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From writing to networking to helping find that dream job

My GradSkills workshops promote essential skills before and after graduation
August 25, 2015
The winner, Elizabeth Watt, centre, and finalists from this year's 3 Minute Thesis Competition — one of the pportunities available to graduate students who get involved in My GradSkills at the University of Calgary. Watch their presentations online. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary

The winner, Elizabeth Watt, centre, and finalists from this year's 3 Minute Thesis Competition — one of the opportunities available to graduate students who get involved in My GradSkills at the University of Calgary. Watch their presentations online. Photo by Riley Brandt, University of Calgary 

Graduate students meet with faculty and staff during the My GradSkills holiday party in 2013. Amanda Black, centre, was a 3MT finalist in 2014; watch a video of her presentation.

Graduate students meet with faculty and staff during the My GradSkills holiday party in 2013. Amanda Black, centre, was a 3MT finalist in 2014; watch a video of her presentation. 

A thriving program in the Faculty of Graduate Studies has helped hundreds of grad students with everything from improving their writing, to cultivating networking skills, to negotiating a dream job, to preparing for interviews for academic and non-academic careers.

For more than two years, My GradSkills — a partnership between FGS and service providers on campus — has offered a suite of workshops and programs to help students acquire additional academic and professional skills. “The workshops provide students with skills they can use right now in their programs but also apply later in the work world,” says Tara Christie, My GradSkills program manager at FGS.

Working closely with an academic advisory committee and university partners, such as the Graduate Students’ Association, the Student Success Centre, Career Services and MITACS, a national non-profit research organization, Christie works together with a committee of faculty members and graduate students to provide academic oversight and endorse a number of My GradSkills workshops each year.

Spreading the word

To promote My GradSkills, FGS hosts a website to help students access professional and academic development opportunities. Christie also enlists the help of graduate students — known as My GradSkills Ambassadors — to spread the word about workshops and shape program development through feedback.

Last year, Christie promoted 48 endorsed workshops. The group connected with about 1,300 graduate students and faculty members on campus. Response from students has been very positive: In the 2013 to 2014 calendar year, almost 550 students attended workshops hosted or co-hosted by FGS, up from 180 in the previous year. And students are talking enthusiastically about the program.

Take Zorry Belchev, a MSc psychology student who’s attended sessions on leadership skills, effective presentations and how to prepare successful scholarship applications. She says: “One of the advantages of this program is that the endorsed workshops are handpicked to be more relevant to grad students. Along with improving your academic skill set, many of the workshops focus on leadership and applicable industry skills to better prepare us for life after school.”

Students encouraged

Luis Virla, a chemical engineering PhD student, adds, “There’s a wide range of topics offered by My GradSkills — an option for almost every need and interest. The program gives students the chance to discover their own paths and invest their own time in their own growth.”

These are encouraging words for the program’s lead organizer at FGS. “I feel really passionate about this program,” says Christie, who graduated from the university in 2008 with a PhD in biochemistry and molecular biology. “As a grad student, I would have really enjoyed having a program like My GradSkills to help me find out about all the workshops and resources available to help build my academic and professional skill sets.”