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Office of Professional Development Events

The Office of Professional Development (OPD) positions graduate students and postdoctoral researchers for success in their careers at UMass and beyond. Building upon the academic and technical expertise of the scholars we serve, OPD provides professional skills training to cultivate strengths in the areas of career preparation, communication, grants and fellowships, personal development, and teaching. Our extensive programming—created in collaboration with a far-reaching network of partners—prepares participants to thrive in academia, industry, government, and the non-profit sector.

Upcoming events are described below, but check out the full program for September (organized by competency)! Check back often, as events are continually added and updated. To contact us please call 413-545-6001 or email opd@grad.umass.edu.

Postdocs are encouraged to take advantage of a special professional development grant to support career advancement. 

Grants and Fellowships

NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Application Strategies
Thursday, August 30th - 12:00-1:15pm 
S330 Life Science Laboratories
A three year award that provides an annual stipend of $34,000, the NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) is one of the most prestigious awards for early-career STEM and social science graduate students. Our panel will share tips for crafting compelling proposals, offer insight on what reviewers look for, and outline UMASS resources to help you prepare your application. Eligibility information for the GRFP may be found on the program’s website (https://www.nsfgrfp.org/). Co-sponsored by ISSR. Pre-registration required. 
 
Can't attend the August 30th session? This event will be repeated, register here
  • Thursday, September 6th - 11:30am-12:45pm, 165-69 Campus Center
  • Friday, September 7th - 10:00-11:15am, 165-69 Campus Center
  • Wednesday, September 12th - 2:30-3:45pm, S330 Life Science Laboratories
 
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Series: Creating an Application Timeline
Thursday, September 13th – 10:00-11:00am
528 Goodell
Trained NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Mentors have organized this series to support students preparing NSF GRFP applications. Mentors, all former NSF GRFP recipients, will lead sessions that focus on elements of a competitive application; this session will focus on drafting an application to-do list and designing a timeline to keep you on track for an on-time submission. Pre-registration required. 
 
Asking for Grant or Fellowship Letters of Recommendation
Thursday, September 13th - 2:45-3:30pm 
538 Goodell
Letters of recommendation are a critical part of grant or fellowship application, as letters can reveal qualities that don’t show up on transcripts or in application essays. This session will help you strategize how to choose letter writers and provide tips on when and how to ask for letters (spoiler: ask early!). Pre-registration required. 
 
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Series: Personal, Previous Research & Future Goals Statement
Friday, September 14th - 12:00-1:00pm 
145 Integrated Science Building
Trained NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Mentors have organized this series to support students preparing NSF GRFP applications. Mentors, all former NSF GRFP recipients, will lead sessions that focus on elements of a competitive application; this session will focus on crafting a compelling Personal, Previous Research & Future Goals Statement. Bring your lunch; dessert provided. Pre-registration required.
 
Grant Series Part I: Funding Search Strategies
Friday, September 14th - 2:30-3:45pm 
OR
Tuesday, September 18th - 2:30-3:45pm
538 Goodell
Need external funding to support your research? Get started by learning about basic tools available to UMass graduate students and postdocs to help find grants and fellowships. We’ll also discuss tips to manage your funding search. This is the first in a three-part series—come to one event or all three! Pre-registration required.
 
Grant and Fellowship Peer Review Session
Tuesday, September 18th - 11:30am-1:00pm 
538 Goodell
Soliciting feedback on a draft of your funding proposal is critical but not always easy. Our peer review session will provide a low-stakes opportunity to receive high-impact feedback. In addition, evaluating a peer’s application will provide new perspective on your application and help strengthen your own writing. A pizza lunch is provided. Pre-registration required; further instructions will be emailed upon registration.
 
Funding Search Strategies for Graduate Students of Color
Thursday, September 20th - 12:00-1:30pm 
538 Goodell
This event will provide tips and tools to effectively search for national fellowship programs designed to support graduate students of color. We’ll also discuss how to craft a compelling personal statement, which is often a required application component. Co-sponsored by the Graduate Students of Color Association and the ISSR. A pizza lunch is provided. Pre-registration required. 
 
