Reflections on Our First Year of #GRADprofdev: Dr. Heather Brandt

Reflections on Our First Year of #GRADprofdev: Dr. Heather Brandt

I started in my role as Associate Dean for Professional Development in July 2016. It has been an absolute pleasure to serve in this role and have the opportunity to connect with so many graduate students from across our 250 degree programs. I have learned so much from all of you. I have had excellent support from administration, graduate directors, faculty, as well as staff in the Graduate School. My work over the past 10 months, quite frankly, would not have been possible without their tremendous support. I am very excited for what we will bring to you next year and beyond. This blog is a reflection on our first year.

Beginning in fall 2016, we dove in to scaling up professional development programming for graduate students. Our goal in these efforts is:

To plan, implement, and evaluate high-quality, innovative professional development programming for graduate students to enhance their graduate education experience and prepare them for a variety of meaningful career options after degree.

Here is what we have accomplished:

  • Since August 2016, we have offered 22 formal activities – workshops, trainings, lectures, webinars, networking events, etc. – with over 500 participants. We offered several activities during Graduate Student Appreciation Week. Most – if not all – of these activities were in partnership with other units on campus and in our community.
  • Part of our professional development programming included #GRADprofdev Fridays, which was used across all of our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and WordPress). Each week, we have focused on a different theme relevant to your professional development. We are taking a break over the summer, but feel free to use the resources we have posted. We will continue to share relevant and timely resources but not on Fridays and not organized around a theme.
  • We surveyed you to learn your thoughts about professional development opportunities and needs. What you shared with us will inform our future programming. One particularly important recommendation was to increase our offerings related to CV and resume preparation, job searches, and interviewing, which we will do by working with the Career Center.
  • We launched the inaugural cohort of the Bridge Humanities Corps with eight PhD candidates and one newly minted PhD in the Humanities. The second cohort is being selected as I type.
  • We continued to have an engaged and committed group of graduate students invested in civic scholarship through the Graduate Civic Scholars Program. The third cohort starts intensive sessions on May 8, and I am excited to see what they accomplish.
  • The Presidential Fellowship is finishing up its seventh year. To date, 159 students from 38 academic programs in nine colleges have participated in this innovative program.
  • We established an Advisory Group on Professional Development for Graduate Students consisting of faculty, graduate students, and staff to help us ensure our programming is on track.

As we prepare for professional development programming in the upcoming academic year, we will build on these accomplishments and utilize evaluation data to improve.

We look forward to connecting with you in the fall, and we wish you much success – whatever that means for you – this summer. If you are graduating, congratulations! We hope that you will stay in touch to continue to build our networks with alumni.

Dr. Heather Brandt is associate dean for professional development in The Graduate School and associate professor in the department of health promotion, education, and behavior in the Arnold School of Public Health at the University of South Carolina.

Questions? Comments? Ideas? Contact Dr. Heather Brandt at


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