At UBC, we view graduate education as the formation of scholars (after the Carnegie Initiative on the Doctorate’s book of that title). The term formation implies a holistic development that involves all aspects of one’s professional identity, including the many habits of mind and heart that influence students’ increasing capabilities as scholars and professionals. Formation entails academic learning, the development of professional and personal competencies, and growth through community and experience. The expansion of opportunities to develop these at UBC is a key priority and a shared responsibility of a number of offices and academic units. These opportunities include a variety of workshops, services, events, and resources.
Key initiatives and areas of support
The following are among the key initiatives that Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has been leading to promote student development and success. Many of the priorities described in other sections, especially those of 'Reimagining Graduate Education' and 'Enriching the Student Experience' have overlapping goals.
Success in graduate school starts with students applying to a program that will meet their goals and interests. To help prospective students make this decision G+PS provides numerous resources, including:
- profiles of alumni that include tips for success and advice for careers;
- career outcome data (currently only for PhD programs) that provides data on sectors, job titles, employers etc. of past graduates;
- statistical information such as times to completion and completion rates.
While Graduate Student Orientations take place each year in January and in August/September, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies views the first year as a crucial period of transition into graduate school. To support students during that time, G+PS offers a range of programs, which includes pre-arrival webinars with information on housing, neighbourhoods, and getting around town, as well as event series like PhD Connections to help new students build social networks with peers outside their own departments and learn about essential campus support resources. In addition to our live events and webinars, all information provided in orientation is also accessible online, on demand through the orientation website and a Canvas course. Newly admitted students are informed of these events and other important messaging through our annual onboarding email campaign.
PhD Connections is a series of by-invitation events for first year PhD students hosted by G+PS. Also invited are senior PhD students from across campus and the Graduate Student Society as well as staff from the Centre for Student Involvement & Careers, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, Health Promotion and Education, the Research Commons, the Centre for Writing and Scholarly Communication, and International Student Development. This informal gathering happens two to four times per year and provides an opportunity for first-year PhD students to connect with each other and with senior graduate students and key staff with the goal of helping them to thrive in their program at UBC. Each session is themed and begins with brief presentations/words of wisdom from the Dean and Vice-Provost and an Associate Dean from Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, followed by advice from staff attending, then networking and conversation. Topics include getting off to a good start, finding and building community, involvement with opportunities on campus, strategizing for success in graduate school, and building effective relationships with supervisors.
Candidacy to completion
Candidacy to Completion is a by-invitation event, hosted by G+PS, that provides support and information for new PhD candidates. Taking place each November and April/May we invite PhDs who have reached candidacy in the prior 6 months. The event facilitates students connecting with other at a similar stage, provides reminders of essential UBC resources and opportunities, and encourages students to strategize for successful and timely completion of their program. Part celebration, part re-orientation to resources, the event begins with brief presentations/words of wisdom from the Dean and Vice-Provost and an Associate Dean from Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, followed by advice from staff representing various campus partners (the Centre for Student Involvement & Careers, Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology, Health Promotion and Education, the Research Commons, and the Centre for Writing and Scholarly Communication), then networking and conversation.
The Graduate Game Plan
This step-by-step online guide provides students with an overview of a graduate student program from admissions, through each stage until graduation, and planning beyond graduate school. It provides advice for attaining academic and career success.
Graduate Pathways to Success
The Graduate Pathways to Success program is a palette of non-credit workshops, seminars and other activities designed to complement a student’s graduate program's academic curriculum and mentorship experience. Our offerings cover a wide range of personal and professional development topics to support students throughout their time in graduate school and to allow them to develop some of the skills and competencies needed to thrive as professionals and to make meaningful contributions to society.
Three Minute Thesis, Lay Summaries, and Graduation Narratives
The Three Minute Thesis (3MT) is a competition that assists graduate students with fostering effective presentation and communication skills for non-specialist audiences. Participants have three minutes to explain the breadth and significance of their research at events that welcome the public.
For similar reasons, graduating doctoral students are required to write a plain-language description of their research that is read out at graduation and, since 2017, all research students must include an accessible lay summary in their theses and dissertations.
Employer and Alumni engagement
The opportunity to interact with potential employers in formal and informal settings can play an integral part in helping students build their career pathways. Many G+PS and collaboratively-developed events include opportunities to engage with alumni and potential employers, and these will continue to be a focus going forward. More direct employer engagement through surveys and discussions is also planned.