Changing Graduate Education @ VCU: LEAPD

Changing Graduate Education @ VCU: LEAPD
Mark J Schaefermeyer, Associate Dean, Graduate School, Virginia Commonwealth University
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.
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
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
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
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
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.