Award-winning A2i program preps grad students for workforce and introduces them to wide range of employers and careers
If you’re a reader of UND Today, you’re familiar with the Chronicle of Higher Education, the national newspaper covering U.S. colleges and universities. That means you’re familiar with headlines such as this one, from March 30: “Job cuts and stagnant salaries.”
The story is only the latest in a long litany of tales about the tough-and-getting-tougher job market for college faculty.
What’s a graduate student to do?
Here’s one answer:
Check out A2i, the program at UND that’s now actively helping graduate students from all disciplines embark on rewarding careers.
A2i stands for Accelerate to Industry. Created by the Graduate School of North Carolina State University, A2i is meant to help graduate students, postdoctoral scholars and graduate alumni explore careers in industry and government.
Because while academic opportunities for PhDs in most fields are scarce, other employers are eager to hire doctoral- and master’s-degree holders with the right skills. Take it from Nancy Nelson, employer relations and systems coordinator for UND Career Services, and an A2i fan:
“We just had a U.S. intelligence agency speak with us,” Nelson said. “Their message was, ‘We have a job for every major.’ And if they do, other organizations do, too.”
What’s more, the people whom the employers are looking for are the ones who have the business, leadership, and communication skills that A2i focuses on, Nelson added. “That’s what makes this program so valuable, and why I’d really encourage graduate students to take part,” she said.
A2i’s goal is to program give students the knowledge, skills, and abilities they’ll need to establish long-term professional success. That happens through workshops, panel discussions, presentations, networking events and team projects, all of them designed to boost awareness of private- and public-sector careers and develop key competencies highly valued by employers.
In February, A2i won the Blackburn Award from the American Association of University Administrators. The Blackburn Award recognizes outstanding programs that offer creative solutions to common problems in higher education and is the Association’s highest honor.
At UND, A2i got its start when it caught the eye of Chris Nelson, associate dean of the University’s School of Graduate Studies. COVID forced a delay in UND’s first round of A2i workshops, which were scheduled for last summer.
But UND’s A2i program rescheduled its workshops for this spring of this year, and the program recently completed its first module: an eight-week series of seminars on job-search strategies for graduate students.
For one of the seminars, Northrop Grumman’s lead systems engineer talked about “Transitioning from Academia to Industry.” For another, the president and CEO of Minnkota Power told participants about “Leadership and Risk Management.”