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SIGS’ PLAN designed to help grad students graduate

by Janene Zaccone, communications and marketing last modified Feb 22, 2012 10:24 AM

UofL has an ambitious goal to more than double its annual number of doctoral graduates by the year 2020, and the School of Interdisciplinary and Graduate Studies (SIGS) has a “plan” that will help.

SIGS’ PLAN designed to help grad students graduate

Graduate students participate in workshops, such as this peer-mentoring session.

Doctoral students can take many years to finish their degrees – if they finish at all. With national statistics showing 50 to 65 percent of doctoral students graduate in 10 years, SIGS wants to make sure that graduate students in all areas don’t “fall off the map because something gets in their way,” said Beth Boehm, interim dean of SIGS.

That “something” could be difficulty starting a dissertation, poor performance at academic presentations, too much stress or any number of challenging situations.

That’s why the SIGS’ PLAN covers Professional development, Life skills, Academic development and Networking. Now in its second year, the program gives doctoral – and master’s – students several workshop options in each PLAN category. Workshops cover such topics as “Submitting Articles for Publication,” “Balancing Personal/Family Life with the Academic,” “Completing Course Requirements” and “Expanding Professional Network.”

The PLAN is designed to help students complete their doctoral degrees in no more than six years. SIGS receives support from campus partners in career, counseling and health and wellness services and benefits from the generosity of faculty members from across the disciplines who share their expertise with students from outside their own programs, Boehm said.

By using existing expertise and campus resources, SIGS has been able to make doctoral student success a university-wide priority and to maximize cost-efficiency, she explained. Program participation is growing as more students hear about it.

Caroline Chan, a doctoral candidate in the School of Public Health and Information Sciences, is a regular participant.

Last year, Chan, who intends to enter academia after she graduates in May, attended the yearlong Graduate Teaching Academy workshop series to learn the “ins and outs” of teaching the next generation. As a public health student, she said she does not receive this type of information in her course work.

“I've also attended very helpful sessions on grantsmanship, applying for jobs in academia and the nuts and bolts of writing your dissertation,” she said. “All of the sessions cover areas that were not typically addressed in the classroom but have prepared me for what comes next in my career.

“It seems a great deal of focus in graduate school is spent on knowledge acquisition and research, but in order to be successful after the degree a number of other skills are needed,” Chan said. “The PLAN sessions focus on these skills.”

 

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