(396g) Developing a Graduate Student Professional Development Course

Authors: 
Carter, T., Northeastern University
Fenniri, H., Northeastern University
Graduates from PhD and Masters programs in science and engineering not only go on to work in academia, but approximately 55% of them join the industrial workforce.1 It is generally acknowledged that there is a gap between the knowledge, skills and attributes (KSA’s) that industry and academics require and those that are acquired by students in the academic environment.2,3

The primary skills developed in graduate programs include research, publishing and presenting. However, there are a number of transferrable skills that can be further addressed in graduate programs; the most frequently identified skills include communication, mentorship and leadership.4 Other necessary skills include: research ethics; research development; technology commercialization; entrepreneurship; data science and big data skills; science policy; governance, risk and compliance; time management and project management skills; and developing cultural competency and intercultural teamwork skills.5

Based on graduate student and faculty surveys, there were several recommendations for improvement to the graduate program which include, active learning exercises for more student engagement as well as further development of the necessary knowledge, skills and attributes to bridge the professional development skills gap. A course was developed to provide these necessary skills and in addition an E-portfolio system was developed to measure whether or not the future course changes lead to effective changes in students’ KSA’s.

1. National Science Foundation, Science and Engineering Indicators 2014, https://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind14/index.cfm/overview, (2014).

2. Council of Graduate Schools and Educational Testing Service , Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers, Report from the Commission on Pathways Through Graduate School and Into Careers., Princeton, NJ: Educational Testing Service (2012).

3. Grafton, A., Grossman, J., No More Plan B: A Very Modest Proposal for Graduate Programs in History. https://www.historians.org/publications-and-directories/perspectives-on-... (2011).

4. McClurkin, J, et. al., Development of Industry Modules for Engineers Pursuing Advanced Degrees, 121st ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, ASEE, 2014

5. Denecke, D., Feaster, K., Stone, K., Professional Development: Shaping Effective Programs for STEM Graduate Students, Washington, DC: Council of Graduate Schools, (2017).