By Emily Delgado
University of Iowa PhD students Darius Stewart and Ebenezer Adeyemi are studying different disciplines but have this in common — they aren’t sure what they want to do after they graduate.
Both students attended the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Career Boot Camp, a two-day professional development event in August featuring a series of panels and workshops designed to prepare graduate and postdoc students as they consider entering the workforce.
Participants learned about the importance of networking, prioritizing values, resume building and interviewing. They also sat in on three panels featuring alumni and friends with experience in industry, academics, and non-profits.
“Teaching doesn’t have to be the only option,” Stewart, a PhD student studying English Literary Studies, says. “I attended this event to see what options there are for a person, like me, who wants to be a writer.”
Adeyemi, a fourth year PhD student in the Department of Anthropology says he attended the boot camp to learn more about career options outside of academics after he completes his doctorate degree.
“I feel good about the information I learned at the event and how to proceed with next steps,” Adeyemi says. “I was most excited about the session about diverse career paths.”
In addition to career resources, the event also offered an opportunity for students to hear personal stories and receive career advice from current professionals. The panel called "Transitions, Challenges, and Success" discussed the importance of having flexibility when it comes to pursuing and changing jobs — emphasizing that few career paths are predictable or linear.
The panel featured Emily Wentzell, a former professor and current medical and behavioral strategist at IQVIA; David Miles, assistant professor in the UI Physics and Astronomy Department, and Andre Perry, executive director of Hancher Auditorium and the Office of Performing Arts and Engagement at Iowa.
All three panelists shared unique stories about their life experiences and the twists and turns that brought them to where they are professionally right now, explaining how priorities and interests shift over time, including most recently during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It [the pandemic] gave me some space to step back and re-prioritize what would give me a fully whole and joyous life,” Perry explained. “I was able to put into focus what my priorities are.”
Wentzell advised the importance of listening to yourself, especially when work begins seeping negatively into other parts of your life.
“Sometimes things that once were in alignment aren’t anymore,” Wentzell said. “That’s when you know it’s time to make a change—and that’s OK.”
Between hands-on resources and career advice, organizers say this event is about the students, helping them feel confident and prepared as they march toward graduation.
“It’s incredibly important that our graduate students know they have resources to prepare them for their careers, whether it be in academia or in the private sector,” Associate Dean for Graduate Education and Outreach and Engagement Christine Getz said. “We are invested in their success, and this event is designed to support them as they consider their next steps professionally.”
This event was organized by a team of faculty and staff in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Graduate College.