral scholars to engage with professionals with training in neuroscience/neurobiology who have successfully followed diverse career paths. This program will meet an increasing demand in the neuroscience community for exposure to careers outside of the traditional academic route. We will invite professionals from many fields including data science, biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, science writing, teaching, and others. This series will provide a forum for students to discuss navigating the job market with professionals who have similar backgrounds, learn about specific steps they should be taking to prepare themselves for the job search, and to make valuable connections that will help them as they transition to the next stages in their careers.

Political Science

The Women in Political Science (WIPS) is an organization of female graduate students in the Political Science Department. Our goal is to reach out to the female academic community at Duke, to promote a discussion of the common challenges we face, and to provide the tools needed to have a successful career. Some of the topics addressed at informational events we have hosted or plan to host include exploring academic and non-academic career options, negotiation and communication skills, and approaches for achieving a healthy work-life balance. Our events are open to students and postdocs in applied social science fields throughout the Triangle as well as anyone who may be interested in the topics discussed.

Population Health Sciences

Job shadowing is defined as visiting a site to see how a professional works in the setting of interest and determine fit within a career field or organization. Van Wart et al (2020) further say that shadowing also allows an individual to experience the work environment and learn about expectations of a profession.  This experience is helpful for graduate students as they engage in career exploration. The Department of Population Health Sciences proposes a shadowing program where all students (40) will participate in a local experience with Duke alumni during the fall of 2022.  The experiences will be linked as an assignment in required courses for the master’s and doctoral students.

Psychology & Neuroscience

Within the Department of Psychology and Neuroscience (P&N), the clinical psychology training program has been conducting a series of talks, panels, and workshops focused on anti-racism, multiculturalism, and professional development challenges. Despite positive feedback from our faculty and students, it is clear the next step is to organize a series of longer, more applied workshops. The current proposal includes four virtual workshops during 2022 featuring experts addressing the following goals: focusing on anti-racism as a core value of the program, elevating multicultural awareness as a core competency of professional development, and building skills to strengthen our abilities to dismantle racism in clinical and research work. We believe that receiving this grant would enable us to provide transformative professional development experiences for the students and faculty in P&N and other departments. Finally, we will qualitatively and quantitatively assess the efficacy of these workshops, and we will share these data with interested parties through the Open Science Framework.

Romance Studies

This initiative provides graduate students in the humanities greater opportunities for pre-dissertation professional development. The four-part speaker series addresses common difficulties for beginning PhD students, ranging from the practicalities of the pre-dissertation process, to taxes and budgeting, to accessing appropriate resources for mental health care. This programming will be recorded and made available online for both current and future graduate students.


In light of the national racial reckoning brought on by police brutality in 2020, individuals and organizations across the U.S. have been prompted to critically examine their own roles in the perpetuation of racial inequality. As a reaction to this national conversation, graduate students in the sociology department have been advancing efforts to create a more anti-racist department, where Black scholars can thrive. In so doing, we hope to create a department that resembles the future we envision for our professional field. A step towards that future is to know how to foster an environment that is committed to and invites diversity. We feel that an expert-led Bystander training focused on explicit bias will equip members of our department with the tools to better identify, react, and address racist attitudes and behaviors. Duke’s Ada Gregory provides such training for departments. We are applying for funding to build infrastructure around this training to make it more appealing to our students and, therefore, more impactful. Duke sociology plays a key role within the discipline and, as such, we want our department to cultivate professionals who are committed to producing knowledge that is diverse, inclusive, and impactful. We recognize that this initiative is only the beginning of our concerted effort to address insidious effects of racism in academia, our field, and our department. However, it is a step towards forming researchers equipped to foster a more welcoming–and therefore more sustainable–field.