In 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?”