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GradFUTURES Forum to highlight professional development for graduate students

Princeton University’s Graduate School will host its annual GradFUTURES Forum online from April 26-30, highlighting graduate student professional development and providing mentorship and resources that all master’s students and Ph.D. candidates can use as they explore diverse career opportunities.

The event, which will host more than 60 speakers from across academia and industry sharing their knowledge in 30-plus sessions, is free and open to the public.

“Our goal with this year’s Forum is to expose graduate students to diverse career options, provide practical advice, share inspirational stories, and facilitate connections and community,” said Eva Kubu, associate dean and director of professional development for Princeton’s Graduate School. “Amidst unprecedented changes to the economic landscape due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, there has never been a better time to accelerate our efforts to reimagine graduate student professional development.”

This year’s GradFUTURES Forum theme is “Broadening the Impact of the Ph.D. Within and Beyond the Academy: The Imperative of Graduate Student Professional Development.” Kubu said Princeton is delighted to welcome colleagues from other graduate institutions and to share this content as part of a national movement to expand graduate student-centric professional development and career diversity.

Among the many topics highlighted are:

  • Emerging industry and societal trends that may catalyze opportunities for the Ph.D.
  • Sharing by graduate students and Ph.D. alumni of ways they’ve navigated their unique professional development journeys across all disciplines.
  • Using real-time labor market data and alumni career outcomes to discover options, identify demand and make better-informed decisions.
  • Building a professional network and cultivating mentors both inside and outside the academy.
  • Skill-building workshops on ways to promote one’s research through podcasting and social media.
  • Discussions to enhance inclusive leadership, inclusive mentorship and inclusive innovation.
  • Overviews of experiential programs, including bespoke fellowships and opportunities for entrepreneurs.
  • Expert speakers from leading scholarly and professional associations discussing national initiatives to promote Ph.D. career diversity.

Featured speakers include Jessica Calarco, author of “A Field Guide to Grad School: Uncovering the Hidden Curriculum,” a comprehensive survival guide for graduate school; Sophal Ear, a 1997 Princeton graduate alumnus and renowned expert in political economy, diplomacy and international development, who will join James M. Van Wyck, assistant dean for professional development, in a conversation about navigating graduate school and the professoriate; Princeton’s Vice Dean of Innovation Rodney Priestley and Carol Barash, founder of Story2 and a 1989 Princeton Ph.D., who will discuss the University’s efforts to amplify and support innovation and entrepreneurship across the humanities; Matt Sigelman, a 1994 Princeton graduate and CEO of Burning Glass Technologies, who will provide an in-depth look at the Ph.D. labor market; and Anne-Marie Slaughter, CEO of New America, who will share her extensive and varied experience within and beyond academia in discussion with Kubu.

In 2020, its inaugural year, the GradFUTURES Forum attracted participants from 75 universities in 42 countries. The Forum is an outgrowth of Princeton’s GradFUTURES, a campus-wide collaborative initiative to integrate and expand professional development programs aimed at preparing students for life after earning a terminal master’s degree or Ph.D.

“The GradFUTURES Forum is designed to focus attention on questions that are central to the future of graduate education,” said Cole Crittenden, acting dean of the Graduate School. “What is the educational value of the very process of earning a Ph.D.? Can that value be increased, and, if so, should the ways of increasing it differ by academic discipline? Where do people with Ph.D.s work beyond the academy? And what is the actual added value of the Ph.D. — to individuals, to professions and to the larger society?”

Another highlight of the Forum will be a conversation between University Trustee Ann Kirschner and Paula Krebs, executive director of the Modern Language Association, to discuss the future of graduate education, the importance of professional development, and how doctoral education can develop students’ capacities to bring the expertise they acquire in advanced humanistic study to a wide range of fulfilling careers.

Kirschner, who earned her Ph.D. in English at Princeton in 1978 and currently serves as University Professor at the City University of New York, said alumni and professionals like herself have an important role to play in modeling career paths and providing mentorship for current graduate students.

“It’s time to redefine success for Ph.D.s,” Kirschner said. “In this moment of great transformation around careers and graduate education, GradFUTURES is providing graduate students with the skills, opportunities and mentors they need to diversify their professional prospects. I wish the programs and support provided by GradFUTURES existed when I was a graduate student.”

Princeton University graduate students, faculty and staff, as well as alumni and external guests, can register for individual GradFUTURES Forum sessions through the conference schedule page.