Inclusive Excellence in Quals Prep Program

About the Inclusive Excellence in Quals Prep Program

The Inclusive Excellence in Quals Preparation (IEQP) program aims to prepare graduate students for their qualifying exam by building a sense of community, providing a support system, and creating an environment where students feel valued and capable of achieving their goals.

Program Components

In 2015, the National Science Foundation Alliance for Graduate Education and the Professoriate (NSF AGEP) California Alliance conducted a wide-ranging survey of graduate students across STEM. (Fisher et al., 2019) The goal was to pinpoint ways to improve the success of PhD students, and eventually increase diversity in STEM leadership positions. Survey results showed that minority students, who felt less prepared than their peers, were most likely to excell if they felt that they were prepared for their graduate courses, accepted by their colleagues, and enrolled in a structured PhD program. Furthermore, authors found that feeling accepted in STEM mitigates feelings of distress, and leads to higher perceived success and higher subjective well-being.

The IEQP Program will prepare students for success in graduate school and beyond by helping them prepare for their qualifying exam and building a community of support.

  • To pair every student with a mentor that will support them as they prepare for the qualifying exam.
  • To create a sense of community among the students.
  • To help students cope with imposter syndrome and learn resilience building techniques that will help them through graduate school.
  • To ensure every student is satisfied with their preparation at the time of taking their qualifying exam.
  • To strengthen students’ time management, writing, editing, and presentation skills.
  • To contribute to the retention of graduate students from groups minoritized in STEM.

This program provides community-building and training activities for a cohort of Ph.D. student mentees preparing for their qualifying exams in the spring of their second year. In 2023-2024, students from the Molecular and Cell Biology, Plant and Microbial Biology, and Neuroscience doctoral programs will be eligible. Each mentee will have a personal senior Ph.D. student mentor and will participate in a full semester of academic and social programming.

Participants practice writing proposals, giving talks, and fielding questions, as well as wellness/mental health tools. They do a full two-hour practice qualifying exam, in private but with senior graduate students and postdocs role-playing as committee members. Meanwhile, social events with mentees and senior Ph.D. student mentors will include one-on-one coffee hours and a group culminating celebration at the end of the semester.

Program meetings for participants will be at noon on Thursdays and include lunch. The curriculum for this year:

  • Jan 25, noon  Kickoff
  • Feb 1, noon  Practicing elevator pitch 1: intro
  • Feb 8, noon  Papers & premise
  • Feb 15, noon  Practicing elevator pitch 2: using the board
  • Feb 22, noon  Wellness best practices with Dragonfly Mental Health
  • Feb 29, noon  Writing Specific Aims page
  • Mar 7, noon  Practicing Aim 1 pitch + Q&A
  • Mar 14, noon  Practicing Aim 2 pitch + Q&A
  • Mar 21, noon  Practicing Aim 3 pitch + Q&A
  • Week of Mar 28  Meet 1 on 1 with faculty directors
  • Week of Apr 4   2-hour practice qual exams
  • Week of Apr 11  2-hour practice qual exams
  • May 2, noon  Culmination party!

Faculty directors for the Inclusive Excellence in Quals Preparation are Diana Bautista (MCB) and Rachel Brem (PMB).