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Transforming Graduate Studies

Posted August 29, 2016

Lately, there’s been much talk about the new curriculum for veterinary students at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences (CVM). But, that’s not the only program being elevated. Improvements to the graduate program in Biomedical Sciences are also underway.

The CVM is uniquely poised to provide an unparalleled graduate research and educational experience in an environment where research expenditures exceeded $30 million dollars in 2015—the third highest among veterinary schools in the nation. The college recognizes the integral role that graduate students play in university’s research enterprise. The goal is to adapt graduate education to take advantage of the many diverse biomedical science career paths in today’s world and to contribute to innovations in science that offer real benefits to a global society.

Over the past eight months a group of faculty formed a task force and worked with the Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Studies office to think about how to improve the training experience of CVM graduate students. The task force included faculty members who could provide unique insight into graduate education from perspectives derived from experiences at different universities and interdisciplinary programs.

This process has been driven by the mission of our graduate program, which is to “Provide a premier degree program for preparing innovative, globally competitive and career-ready biomedical scientists who are committed to the improvement of the health and welfare of animals, humans, and the environment, and who have skill sets necessary to pursue diverse career paths in academic, public, and private sectors.”

Periodic strategic evaluation of the graduate program is undertaken to enable adaptability to emerging opportunities in an evolving research environment.

In a desire to build a strong sense of community among our trainees—especially our incoming graduate students—the task force developed an intensive orientation week “boot camp” that provides training in biosafety and compliance, diversity and inclusion, intellectual property and patents, and Texas A&M regulations and requirements for graduation education. Additionally, the students attend an introduction to the science and scholarship of effective teaching. The experience results in increasing connections and building camaraderie among trainees while providing foundational information that will guide them through their graduate programs.

As a culmination and welcome into our community of scholars, an Inaugural Graduate Student Oath Ceremony was held on Thursday, Aug.,25 at Pebble Creek Country Club. The CVM Graduate Student Association developed the oath by integrating elements of Texas A&M University’s core values, the Aggie Code of Honor, and recommendations from a Science article, “An Ethical Affirmation for Scientists” by Craig, Cather, and Culberson, which contains an “Oath for Scientists.”  This oath highlights expectations of graduate students to uphold the highest standards with respect to ethical behavior, integrity, and professionalism.

Each graduate student received a CVM embroidered laboratory coat that is symbolic of their official entry into training as a laboratory scientist, as well as an engraved nametag that will foster recognition of their unique identity and contributions to the CVM research enterprise. The students recited the oath as group at the evening banquet.

A noteworthy and recognized feature of the CVM Graduate Studies program is its extensive menu of professional development opportunities. These include workshops on grantsmanship, scientific writing, public speaking, effective writing strategies, effective multimedia communication, and career-readiness. The workshops complement existing college programs such as an internal student research grant program, competitive campus core facility utilization program, and high-impact research specialty training programs. All opportunities align with the Texas A&M graduate student learning outcomes.

The diversity in biomedical science career paths require more comprehensive and intensive advising to link students to available career opportunities and training that will help better prepare them for diverse careers. To this end, graduate academic advising has been centralized under the Associate Dean for Research & Graduate Studies office. Students have access to five graduate advisors with diverse experiences and backgrounds, including doctoral studies in higher education programs and leadership, doctoral studies in biomedical sciences, and professional expertise in the policies and procedures of the Texas A&M Office of Graduate and Professional Studies and Study Abroad programs.

The CVM prides itself on setting its graduates apart from those of other institutions. With positive changes underway, those who complete graduate degrees from the CVM will continue to make global impacts in biomedical sciences.

To view photos of the 2016 Graduate Oath Ceremony, visit the CVM's Flickr page.

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