Accessing professional development

Graduate and postgraduate students include personal/professional development in their training plans. One disadvantage doing a PhD from overseas is missing researcher training sessions on campus. I do participate in Research Days through videoconferencing, but there are no provisions for other sessions restricted to physical attendance at the university. There are, however, different ways to make up for this, taking advantage of events in my local community. I am a research student in the Beyond Distance Research Alliance (BDRA) at the University of Leicester in the United Kingdom, and I reside in Edmonton, Canada. There are a few examples of opportunities, including one just attended.

Last year I participated in the Thinking Qualitatively Workshop Series, delivered here in Edmonton by the International Institute for Qualitative Methodology. I will attend this June for a second time. I am also on the distribution list for professional development opportunities from the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research (FGSR) at one local institution, the University of Alberta. Through it, I was able to attend free sessions preparing grad students for teaching. Also, I responded to a call for (paid) volunteers to work at a technology conference. While paid a little, it was an opportunity to give back, especially with unfilled slots.

The latest in my development, was the 2012 Alberta Graduate Conference, held at the University of Alberta, May 3 to 5, 2012, and concluded this afternoon. The Alberta Graduate Council, representing students of four member associations, organised the conference. I heard about it from the FGSR distribution list and through my alma mater, Athabasca University. I checked and learned they welcomed a percentage of attendees from other institutions, so I registered and attended.

My point with this post is to identify one reason we need not feel isolated at a distance. I’ve been able to extend my network at the same time as adding to my development. This is not a one-way street. For example, the BDRA has welcomed external participants in online seminars and at its February Research Day. I was also able to introduce a number of students to informal networking on Twitter through #phdchat. It goes without saying that sharing within the academic community has benefits for all.

I would like to extend my thanks to the organising committee and generous sponsors for an excellent conference and for opening the doors to non-member students. It was a pleasure to participate.

A.E. (Tony) Ratcliffe
PhD Research Student, BDRA
May 5, 2012

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  1. Interesting! I wonder if it is not solely about distance, but about the capitalist economic model that underpins academia. I’d love to attend local university events in the UAE – but I can’t see the model supporting ‘drop ins’. All the best. Mike

  2. Hi Tony, as a distance student myself, I wonder if connecting to local events has more to do with the capitalist model. I’d love to attend events locally, but I see these sorts of programs here at least, tied to the students who pay the university for the pleasure. Food for thought.

    Best. Mike

  3. bdra

     /  May 7, 2012

    Hi Mike. I know that they were cognisant of the fact that they had an overwhelming number of participants last year, and they did not want to jeopardise their opportunities. However, through their projections and ultimate numbers, they were able to accommodate a small number. Perhaps their primary thought was to non-member institutions locally (only a handful of others participated). It certainly was not to secure extra fees, as the cost was minimal. If you see something in the UAE you would like to attend, perhaps ask and you might be surprised. Tony

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  1. Alberta Graduate Conference, 2012, Edmonton | A.E. (Tony) Ratcliffe

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