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Series: Cultivating Strong Relationships with Faculty
Thursday, September 20th - 2:30-3:30pm 
538 Goodell
Trained NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Mentors have organized this series to support students preparing NSF GRFP applications. Mentors, all former NSF GRFP recipients, will lead sessions that focus on elements of a competitive application; this session will focus on soliciting letters of recommendation from faculty, seeking faculty feedback on your proposal draft, and using the application process to network with faculty. Pre-registration required.
 
Grant Series Part II: Framing & Writing the Proposal
Friday, September 21st - 2:30-4:00pm  
538 Goodell
A successful grant proposal requires good ideas that are organized well. This session will outline various application elements, provide tips to craft a clear, cohesive proposal, and discuss common reasons proposals fail. This is the second offering in a three-part series—come to one event or all three! Pre-registration required. 
 
Funding Search Strategies for International Students & Postdocs
Tuesday, September 25th - 11:30am-1:00pm 
165-69 Campus Center
Many external grants and fellowships are restricted to US citizens or permanent residents, posing a challenge for international graduate students and postdocs. This session will offer strategies to help international students and postdocs search for external funding and understand related visa requirements. A pizza lunch is provided. Co-sponsored by the International Programs Office. Pre-registration required.
 
NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Series: Research Statements
Tuesday, September 25th - 11:30am-12:30pm 
145 Integrated Science Building
Trained NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Mentors have organized this series to support students preparing NSF Graduate Research Fellowship Program (GRFP) applications. Mentors, all former NSF GRFP recipients, will lead sessions that focus on elements of a competitive application; this session will focus on refining your Research Statement, often the most challenging aspect of the application. Bring your lunch; dessert provided. Pre-registration required.
 
Grant and Fellowship Peer Review Session
Wednesday, September 26th - 2:30-4:00pm 
538 Goodell
Soliciting feedback on a draft of your funding proposal is critical but not always easy. Our peer review session will provide a low-stakes opportunity to receive high-impact feedback. In addition, evaluating a peer’s application will provide new perspective on your application and help strengthen your own writing. Pre-registration required; further instructions will be emailed upon registration.
 
Writing Competitive Personal Statements
Thursday, September 27th - 2:30-3:30pm 
538 Goodell
What do fellowship reviewers want to learn from personal statements? How do personal statements differ from research proposals? And what’s too personal? This session will help demystify the personal statement and provide tips for framing, writing, and revising a winning essay. Pre-registration required. 
 

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Communication

Writing Session Clinic: Being More Efficient in Less Time
Monday, September 17th - 10:15-11:30am   
538 Goodell
Does it feel like if you don’t have three hours to write, there’s no point trying? When you do sit down, does it take you forever to get going? When do you get going, is it hard to stop? This workshop presents writing habits that can help make even thirty minutes productive. Then, instead of talking about them--we'll DO them. We call this a "clinic" because we will practice the act of the individual writing session together, giving you an experience you can replicate on your own. Bring something you need to do (best if it is related to your academic work and can be done quietly in a group setting). Pre-registration required.
 
Building a Support Network that Works: Starting Writing Groups & Using the Writing Center
Monday, September 24th - 12:00-1:15pm
538 Goodell 
Research shows that a writing-support network produces efficient and productive writers, as it provides the structure, support, and accountability most graduate students need to meet both short- and long-term writing goals. Whether you’re looking to build a writing community, create accountability among peers, edit sentences, or work with a writing coach, this workshop explores the different forms of writing support offered by a writing group and The Writing Center. Please feel free to bring your lunch; snacks will be provided. Pre-registration required.  
 
How to Navigate American Academic GenresThursday, September 27th - 11:30am-12:45pm
538 Goodell 
Have you ever felt like you don’t know the rules of academic writing? This workshop will address U.S. academic genre expectations for writing: how to figure out how they work and how to tailor your writing across genres. Participants will be guided through activities to identify and write to genre expectations within a field and identify resources on and off-campus to help with writing. Please bring a sample of writing from your field (these could be in book, hard copy, online, or a device). Please feel free to bring your lunch; snacks will be provided. Pre-registration required.  
 

Teaching

Leading Effective Discussions
Monday, September 17th - 12:30-1:30pm
538 Goodell
Are you leading a discussion section this semester? Teaching a discussion-based class involves striking a balance between directing a discussion and letting it go where students want to take it. And what if no one talks?! This interactive workshop will provide an opportunity to review strategies instructors can use to stimulate active discussion in the classroom. Please feel free to bring your lunch; snacks will be provided. Pre-registration required.
 
