Dean’s Corner: Honing Your Communication Skills

MedeirosIn the past, I discussed the concept of transferable or “soft” skills that graduate students
should develop to enhance their employment prospects.  Such skills can be found on our web page under “Career Services.”  One key skill that many graduate students should achieve is communication.  Communication may be written or oral, as well as technical or non-technical.  Here at UMKC in the coming year, we will launch the new Graduate Student Writing Center; the main activity will be in the Atterbury Student Success Center.  The School of Graduate Studies will be supplying computers and software to help students write theses, dissertations, manuscripts and other writing.  Lockers will also be available for their use.  We anticipate that next spring a graduate assistant will also be hired to help tutor students.  Added to this initiative is that the faculty of the newly created Emeritus College will also be acting as reviewers or consultants to students who have a need in writing.  Students need to take advantage of this resource as Emeriti Faculty bring years of writing experience and mentoring of graduate students.

Another dimension of communication is oral.  In this context, we again have technical communication and non-technical communication.  Many graduate students learn to talk about their research and communicate their work to peer audiences.  Lacking is the ability to communicate to audiences outside one’s field.  The Council of Graduate Schools is embarking on a program that has already begun to spread on campuses throughout the world, called the “3-minute thesis.”  This concept was developed by the University of Queensland in Australia and is basically training students to present their work in three minutes or less.  Only one slide is allowed and it must be fixed in place.  Communication of your work is important for future support of graduate education.   Think about how you would explain your work to a legislator or a member of your family – in a way that is understandable.  While you may think this is easy, it is not.  Often researchers, particularly graduate students, believe that every detail of their work is important.  The big picture is needed and the ability to do storytelling is a skill to hone for explaining your research to others.  At UMKC we plan to launch a contest where students will be invited to explain their work in three minutes or less.  You can Google “3 minute thesis” online and download videos of actual presentations in this area.  I encourage them to look for these examples and ask themself, “Can I summarize my research in a non-technical manner in three minutes or less?”

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Important Dates to Remember for Summer 2015

Friday, June 19          Last day to file for graduation

Thursday, July 2       Deadline to submit thesis/dissertation to SGS for format review

Friday, July 3             UMKC closed for Independence Day holiday

Friday, July 31           Deadline to defend for summer graduation

Friday, August 14     Deadline to upload thesis/dissertation to ProQuest for summer graduation

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Popular theses and dissertations from UMKC alumni Each month, ProQuest creates a list of the top 25 most-accessed dissertations and theses, based upon PDF downloads. Recent UMKC alumni on the lists: #15 in March 2015: Sz-De Yu, 2005, M.S. “The … Continue reading

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SGS Employee Spotlight: Dr. Lora Lacey-Haun

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Dr. Lora Lacey-Haun has been with UMKC for approximately 33 years. She has done classroom teaching, clinical teaching, administrative work, and was Dean in the School of Nursing and Health Studies until her retirement in 2012. She worked as Associate … Continue reading

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SGS Intern: Elizabeth Brown

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Elizabeth Brown, a master’s student in Higher Education Administration, is a summer intern in the School of Graduate Studies. She handles the department’s social media and event promotions, assists in advising the Doctoral Student Council and in assessment analysis, and … Continue reading

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Faculty Spotlight: William Gutheil

Dr. William Gutheil has been with UMKC’s School of Pharmacy since 2000. He is an Associate Professor in Pharmaceutical Sciences, and he earned tenure in 2004. Some of Dr. Gutheil’s achievements while at UMKC include: a $235,000 grant used to … Continue reading

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Current Student Spotlight: Hessamoddin Sarooghi

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Hessamoddin Sarooghi, Ph.D. student in Entrepreneurship and Innovation, has passed his comprehensive exams and is currently working on his dissertation proposal to defend next month. “Besides this I have been involved in doing research and teaching,” he said. “From the … Continue reading

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Alumna Spotlight: Dr. Amy Owen

Dr. Amy Owen earned her Ph.D. in Nursing recently in Spring 2015. “I have already completed a poster presentation and am working toward my second publication,” she said. “I have also secured a teaching position that will allow me continue … Continue reading

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Dean’s Corner: SGS Writing Initiative

A key skill important for succeeding in graduate school and in your career is mastering your writing skills. Those who learn to write in a clear and concise, well-organized manner, to appropriately cite sources according to the requirements of their fields, and to develop a unique writer’s voice have a strong advantage in succeeding in graduate school and their careers.

Recently, Dr. Jennifer Friend, Assistant Dean, led a study to identify specific issues and writing resources for UMKC graduate students.  Surveys and focus groups of graduate students and graduate faculty were part of the study.  More than 500 graduate students and 142 faculty members provided feedback. We learned much from the feedback from these groups. Students and faculty provided suggestions as to what we as a University can do to help them with their writing, especially those writing a thesis or dissertation, but not exclusive to only these students.

A dedicated space for graduate student writing activities was a consistent theme obtained.  Short courses, online tutorials, writing retreats and individual mentoring by skilled staff and faculty were some of the suggestions made.

A graduate student writing advisory committee has been formed to direct initiatives to enhance graduate student writing resources.  To some extent this group parallels the undergraduate writing committee.  The committee is composed of faculty, students, librarians and the Director of the UMKC Writing Studio.

Discussions with Director Thomas Ferrel of the Writing Studio led to an agreement to have dedicated space for graduate students in the Atterbury Student Success Center. Dedicated computers for graduate student writing, software for data analysis and scholarly writing, tables, and secure storage are planned to be added to the Writing Studio. Graduate students will be able to reserve time to work at the Writing Studio computer stations.  One activity to help bring this project to a fruition, is a crowd funding initiative to begin in February 2015 to raise $6,000 to implement this plan.  Faculty and students will see an announcement of this initiative shortly.

Another important resource we have proposed is a partnership with the Emeritus College where there are scores of retired faculty members who have a lifetime of experience in directing student writing. Emeriti Faculty will be invited to mentor graduate students with their writing and to help plan and facilitate writing workshops and retreats.

The Spring 2015 semester will include the launch of a new web page on the School of Graduate Studies (SGS) website with graduate student writing resources (see “Current Students” menu), and a Blackboard organization site available for all graduate students. Information related to on-campus and online resources for graduate writing will be available through the Blackboard site and the SGS website. A key element that students felt was important is the ability to share with each other their own drafts of writing for peer feedback. The Blackboard site includes space for students to form on-campus and online peer writing groups. A good example of an online tutorial recently developed on plagiarism is available to view at:

Future plans include the development of additional online tutorials such as: creating research questions, formatting and editing requirements, plagiarism prevention, how to write a proposal/thesis/dissertation, technical and scientific writing, writing a literature review, discipline specific writing, grant writing, and submission of articles for publication. The Committee will develop a guide on available UMKC Writing Resources, and explore the possibility of having the School of Graduate Studies supply a GTA to help with the activities at the Writing Studio to lead these efforts.


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Important Dates to Remember for Spring 2015

Tues., January 20, 2015           First day of Spring classes

Mon., February 16, 2015          Last day to apply for May graduation

February TBA                             Thesis/Dissertation formatting workshop

March 23 – 27, 2015                 Spring break

Fri., April 3, 2015                      Deadline for submitting theses/dissertations for format                                                                            review by SGS

Fri., May 15, 2015                     Deadline for completing defense of thesis/dissertation

May 15 – May 17, 2015            Spring graduation

Fri., May 29, 2015                    Deadline for submitting theses/dissertation to ProQuest

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