Graduate students and postdocs now have a central go-to resource to help them explore how their studies can prepare them for career paths, both within and beyond academia. The festive ribbon-cutting celebration held on October 21 at the Center for Graduate Professional Services — GPS Center, for short — pointed the way to career preparation activities that graduate students and postdocs can integrate into every stage of their degree progress.
Graduate Division Dean Fiona Doyle welcomed students, postdocs, faculty, and staff to the new multi-purpose room in 309 Sproul Hall. The GPS Center offers precious space — at no charge — for closer collaboration among existing and emerging campus initiatives to develop skills, competencies, and approaches that will help advanced degree-holders succeed in whatever careers they choose.
Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost Claude Steele noted that “uncertainties about academic job prospects — about job markets overall — make it more important than ever for graduate students to prepare for multiple career possibilities. Our responsibilities are not just to educate master’s and doctoral students in the present; it is also to help them prepare for careers they will pursue after they have completed their degrees.”
To that end, GPS collaborates with graduate program faculty, student groups, and staff networks to offer programs and workshops that help graduate students and postdocs navigate the landscape of potential career paths, set and achieve professional development goals, and direct their skills to a variety of careers both within and beyond academia.
A Graduate Division survey of Ph.D. alumni over 40 years showed that many students, particularly those in sciences and engineering, have for many years chosen careers outside of academia. And in the humanities and social sciences, even though most have assumed positions as faculty in higher education, many have taken different paths.
The GPS initiative is an outgrowth of a Task Force on Graduate Student and Postdoc Professional Development, co-convened by the Graduate Division and the Graduate Assembly. Its subsequent report recommended expansion of professional development programs.
Aaron Smyth, a Ph.D. candidate in the Jurisprudence and Social Policy program, became involved in the project as a Graduate Assembly representative early on. He praised the productive partnership of the administration and students in addressing a need of real concern to students.
Erica Lee, a Ph.D. candidate in History and an organizer of the annual Beyond Academia career exploration conference, highlighted a theme of the occasion: “Berkeley Ph.D.s are invariably bright, dedicated individuals who do a lot of heavy lifting of research and teaching. It’s in the interest of society to have knowledgeable, thoughtful workers out in the world to question assumptions and develop new ideas — exactly what Ph.D.s are trained to do. Ph.D.s can bridge knowledge gaps among industries and institutions, applying their know-how to the world beyond the university.”
Provost Steele echoed this in saying “there are few areas of worthwhile endeavor that have not benefitted from the energies and ingenuity of Berkeley graduate alumni working in California, across the nation, and around the world. Berkeley trains not only future faculty but future leaders in every field of importance.”
Graduate Professional Services builds on longstanding Graduate Division professional development programs, including the Graduate Writing Center (formerly Academic Services), the GSI Teaching & Resource Center, the Summer Institute for Preparing Future Faculty, and Student Mentoring and Research Teams (SMART).
Berkeley Ph.D. alumna Linda von Hoene has expanded her portfolio within the Graduate Division to serve as Assistant Dean for Professional Development. A search is underway for a Graduate Student Professional Development Resource Coordinator who will be a point person for connecting students to professional development events, programs, and resources.
GPS partners include the Graduate Assembly, the Career Center, the Visiting Scholars and Postdoctoral Scholars Association, academic departments and programs, and student networks.