University of Nebraska Medical Center

Announcement of Policy Changes

A survey taken by over 100 graduate students over the summer indicated that a majority of students would like to be involved in activities outside the lab (such as professional development seminars, involvement in student organizations, writing workshops, etc.), but don’t feel comfortable doing so because they feel pressure to be in the lab instead. Here is a brief summary of some of the results:

  • 68.9% of students believe that networking, professional skill development, campus-wide activities, and other extracurriculars are important for their overall educational experience at UNMC, and 88.7% believe that those activities are important to help secure the job they want after graduation.
  • 51.0% of students feel that they do not spend as much time on those activities as they would like to.
  • Awareness of and interest in many campus activities is fairly high, but attendance is still low despite that.
  • The biggest impediment to student involvement in these activities is the feeling that they are obligated to spend that time in lab, either because the culture/atmosphere of an academic setting strongly encourages it, or because a faculty member suggested or even explicitly stated that involvement in such activities is not allowed.
  • 73.5% of students would like advisors to be required to allow students to participate in these types of activities.


In response to these findings, GSA brought a proposal to the Graduate Council to make policy changes that would encourage faculty mentors to support their graduate students’ participation in professional development activities outside the lab. The goals are to make sure that students know they are allowed to participate in these activities (even if they occur during standard “lab hours”) and to give faculty mentors a reason to encourage their students to be involved. Hopefully this will remove any barriers that have been preventing students who wished to get involved in activities outside the lab from doing so. Here is a summary of the policy changes that have been made to address this issue:

  • The UNMC Fellowship application will include a question about the student’s participation in professional skills development and leadership opportunities. These activities will be considered a strength of application during the review process, but will not be required for awarding of a fellowship.
  • In accord with review criteria used by NIH and other agencies that fund predoctoral fellowships, the Progress Report for the UNMC Fellowship renewal application must include a list of at least three professional skills workshops attended by the student.
  • On the Graduate Student Annual Progress Report and Development Plan, a question will be included about the student’s involvement in professional development opportunities in the previous year. The supervisory committee will be given this plan each year. Involvement in these activities should be discussed at committee meetings.
  • During new student orientation and matriculation, the GSA President will have designated time to discuss the importance of attending professional development opportunities and encourage new students to ask potential mentors about participating in these activities.
  • During the 2016-2017 academic year, Dr. Davies (Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and Dean for Graduate Studies) and Kristin Wipfler (GSA President) will attend departmental faculty meetings to discuss the changes described above and the importance of mentors allowing and hopefully encouraging their students to participate in professional development opportunities outside the lab.


These opportunities outside the lab may include, but are not limited to:

  • Professional Development Workshops
  • Involvement in GSA or Student Senate leadership or attendance at their activities
  • Attendance at writing workshops
  • Involvement in the UNMC Makers or other student organizations
  • Involvement in Service Learning Legacy Project leadership or activities
  • Attending the Tech Transfer Boot Camp
  • Attending a Learn@Lunch series or other seminar series
  • Serving as a mentor in the High School Alliance Program
  • Serving as a teaching assistant or obtaining other teaching experience
  • Volunteer work on campus or in support of a student organization
  • Participation in interprofessional activities such as iEXCEL
  • And many more!

Contact gsapres@unmc.edu if you have any questions/comments/concerns regarding any of these changes!

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