Grad School hopes to introduce free summer program this year

A student survey is circulating to gauge interest in potential programs.

Christopher Aadland

Graduate students could have access to new academic and career development opportunities starting this summer.

As part of the University of Minnesota Graduate School’s recent efforts to improve the experience and resources available to students, the school hopes to create a free summer program for academic and professional development this year.

“We really want to provide the opportunity for students to better prepare themselves academically and professionally,” said Fen Chen, an academic and professional development specialist at the Graduate School.

But she said the future of the program hinges on whether students express interest in a survey the school is currently conducting.

Students have until Friday to complete the survey.

In the survey, students can indicate what type of programs they’d benefit most from, which will help guide the school in creating the summer institute.

Chen said the school wants the programming to focus on helping graduate students develop skills that will help them succeed in the professional world while also addressing interdisciplinary themes.

Because the program would be offered in the summer, she said, students will hopefully be able to devote more time to the lessons.

Chen said a similar program in place at Stanford University inspired the Graduate School’s plan, noting that the school’s program would be modeled after Stanford’s.

Helen Doyle, Stanford’s director of educational programs, said the institute has been a valuable resource for students to work across academic disciplines.

“Graduate students can get very siloed very quickly because they’re coming to graduate school to become experts in whatever field they’re studying,” she said. “[The program is] a way of encouraging students to look up from their work and see what else is available to students.”

The University’s Graduate School currently offers other resources, like interdisciplinary graduate groups, that aim to help students sharpen skills that could be useful in their fields.

The Graduate and Professional Education Assembly, an annual gathering of students, faculty, staff and postdoctoral scholars, allows the school to gauge what the recent themes are in graduate and professional education at the University.

This year’s agenda for the assembly, Chen said, will concentrate on career opportunities outside academia — a potential focus of the summer programming.

Council of Graduate Students President Andrew McNally said this year’s assembly theme represents the Graduate School’s new approach in offering resources to students who are considering a career outside of a university setting.

“The Graduate School is trying to rethink from the bottom up how it’s approaching professional
development,” he said.