Changing Graduate Education @ VCU: LEAPD Mark J Schaefermeyer, Associate Dean, Graduate School, Virginia Commonwealth University Abstract LEAPD (Leaders & Entrepreneurs Academy for Professional Development) offers courses to better prepare students for non-academic careers. Areas of study include: how to start your own business, career search and networking skill-building, what does it mean (and take) to be a leader, enhancing communication skills, resume writing, negotiation skills and opportunities for discovering alternative career paths. Introduction Started in 2013, the LEAPD program provides a complementary experience to the PFF (Preparing Future Faculty) program sponsored by the VCU Graduate School. LEAPD offers a group of one and two-hour credit courses designed to meet the needs of the majority of graduate students seeking careers outside of academe. Virginia Commonwealth University regards this so important as to recognize LEAPD and PFFP in its current Quality Enhancement Plan. “The fourth and final pillar is the implementation of effective career planning and professional development, not to reduce higher education solely into extended workforce preparation, but to stimulate our students’ most creative and purposeful thinking about vocation in a time of unprecedented change and unpredictable opportunity. Students will also be challenged and supported to define their personal goals and aspirations beyond VCU, extending the idea of “generalizable education” from course work and degree completion into a world of fulfilling and meaningful work.” Learning that Matters: Building a Culture of Generalizable Education, Virginia Commonwealth University Quality Enhancement Plan, 2014, p. 2. Providing graduate and professional students with opportunities to better understand themselves, their skill sets, and potential and suitable careers is not just an issue for our students at VCU. Dr. Debra Stewart, President, Council of Graduate Schools noted the increased need for graduate education to respond to the needs of all graduate students (Stewart, 2013). Recently, the National Institute of Health has issued a second FOA (Funding Opportunity Announcement) for BEST-Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training. Its stated purpose is “to broaden graduate and postdoctoral training, such that training programs reflect the range of career options that Ph.D. graduate students and postdoctoral (regardless of funding source) pursue and that are required for a robust biomedical, behavioral, social and clinical research enterprise” (RFA-RM13-019: NIH Directors Biomedical Research Workforce Innovation Award: Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training-BEST). LEAPD is our response to the need for career and professional development. postdoctoral students. The course includes self-assessment and development of the student’s personal missions statement and individual development plan (IDP) in consultation with faculty and alumni mentors for the student’s discipline. Program Elements Sources GRAD 610: Career & Professional Development Planning for Graduate Students This course is designed to increase the likelihood that individuals will successfully navigate the challenges they face when making career choices in a complex, global economy. The course assists students to explore life variables, values, strengths, interests and personality and become informed about academic, career, and professional options. Students will learn to brand themselves powerfully, network effectively, and position themselves strategically for career opportunities. GRAD 611: Professional and Personal Development This course is designed to build a network of internal and external partnerships and to identify professional development initiatives for professional, graduate, and GRAD 612: Oral Presentation Skill-building for Career Professionals This course focuses exclusively on developing and delivering presentations. Students are expected to create a professional presentation representative of their focused research area to be delivered to a "lay" audience. Class exercises focus on audience analysis and strategic choices, theme development, argument construction, and impromptu public speaking as a means to developing confidence in public speaking. Additional Courses in the development stage include grant writing, entrepreneurship, and technology transfer. RFA-RM-13-019: NIH Directors Biomedical Research Workforce Innovation Award: Broadening Experiences in Scientific Training-BEST. http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/rfa-files/RFA-RM-13-019.html Stewart, D. (2013) Professional Development for Graduate Students: Reflections on the Demands, the Resources, and the Skills. GradEdge, 2(7), 1-3. Virginia Commonwealth University. (2014) Learning that Matters: Building a Culture of Generalizable Education. Virginia Commonwealth University Quality Enhancement Plan.