Nov. 27, 2023Print | PDF
Wilfrid Laurier University’s ASPIRE Professional Development Certificate offers graduate students in master’s, PhD and graduate diploma programs, as well as postdoctoral fellows, an avenue to gain skills and experience that will help them succeed in their academic journey and beyond.
“We’ve created an opportunity for graduate students to sample from across different areas of interest to them, or that can help them in their professional development,” says Patricia Goff, associate dean of Laurier’s Faculty of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.
To earn the ASPIRE Professional Development Certificate, students must complete five workshops from at least two of five program pillars: career development; professionalization and communication; teaching development; research; and wellness.
Goff notes the academic rigors of graduate programs, but recommends students take part in ASPIRE workshop offerings to supplement and enhance their studies.
Graduate student Madeline Patenall did just that. Currently pursuing her graduate degree in Integrative Biology, Patenall was hired as a teaching assistant for the course BI488, Invertebrate Conservation and Biodiversity, and wanted to be prepared.
“I was an instructional assistant as an undergrad but I didn't really lead any of the lab sections, so I took two ASPIRE workshops focused on teaching,” says Patenall. “I've been able to implement strategies from the workshops in the classroom. As graduate students we’re required to have so many skills. We have to be writers, data managers, communicators, even teachers.”
The ASPIRE certificate is designed to fill the skill gaps graduate students might face. It includes virtual and self-paced workshops including “Sparking Student Engagement,” “Scholarship Proposal Writing” and “Planning a Literature Review,” among others.
Patenall says she recommends the ASPIRE certificate to other graduate students.
“It really is a support system for every graduate student,” says Patenall. “I think no matter where you’ve come from, the experiences you’ve had, there’s something that you can take away from the ASPIRE certificate.”
Ayomi Thilakarathne, an international graduate student from Sri Lanka, has used the ASPIRE certificate to learn about the Canadian Job landscape.
“As an international student I gained a lot of knowledge from these workshops, like an idea of what kind of jobs are available in my field, what kind of skills I need to develop, and what Canadian employers expect from a resume,” says Thilakarathne.
The ASPIRE certificate is part of the Laurier Experience Record, a comprehensive record of student involvement in curricular and co-curricular experiential learning at Laurier. Students can sync their Laurier Experience Record to LinkedIn and display it to potential employers.
“Sometimes grad students might need to polish a skill,” says Goff. “Beyond their academic program, there are services like the ASPIRE certificate that can help. And it’s free, so I encourage graduate students to explore what's available.”