June 15, 2014
June 15, 2014
June 18, 2014
24.237.1 - 24.237.12
Engineering graduate students will enter a competitive and ever-changing workforce, in whichnetworking and the need to build strong professional connections are mandatory for success.STEM graduate programs need to provide comprehensive career preparation, exposure to a widerange of career types, and networking opportunities. Our approach to professional developmentfor graduate students incorporates the positive impact of communities of practice, as amechanism of success. Through these communities, graduate students not only are exposed tolarger bodies of knowledge and skills, but they also have opportunities to expand professionalnetworks career options.Our National Science Foundation’s Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate(AGEP) in collaboration with our Graduate School have implemented centralized professionaldevelopment workshops to support graduate students’ academic and professional success. We’vedeveloped specific workshops to address career options, in response to the 2012 report by theCouncil of Graduate Schools (CGS), “Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers.”The CGS report and plans for our expanded graduate school sponsored career-focused activities,have been shared with graduate program directors, the Career Services Center, and thePresident's Council. We expose STEM graduate students to different kinds of careers, e.g., non-profit, government, and industry, and while maintaining a commitment to train future faculty fordifferent kinds of academic institutions. Our signature career seminars for graduate students areroundtable networking sessions, in which participants have the opportunity to interact withdiverse professionals with advanced degrees, from a variety of sectors. These roundtables havebeen held at the university for a broad audience of graduate students, and at AGEP summerconferences. The AGEP conferences, in particular, draw large audiences of underrepresentedminority graduate students. Both the university-based sessions, and the AGEP sessions includeseveral women and URM professionals as “Roundtable Mentors.”This paper utilizes data from these roundtables to identify the impact that this community ofpractice has had on the success and professional development of graduate students in STEMfields, related to exposure to career options and networking. Several of the engineering graduatestudents who attended these programs were in their first and second years of their academicprograms; therefore, the professional development workshops presented unique opportunities forexposure to career options and mentors at a critical time, early in their graduate studies.Survey instruments have been used to assess the learning outcomes and reactions of participantsto the information and content of each seminar or workshop. These surveys instruments havealso been designed to collect demographic information from participants – e.g. academicdepartment, gender, racial/ethnic background, and citizenship status. Using a Likert scalemeasure with 4 options, participants have the opportunity to rank the impact and relevance ofeach seminar for their professional and academic development. Based upon assessments fromroundtable session evaluations from 2012 and 2013, it is evident that graduate students inengineering benefitted from being part of a community of practice that prepares graduatestudents for careers, and fosters relationships with peers and professionals.
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