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SIPS grad students and post-docs attend professional skills workshop

-Magdalen Lindeberg

What is your life mission? Do you have the skills to achieve your long term goals? Are you making time to work on tasks that are important but not urgent?  These are some of the questions posed by Carolee Bull during the “How to be your own best mentor” workshop attended by SIPS graduate students and postdocs on Tuesday, October 10.

Bull, Chair of the Department of Plant Pathology and Environmental Microbiology at Penn State University, has been leading mentoring workshops for the past decade. Part of her motivation is to help scientists of all ages identify and navigate career paths where they can best apply their interests, talents, and experiences.  The public invests heavily in graduate education and students are best positioned to meaningfully give back when they take time to identify personal goals and develop the skills to achieve them.

During the workshop students discussed the hallmarks of good mentors and developed short personal mission statements based on answers to a series of prompts about sources of meaning in their lives.  The second part of the workshop focused on determining whether one’s work is aligned with personal goals and what tools are required to achieve that next step.  Bull makes use of the time management grid popularized by Stephen Covey, drawing particular attention to the “Important but not urgent” tasks which we so often neglect.  Whether these are specific scientific or professional skills, rejuvinating leisure activities, or time devoted to thinking, reading, and writing, Bull urged workshop attendees to deliberately schedule time to address these.

Bull’s involvement in mentoring instruction began with a workshop offered by the Annual Phytopathological Society and has since expanded – she now leads more in-depth workshops for students and staff at Penn State and has trained others to be workshop facilitators.

Those attending Tuesday’s workshop expressed enthusiasm for the topics that were covered. Annie Kruse, graduate student in Plant Pathology and Plant-Microbe Biology appreciated the opportunity to draft a personal mission statement and think about strategies for improving time management. Workshop attendees also conducted a self-assessment of scientific and professional skills which Kruse found “extremely tangible and helpful”.  Post-doctoral associate Bryan Emmett and graduate student Penelope Lindsay both cited the value of prioritizing areas for personal and professional development.

A growing recognition of the importance of professional skill development for students at all levels has spurred creation of the CALS Leadership Minor administered by the School of Integrative Plant Science.

Read More: Mentoring Up and Down the Ladder of Success

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