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Grad students seek advisors

BY ALISON SULLIVAN | FEBRUARY 10, 2011 7:10 AM

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University of Iowa officials said the Graduate College should provide career advisers for the increasing number of graduate students going into nonacademic fields.

In the last five years, more graduate students have started seeking positions in the private sector rather than entering the academic field.

Graduate College Dean John Keller said changing times and job markets are causing more students to move toward nonacademic jobs following graduation. And the graduate school has slim pickings in which to better assist these students.

Up to this point, Keller said, the school trained students for the academic route and assumed the students would take it. But graduate institutions need to be more able to assist students with other plans, he said.

“What we need to discuss is to better inform students, when they are applying, what their career options are,” Keller added.

He last discussed the idea with former Provost Wallace Loh, who, Keller said, liked the concept. He said he would likely discuss the idea with candidates for the open provost position.

And schools throughout the nation are helping their graduate students with career counseling and advice.

Matt Helm, the director of Ph.D. career services at Michigan State, is one such adviser. He said his position was created roughly seven years ago and he is aided by an associate fellow.

With the low number of career advising staff, he has had to help students prepare themselves by teaching them the “PREP model.”

The acronym stands for four focal “skills” the college focuses on: planning, resilience, engagement, and professionalism. Helm said the method helps students prepare for a successful career post-graduation in both academic and other fields.

The UI Graduate College has a lecture program, “The Network,” now in its second year, designed to help students prepare for success both in graduate school and in their careers.

The probability a student goes into an academic versus nonacademic job depends partly on their field of study.

Though Keller said he feels students have to fend for themselves when it comes to attaining careers, some students said they are managing just fine.

“I work really well with my adviser in terms of career options,” said Kristina Rogers, a sixth-year graduate student studying organic chemistry.

She said she’s lucky her current academic adviser has been beneficial in helping her prepare for her career after graduation. Though she said she does know friends who don’t have as much luck.

Students said being in graduate school usually means there is some ultimate goal in mind for a career.

“As a graduate student, I am inherently self-motivated,” said Ulrike Carlson, a Ph.D. student studying German. “But I feel there is advice available.”


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