Although it is seemingly a title granted to an individual graduate student, it is rather the product of a collective process where departmental resources and support and advisor-advisee relations play crucial roles. In this chapter, Katina L. Rogers seeks to tease out and offer various suggestions on how departments and advisors can best support their students in their future careers.
The author addresses the actions decision-makers should consider for systemic changes in the department to support their students. It includes providing an inclusive community, tracking the alumni and connecting them with the recent students, focusing on the ways of students’ professional development and revising the core curriculum of the department. First, the role of community building is critical so the departments should support the ongoing efforts of the institutions to support students’ career pathways. It includes the relationship between the current students and alumni for exchanging ideas and resources, bringing the experiences of PhD holders in the university and encouraging students to build their own community spaces within their cohort. Second, the departments can spend time and effort to bring the experiences of alumni into the lives of current graduate students to make sure students can see potential career trajectories. Third, professional development for grad students is not limited to research and teaching. It includes other skills that graduate students can potentially use in their career such as project management, public relationship, community building, time-management etc. They also should encourage students to focus on the ways in which students can address the general public when they present their research to the general audience. It enables them to see the potential impacts of their research not only in the academic space but also in the public space. Last but not least, departments need to consider their core curriculum course to provide opportunities for their students to gain experience in collaboration, team-management, public engagement etc. It includes bringing third parties, non-governmental organizations and other potential actors into the research so the graduate students can explore other potential venues for their future.
Although the availability of instructional resources in the form of formal professional training considerably contributes to the academic development of a graduate student, an effective mentoring relationship with their advisors brings more to the integration of the graduate student to the academic life than these formal institutional resources can deliver. Academia is substantiated upon tacit knowledge, and implicit expectations which are harder to be transformed into codified sets of principles. Socialization of the student into this space can be facilitated by the transfer of experience and guidance from the advisor who underwent similar processes and acquired necessary personal skills. Advisors should seek to know the life circumstances and purposes of their advisees as closely as possible, and they should not dictate their own criteria of success to their students. They need to build a trustworthy relationship and to turn their office into a safe space for the students to often come and unhesitatingly share their concerns and anxieties. Advisors should urge their students to be self-reflective about their needs and guide them to take advantage of available sources. This holistic support is key for the student who develops their academic identity and better navigates the academic space.
In conclusion, the author did an excellent analysis of the role of the advisor and department in the career pathways of their graduate students and provided useful suggestions. Advisors should provide a friendly relationship with their students to ensure they feel comfortable to ask for help and find their way. In addition to that individual connection, departments should build communities and revise curriculum materials to maximize the opportunities for their students when they search for potential careers.