How to succeed in business

New UND program preps graduate students for the private sector

Image courtesy of UND School of Graduate Studies.

Tenure-track jobs on campus are hard to come by these days, as every graduate student knows. But at the same time, businesses, nonprofits and government agencies alike value graduate students’ dedication and research skills.

A new program at UND will help the students shake hands with the industries and the agencies across that gap.

Accelerate to Industry (A2i) is a workforce development program that lets graduate students explore diverse career paths with the program’s industry partners. In addition, workshops and other training experiences help the students develop the business, leadership and communications skills that companies seek.

Developed at North Carolina State University, where the program is funded by a National Science Foundation grant, A2i now is being expanded to include a small number of campuses nationwide.

UND is one. And, it’s the site of the only A2i program in the upper Midwest.

“We are at the forefront,” said Chris Nelson, associate dean of the UND School of Graduate Studies.

“We’re part of the first cohort of 10 universities outside of North Carolina that are getting this training. Others include such schools as Virginia Tech, Ohio State and the University of Florida, so we’re in great company. But we’re the only university in our region to be implementing this program.”

A2i lets graduate students and postdocs bridge the gap between industry and academia by offering professional skills training, direct interaction with multiple industry partners, job search tips and strategies, industry site visits, and an “immersion” week with industry sponsors and seminars, Nelson said.

UND’s first offering through this partnership is an online A2i Industry Job Search Strategies summer session. This program, which will run from May 12 to June 22 and is being offered by North Carolina State, will give students the chance to attend four talks given by A2i’s industry experts and complete four interactive workshops.

There’s no cost for UND students to attend the online talks and workshops, though an RSVP is required. Students can attend as many of the events as they like. Details and more specifics are below.

Wanted: Communicators

A2i’s focus has been on graduate students in STEM fields. (As the Raleigh, N.C.-based News & Observer described it, “the program is something of a crash course in business for hard-core scientists who rarely make it out of their solitary world in the lab.”)

But graduate students in the humanities also are welcome, Nelson said.

“I want to include all programs that are interested and could benefit from this,” he said.

“During a site visit with Northrop Grumman a number of weeks ago, they pointed out that, yes, they always need engineers. They always need scientists.

“But they also need people who can write and can communicate. They need technical writers, they need marketing people, they need PR people. So, I want this to be available to help our humanities masters and Ph.D. students as well.”

The A2i program consists of a series of five modules, of which the Industry Job Search Strategies program is one. UND expects to start rolling out the other modules over the upcoming academic year. They include week-long Industry Immersion workshops, a semester-long team project called Industry Team Practicum, day-long Site Visits to various companies and Industry Internships of varying length.

At NC State, the Industry Immersion module brings executives to campus to lead sessions on topics such as leadership and teamwork, communicating with nontechnical audiences, and business strategy and commercialization.

“The different teaching modules taught us about intellectual property, market analysis and product development to better prepare us for industry jobs,” said Ph.D. candidate Kelsey Boes, who’s studying fiber and polymer science in N.C. State’s College of Textiles.

Furthermore, “the ‘elevator pitch’ is one of the most valuable things I learned,” said Boes. “It makes going to industry events much less intimidating and makes me more appealing in the job market.”

And as the Raleigh News & Observer story described, “corporate scientists at the immersion week told the students about the thrill of seeing their innovation move out of a lab or research paper and into production. ‘Then you’re hooked,’ said Seth Carruthers, global technology director of LORD Corp.,” a North Carolina-based tech and manufacturing firm.

In the fall, UND — along with the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. — is planning an Industry Forum to tell interested North Dakota and Minnesota companies about A2i.

How to register

Students who’d like to attend one or more of the summer workshops should complete this Qualtrics.com survey, specifying which talks and workshops they’d like to attend. Zoom links to each of the meeting times will be provided.

The A2i Job Search Strategies sessions are scheduled as follows:

• Tuesday, May 12, 10-11 a.m.
“Navigating the Industrial Highway: One Scientists Road Trip”
Dawn Mason Ph.D., External Innovation Manager, Eastman Chemical Co., Kingsport, Tenn.

• Monday, May 18, 1:30-2:30 p.m.
Interactive Workshop “Visualizing your Career: Designing a Path Forward”
Joe Aldinger Ph.D., Director of A2i, NC State

• Wednesday, May 20, 1:30-2:30 p.m.
“Building a Blueprint for Career Fairs”
Taylor Carey, mechanical engineer, CRB, Raleigh, N.C.

• Wednesday, May 27, 1:30-2:30 p.m.
Interactive Workshop “Visual Design: Building Tailored Resumes”
Joe Aldinger Ph.D., Director of A2i, NC State

• Wednesday, June 3, 2-3 p.m.
“From the Lab to Leadership: Building Your Academic Career into One in the Boardroom”
Jim Fahey Ph.D., CEO, HZO, Morrisville, N.C.

• Monday, June 8, 1-2 p.m.
“Making the Jump from Academia to Industry: Know Yourself, Educate Yourself, Sell Yourself”
Rebecca Davis Ph.D., Senior Laboratory Project Services Coordinator, Q2 Solutions (EA Genomics), Morrisville, N.C.

• Wednesday, June 10, 1:30-2:30 p.m.
Interactive Workshop “Making Connections: Information Interviews and Networking”
Joe Aldinger PhD, Director of A2i, NC State

• Monday, June 15, 1:30-2:30 p.m.
Interactive Workshop “Negotiating First Offers”
Joe Aldinger PhD, Director of A2i, NC State

• Monday, June 22, 2-3 p.m.
Panel of Human Resource Professionals: “Answering the Tough Question: Salary Required?”
Amanda Callahan, University Recruiter Advisor, BASF, Clinton, N.J.
David Gilbert, Executive VP of HR, HZO, Morrisville, N.C.