Developing Your Professionalism

You are in this program to obtain a degree and make a difference in global conservation efforts. Taking courses is a very small part of the big picture. You were admitted for this program because we identified you as an individual with great potential to contribute to the stewardship of the Earth's biodiversity. We expect you to give to the program and the profession of conservation biology as much as you plan to take, so to speak. Several opportunities/responsibilities are listed below. Every single one of these is vital to your professionalism. Post them as a list of goals to achieve and work on every semester.

  • Attend seminars on campus. Every day there is some seminar on one of the campuses that has relevance to conservation biology. There is no way to attend them all. Be alert and schedule them into your plans when possible. Pay particular attention to those sponsored by CS, but others will be in departments such as Ecology, Forest Resources, Fisheries and Wildlife, Geography, the Humphrey Institute, etc. You will find your own sources based on your interests. In semesters when you are not signed up for the CS Seminar (8001) for credit you are still expected to attend.
  • Belong to a professional society (or several). It is important that you develop these ties early. A natural is the Society for CB. Others may be the American Fisheries Society, The Wildlife Society, Ecological Society of America, the American Ornithologists' Union , etc. Ask your advisor for advice. All of these societies produce professional journals and have annual meetings. They have student rates. Why should you join? There are many reasons (e.g. you will become a member of a group who will be your professional peers after graduation; you will keep up to date on research in your field (through the journal); you will begin to learn the politics of your profession). All of you should decide on a society and become a member by the end of your first semester.
  • Attend professional meetings. Every year students attend a number of meetings. If you present a paper, the CS Program will usually provide $300 (in country) or $400 (international) to help with expenses for one meeting/year. You and/or your advisor will need to cover the rest. To receive support from the CS program you must include the CS Program in your affiliation as listed on your abstract. Presenting at professional meetings is expected of PhD students and highly encouraged at the MS level. The Society for Conservation Biology is a natural meeting to attend, but students attend a diverse selection.
  • Update your resume/curriculum vitae. This is your professional record and one of the most important "tools' for obtaining funding while in the program or future employment. Some have highly sophisticated CVs; others are not well prepared. Ask your student colleagues for advice and your advisor to review your CV. You should update it at least once/semester.
  • Establish an office space at UMN and use it. Do not hole up at home and deprive yourself of graduate school life. The most important thing you will get from graduate school is your interaction with colleagues, faculty and visiting scholars. Graduate school is not an extension of college; it is a way of life. If you need to study at home, do so, but leave time every day to come and interact through seminars, etc. One of the biggest mistakes new students make is to use grad school only as a route to taking more courses. If you plan only to come to campus, attend class, and go home, you are in the wrong program and field. You need to understand the culture of science and conservation. You need to engage in conversations. You need to develop friendships with your colleagues as they will be critical professional links for you in the future.
  • Obtain funding for research and graduate training. Students come into the program with a variety of funding support systems. Some of you are almost completely funded. Some have little or no funds other than personal ones. Very few of you have funds to support your research. Everyone can be funded at some level, but it will take work and creativity on your part. Obtaining funds for a living stipend, tuition or research is part of being a professional. You need to be continuously alert to sources of funding, no matter how small, because developing a funding record is also important for your professionalism. A good place to start is through the Fellowship Office at the Graduate School . Check out their web site to find information on fellowships available through the UMN. For example, for those of you who plan to do international work, there is a fellowship for research abroad that has a deadline that comes up soon. Also check the Graduate School website for student job postings. There are often good opportunities in other campus programs. The CS Program does not have money to fund students except under very special circumstances so you cannot depend on the program for any regular support. Discuss funding support and options with your advisor.
  • Publications are important. You will be judged on your publications for any academic or research-oriented positions you seek (this includes MS students who plan to enter a PhD program as well as people seeing positions at the university level). Publications may be required and will definitely provide an advantage for a number of other positions. Interact with your advisor regarding publications. This is a critical issue, especially for those of you in the PhD program.
  • Preparing Future Faculty: This is a very innovative program available through UMN for PhD students who seek employment in academia. PPF is a two-part course. The first course addresses the theory of teaching where students develop a syllabus, teaching philosophy, and learn teaching techniques. The second course is a practicum where students teach either a course or a series of class sessions. Several CB students have been hired by colleges/universities, in part, because they participated in this program. Look for announcements about this program or contact the University of Minnesota Teaching and Learning Center for more information.
  • Seek Opportunities for Leadership and Community Involvement: These opportunities can be within the CS Program, the broader university system, or at the regional, national or international level. Some of you already have these connections. Evidence of leadership and community involvement is often a criteria for outside funding/fellowships and is definitely a plus when you see employment.