Decoding UMass Student Culture (International Scholars Forum )
Monday, September 24th - 2:30-3:45pm
301 Goodell
What do your students expect from you and your class? How might these expectations differ from what you experienced as a student or from what you expect from your students as an instructor or lab leader? This interactive discussion will provide you with an opportunity to explore those expectations and help you to brainstorm ways to create supportive relationships so that both you and your students feel comfortable in the classroom. Join us to build community with other international faculty, postdocs, and grad students! Co-sponsored by TEFD. Pre-registration required .
 
 

Career Preparation

Resume Basics for the Non-Academic Job
Thursday, September 13th – 10:00-11:30am
538 Goodell
This session will talk about the differences between a CV and a resume, help you understand how employers screen resumes, and provide tips for making yours stand out. Pre-registration required.
 
The Teaching Statement (and the Academic Cover Letter)
Monday, September 17th - 2:30-3:45pm
538 Goodell
This workshop will address how to talk about teaching on the academic job market. What are search committees looking for? How can you stand out? In this workshop, participants will draft language about teaching that is suitable for all facets of the academic application, including the teaching statement, cover letter, and in interviews. Pre-registration required.
 
Career Conversations: Dr. Courtney Andree, Marketing Manager of the University of Massachusetts Press
Friday, September 21st - 12:30-1:30pm
601 Herter Hall
Dr. Courtney Andree (PhD English) will talk about her recent transition from academia to her current job as Marketing Manager of the UMass Press. In this informal discussion, she will share the pitfalls and joys of transitioning from academia into a career in publishing and give advice for those interested in pursuing a similar kind of career. Pizza lunch will be served. Pre-registration required.
 
How to Demonstrate “Fit” on the Academic Job Market
Tuesday, September 25th - 1:00-2:15pm
538 Goodell
Hundreds of job ads looking for an “Assistant Professor” will soon be flooding the internet and, as an applicant, you are faced with interpreting vague job descriptions and scrolling through college websites in hopes of finding something to help your application stand out from the pack. Learn to tailor your application in this workshop! We will look at how certain words in job ads carry important information and how these minor differences should change your application – especially the cover letter. Pre-registration required.
 
Academic Job Documents Writing Party
Tuesday, September 25th - 2:30-4:30pm
538 Goodell
Submitting a faculty job application soon? Have your eye on an October 1 deadline? Come write in our quiet space with access to coffee and snacks. Drop-in when you can! You will also have the option to ask questions or receive feedback on your drafts throughout the afternoon. Pre-registration required.
 
Teaching at Teaching Intensive Institutions Conference 
Friday , September 28th - 9:00am-3:00pm 
Westfield State University, Scanlon Hall, Westfield, MA
Many faculty enjoy rewarding careers at colleges and universities that primarily emphasize teaching, including liberal arts colleges, community colleges, and regional comprehensive universities. This free one-day regional conference brings together graduate students, postdocs, and faculty to discuss what it’s like to work at teaching intensive institutions and how to apply for these faculty positions. Graduate students and postdocs will engage with faculty and deans from a range of teaching-intensive institutions across the New England region through a series of talks, panel presentations, and networking opportunities. View the flyer and register here (graduate students and postdocs will may sign up for complimentary bus transportation from UMass to Westfield State - first come first served!). 

 

Personal Development

Email Basics: An Intro to Best Practices
Thursday, September 20th - 10:00-11:00am 
538 Goodell
Why do some emails seem to get the response you want while others fall flat? Do you struggle to write clear and concise emails? This session will offer tips for communicating effectively through email. Pre-registration required.
 
How to Interact with Seminar Speakers and Make a Good Impression
Friday, September 28th - 1:30-2:30pm 
538 Goodell 
Departments frequently host faculty and visiting scholars for seminars and talks. You are busy – why should you care? Remember, it’s a small world and you never know how these guests might be able to help you in the future, even when your research feels distant. This session will talk about how to prepare, make a positive impression, and establish meaningful connections with guest speakers. Pre-registration required.