Graduate Student Professional Development: A Case Study

in HortTechnology

Graduate students within the Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences Department at the University of Hawaii at Manoa developed a program that addressed their concerns regarding career enhancement and planned a Professional Development Seminar Series. Students identified topics related to enhancing their overall graduate experience and professional development, such as ethics in research, leadership in graduate school and beyond, interviewing skills, and writing critically for publications. Experts from the University of Hawaii and business communities presented 35- to 40-minute seminars on the various topics. Expectations of the students included participation in discussion sessions and completion of a critical thinking exercise after each presentation. Course evaluations revealed that the new seminar series was considered to be as effective as established courses within the department. On a scale from 1 = strongly disagree to 5 = strongly agree, students learned to value new viewpoints [4.2 ± 0.8 (mean ± SD)], related what they learned in class to their own experiences (4.5 ± 0.8), and felt the course was a valuable contribution to their education (4.4 ± 0.9). Students suggested offering the course during fall semesters to incoming students, reinforcing of the critical thinking exercise, and making the course mandatory for first-year graduate students.

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