Graduate Students Gain New Skills through Business Foundations Series

Participants in the Business Foundation Series

Since the Graduate School Office of Professional Development (OPD) introduced its “Business Foundations Series for Scientists and Engineers” in 2014, this initiative has secured its place as one of the office’s most popular—and innovative—programs. Earlier this summer, OPD offered the free, eight-week “Business Foundations Series” (BFS) for the fourth time in the past six years to pursue a key goal: enhancing career options for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) graduate students and postdoctoral researchers. 50 members of the academic community, including representatives of five UMass colleges and eighteen degree programs, were selected to take advantage of this unique opportunity to supplement their scientific and technical expertise with fundamental business skills and knowledge.

Collaboratively designed by the Graduate School and the acclaimed Isenberg School of Management, the BFS is taught by a team of Isenberg faculty members, with instructors rotating on a weekly basis according to topic and their area of expertise. Collectively, the Isenberg team provides more than 60 hours of interactive, in-person instruction in marketing, leadership, accounting and finance, project management, operations management, negotiation, organizational strategy, and business intelligence. 

Because the BFS is one of only a few such initiatives nationwide, it plays an important role in differentiating UMass job applicants from their peers at other research institutions.  “STEM graduates eager to apply their research talents to new organizations can be caught off guard by an unanticipated challenge--the frequent need to use business principles and strategies in their daily work environments," says Shana Passonno, director of the Office of Professional Development and a ten-year veteran of the biopharma industry. Our ‘Business Foundations Series’ helps trainees clear this hurdle, better preparing them to manage and lead teams, communicate effectively with the business-side of organizations, formulate strategic business goals, and make informed business decisions. These skills are highly valued by employers in academia, industry, government, and non-profits.”

Participants in the BFS share Passonno’s enthusiasm for the program. “Evaluations of this latest version of the series have been universally positive--exactly as they have been since its inception,” she says. “Students routinely praise the outstanding presentations by Isenberg faculty, the opportunity to interact with engaged researchers from a variety of disciplines, and the enormous amount of professional skill development that is facilitated by the series. As our students attest, participating in this program is an inspirational—and sometimes even a transformative—experience.