Graduate Professional Development Program Survey: Towards a National Strategy

Simon Fraser University (SFU)

General Information

Office responsible for graduate development programs:Graduate Studies & Postdoctoral Fellows
Contact name:Sue Hampton
Name of program:Advanced Professional Engagement & eXploration (APEX) Program
Social media accounts related to program:Na
Who is responsible for updating information for websites?Sue Hampton

Graduate Professional Development Programs

What sessions are available, in person or online? (workshops, webinars, blog, etc.) We have a mixed approach: 1) APEX events and workshops, where students attend workshops, seminars and special events. Usually in person. Occasionally we record or livestream our larger special events 2) APEX Certificate Program, which is a more structured program infused with contemporary career development theory to better help students understand their signature strengths, technical and transferable skills, and better understand their career options. 3) An additional service we offer is the ûJust in TimeË calendar, where other units at SFU which offer workshops and training opportunities for graduate students or postdocs can advertise to this population. So students only need to check one calendar to see all the professional development options on campus.
Are there sessions specifically for international students?No, international students are treated the same as all other students. All of the APEX offerings are open to all graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. There are other units at SFU which run workshops specific to international students, such as the international teaching assistant program.
Are there mentorship or internships opportunities included in the program?We help to advertise these types of programs but APEX is not a mentorship or internship program.
What skills or competencies do the sessions focus on?APEX focuses on knowledge translation and career development.
List sessions by topic and identify those in highest demand.Our APEX Special Events are in highest demand: Of our workshop series: Career Development: APEX Core Session 1*, APEX Core Session 2, APEX Core Session 3*, APEX Core Session 4; Online Presence*; Crafting your Resume; Crafting your CV*; Mock Interviews; APEX/PDA Brown Bag Seminar Series* Knowledge Translation: Persuasive Writing, Writing in Lay Language, Proposal Writing Caf_*, Understanding your Audience, Hooking and Engaging your Audience, Finding the Story in your Research, High Impact Communication*, Engaging with the Media, Playing your way to an Impactful Presentation* (* denotes those in highest demand)
Who is eligible for sessions? (students, postdocs, alumni, etc.)Current SFU graduate students and postdoctoral fellows
Are professional development programs mandatory for students to graduate; or are they part of a student-supervisor checklist?Voluntary
Does the program offer academic credit or formal recognition (badges, certificates, etc.) to participants?APEX Certificate is certified through SFU?s Continuing Studies. Students who complete receive a Certificate, plus a notation on the Co-Curricular Record (CCR).
Who develops and delivers the sessions? (graduate studies, other departments, students, professors, alumni, external organizations, etc.)Partnerships between the Graduate Studies office and other student service units, plus soliciting guest speakers. Career development sessions, including APEX Certificate Core Sessions, are developed and facilitated in partnership with specific career educators from SFU?s Career & Volunteer Services. APEX/PDA Brown Bag seminar series brings in special guest speakers (some who are SFU faculty members, administrators, or external to SFU). Workshops focused on Knowledge Translation are facilitated by team in the Student Learning Commons, Research Commons, Teaching & Learning Centre and Graduate Studies office, plus occasional faculty members and student mentors.
How are the sessions promoted?Primarily online through our Graduate Studies Blog: Plus the graduate student?s Facebook group, and Email List serves. We occasionally produce flyers and brochures to advertise. Plus I attend student orientations and caucus meetings throughout the year to promote the programs.
How do participants register? (through a centralized system or a partner company)We use a registration system run through SFU?s Student Services ( )
Is there additional cost or fees for registrants?No. For Core Sessions we charge $25 for no-shows or failure to give 24 hours? notice (this reduces our no-show rate. We only have no-shows in emergency situations, and do not charge for those)

Statistic Information

How many sessions run each year?It varies by term. Last fall we ran two special events, 11 workshops, 9 Core Sessions and held seminars with 2 guest speakers. In spring we had one special event, 17 workshops, 8 Core Sessions and 3 seminars with guest speakers. Summer is always slowest, with 8 workshops, 4 Core Sessions and one seminar. These are APEX sessions. Other units such as the Research Commons, Teaching and Learning Centre, Career Services and Mitacs have their own registration system, although their sessions are advertised on the Just in Time Calendar.
How many staff members are involved in administering the central sessions?This varies. There is one administrator for the entire program. There are three facilitators in the APEX Certificate Program. There are more than 10 regular facilitators for other APEX workshops, plus we always bring in guest speakers.
What are the registration capacities and participation rates? (per each session, total enrolment, breakdown in number of students/ postdocs/alumni, breakdown by faculty etc.)Capacity varies depending on whether special event, seminar or workshop, depending on room size. Our special events usually have about 75 people in attendance. Seminars have 20 to 30 people. Workshops are always smaller, ranging anywhere from 6 attendees to 25.
How is participation in sessions tracked? Through our registration system, by soliciting a sign-in sheet from facilitators, or event registration at larger events.
Is there information available to measure the effectiveness of attending sessions and securing employment after graduation?We have this type of information for graduates of the APEX Certificate program. Although we have such employment information, we are not only measuring success through employment. Our goals are to increase participant?s awareness and confidence in their skills and abilities, decrease their anxiety about their next transition, and build optimism for the future, and better understand the value of their graduate degree. We gather information pertaining to these objectives of the program. We are lucky to also receive feedback from students who have successfully navigated their school to work transition.

Departmental Level

Do departments offer professional development programs internally? If so, which?Specific graduate programs do offer professional development seminars. For example, every year new graduate students in Gender, Sexuality and Women?s Studies (GSWS) attend a professional development seminar, to help with their fellowship applications, CV preparation, publishing, etc. There are many other departments who run these types of seminar programs.
Are there collaborative offerings between departments and the graduate professional development program office?Faculty members and departments do ask for assistance putting together professional development sessions for their students. Our office helps to refer them to the appropriate person and unit. Sometimes certain departments will help co-sponsor events for grad students, such as the Jennifer Polk talk last year: The Dean of Graduate Studies often funds departments to run their own innovative programming. This is not only related to professional development, but it can be. An example is here:

General Questions

Do you incorporate labor market information and outcomes into the development of specific components of graduate professional development programs? No. In our estimation, at this stage in graduate students and postdocs lives, they are not changing ûcareersË based on labour market information. The situation for advanced degree holders requires a more nuanced approach to career development than using labour market information. Labour market information might be useful as an entry point to employment for new wage earners, but not if you consider graduate students and postdocs to have amassed already several years of advanced training, specialized knowledge and transferable skills. There are other considerations that usually influence people?s career decisions, such as family considerations (ie. starting a family, caring for young ones, taking care of parents), location, and other influences.
Do you incorporate strategies for developing positive relationships with employers?Students often say they don?t know where to find non-academic work. We often host alumni panels and events to help bridge this gap, where students can learn from alum the types of organizations that exist that might be possibilities for them. Alum are a great resource to students thinking about their next step.
Is there any additional information you would like to share?Feel free to ask me any additional info as follow up. We could arrange a phone call.