UT program teaches practical career skills:
Graduate 'citizen scholars' model gains attention

By Patrick Badgley
Daily Texan
July 14, 2000

The University's efforts to educate graduate students in practical areas outside their majors such as public speaking, writing and technology in education are gaining attention from other schools looking to follow the University's model.

With 13 classes that teach graduate students to become "citizen scholars," the UT Graduate School is educating those earning their masters' and doctorate degrees to have the overall competence to succeed in academia, the public sector and the private sector, said Richard Cherwitz, director of Graduate School's Professional Development Program.

Cherwitz said the goal of the program is to have students who participate become qualified for jobs in fields both inside and outside of the academic arena.

The program's mission and the actions that have made the University one of the first institutions to attempt a program of this kind have drawn attention from many media outlets and universities interested in mirroring the program, he said.

Cherwitz added that there is a large number of jobs available to graduate students, making a wide-range of abilities useful and appealing to potential employers.

"Think about people who get Ph.D.s," said Cherwitz, also associate dean in the Office of the Vice President and Dean of Graduate Studies. "They're going to do a lot of things, and they're going to have to use technology and adapt to audiences."

Russell Kitchner, associate director and manager of graduate student career services at the University of Notre Dame, said the strength of the UT program lies in Cherwitz's belief that doctorate students are capable of doing plenty of work outside of academics.

"What makes his project an exceptional one is the fundamental belief that Ph.D.s are not constrained to working in academia," Kitchner said.

Kitchner, who has visited the University to speak with Cherwitz to learn about the program, said many educators refer to positions outside teaching as "alternative careers," or careers that are unusual for those who receive doctorate degrees.

On Thursday, graduate students who participated in one of the 13 classes delivered presentations for their technology in professional and academics class. The presentations included computers, videos and slides to demonstrate certain biochemistry principles.

Ginger Gossman, a sociology doctorate student who gave a presentation, said the class was valuable because it allowed her to get an overview of several things needed for a successful technological presentation.

"People in the media lab were very instrumental in helping us learn how to use technology," Gossman said. "They didn't just ask us to get out of the way so they could take care of something."

In the next summer session, the graduate school will offer a class in academic and professional ethics. GSPD officials are also beginning an internship program in the spring that will put graduate students of several disciplines in places like nonprofit organizations and businesses in the public sector.

Cherwitz said the program will help students see how valuable work outside of academia can be.