Program boosts life skills

by Chris Oliver
Daily Texan Staff
Published: June 21, 1999

A program geared to prepare graduate students for a professional career will continue growing after completing its first successful year, according to officials involved with the program.

The Professional Development program began in the fall of 1998 with the intention of training graduate students to apply the skills they have developed in their academic careers to the professional world and to allow them to interact with students from other disciplines.

Richard Cherwitz, associate dean of graduate studies, said he originally created these courses for graduate students likely to enter the professional world because they have a difficult time finding a teaching job after finishing their degrees.

"We weren't doing anything to prepare these students for reality," Cherwitz said.

He said one of the program's payoffs is that it helps the University compete with other highly ranked schools -- like the University of California at Berkeley and the University of Michigan -- for high-quality graduate students, adding that the program is one-of-a-kind among these schools.

Joylynn Reed, coordinator and member of the program's permanent teaching staff, said the program tries to illustrate the connection between academic and professional communication.

"These classes are broad enough to show students their skills transcend both the academic and the professional environments," Reed said.

Cherwitz added that the skills students acquire in these classes are intended to supplement and enhance what they are learning in their chosen field of study.

The program is composed of 13 courses that teach ethics, technology and communication in the professional world.

The classes are designed for both English- and non-English-speaking students.

Incheol Min, a doctoral student in journalism, said he was drawn to the program because it would help him prepare presentations necessary to complete his degree.

"They help me remove errors in my speeches, and to better express my opinion in English," he said.

He said another benefit of the program was the opportunity to meet students in other departments.

Reed said another goal of the program is to allow students from different backgrounds to learn from one another and develop a different perspective.

"Some classes would have one student in neurology and another in French who would normally never have contact with each other," she said.

Cherwitz created the program in the summer of 1997. Initially the program acted as an internship, placing students in local schools, such as Austin Community College.

The success of the internship led to three pilot courses offered in the summer of 1998, and the program was then expanded to 13 courses in the fall semester.

"Students have told me this is what their ideal of grad school should be," he said.