Introducing a novel structured program for professional development of postdoctoral fellows

December 2, 2019  //  FOUND IN: Strategy & Leadership

In the Summer of 2018, a team of four postdoctoral fellows were invited to a series of brainstorming sessions. The goal was to ideate strategies to better address professional development needs of their peers, i.e., to identify significant training gaps in professional development not filled currently in research environments and to fill these gaps.

These sessions resulted in the creation and implementation of the Youprogram, a structured Leadership and Management Program for Postdocs designed by postdocs for postdocs. 

The Youprogram uses statistical tools to analyze a combination of needs-assessment survey data to arrive at eight core modules of leadership and management broadly applicable to academic and non-academic careers.

The eight 1.5-hour weekly modules held from September to November 2019 were instructed and facilitated by topic experts.

The name Youstemmed from the program’s focus on “You, Your Project, Your Team.”  

The first theme of “Managing Yourself” started off with introspective activities. Recognition of self-strengths and being aware of implicit biases and addressing them were the focal points in addition to gaining knowledge on time-management.

In the next module on the theme of “Managing Your Project,” topics covered included developing a budget and managing funds and best practices of interviewing and hiring.

Finally, on the theme of “Managing Your Team,” main topics were building trust, communicating expectations, team-building, conflict resolution, and leadership styles and skills.

The postdoctoral community was strongly invested in the program. An inaugural cohort of 32 postdocs representing more than 17 departments in the U-M Medical School was selected after an open application process. Nearly 60 percent of them attended every week of the eight sessions.

The program team is now gathering formal and comprehensive outcomes data from this inaugural program.

With strong support for advancing postdoctoral trainees from the leadership team at the Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies, the Career and Professional Development Team is excited to implement more such innovative and successful structured programs to meet the broad training goals for its diverse audience.