CFP: The Graduate Student Professional Development Challenge

Graduate Student Professional Development Challenge

The professional and career development of all graduate students is a top priority of the Dietrich School. We foster a culture in which the value of diverse high-impact careers both within and beyond the academy is broadly understood and embraced.  Graduate students combine deep disciplinary training with the development of strategic competencies such as communication, project management, collaborative work in interdisciplinary and cross-cultural teams, leadership, and entrepreneurship to make an impact as early career scholars and scientists, educators, and professional leaders across sectors.

Complementing programming developed by the University, the Dietrich School, and our departments, this program is intended to support student-designed and student-led projects that will enhance the professional development of graduate students across disciplines. This is an opportunity for graduate students to take the lead on a project, to implement it and assess its impact, and thus also develop their leadership skills.

Supported projects might include, but are not limited to, student-facilitated programming on specific strategic competencies; student-organized events with doctoral alumni from employment sectors beyond the academy that advance our mission to render diverse pathways visible, valued, and viable; activities that incorporate partnering with non-academic campus units to promote professional development; projects connected with other strategic priorities, such as equity, diversity, and inclusion or global awareness and engagement.

All currently enrolled and registered DSAS graduate students across disciplines are eligible to apply. Teams of at least three students from across at least two graduate programs can submit proposals.

Preference will be given to proposals that address needs and topics not covered by current professional development programming, to proposals that are put forward by teams including and targeting students from more than two graduate programs in the Dietrich School, and to proposals that promise a sustainable impact. Each proposal must focus on a specific professional development need related to student success in graduate school and beyond.

Please check back here for future competitions. Previous competitions required the following materials:

Project Narrative (max 3 pages, single-spaced, font size 12+, 1-inch margins all sides)

  • title of the proposed project and names of author(s)
  • the issue(s) or need in professional development of graduate students to be addressed by the proposed project
  • the proposed approach, solution, or idea and how they will impact graduate education
  • implementation plan: define the intended audience and the proposed intervention strategy/strategies that will address the need; outline communication strategy to maximize visibility and turnout
  • team: explain the role of each author and how the experience will impact their professional development
  • timeline of implementation: when, how, where?
  • assessment plan: define how the intervention will be effective, how the proposed initiative will result in change, and what measurable outcomes you will be tracking

Proposed budget

  • justify the amount of support required and provide a full breakdown of expenses ($2,000 maximum).
  • specify any matching funding (e.g. from departments) and whether requested or committed at the time of application.

Letter(s) of Support for Each Proposal (Co)Author

  • Faculty mentors should explain how a student’s leadership of the proposed project aligns with their academic and professional development objectives. Successful applicants will be asked to document reflections on their project in an Individual Development Plan (IDP).


  • two pages maximum for each graduate student leader plus a mini-bio (brief single paragraph) for any other key participants (e.g., external speakers or panelists).

Review Criteria

  • Proposals will be be evaluated for the importance of the identified professional development need; creativity and innovation of the idea; feasibility of the approach to addressing the challenge/issue/skill; appropriateness of the team and budget; quality of the evaluation plan.

Leaders of funded proposals will:

  • attend a leadership and project management workshop
  • implement the proposed project and evaluate outcomes
  • engage in on-going communications with other students and the Office of Graduate Studies
  • document reflections about their own leadership skills in an IDP with their faculty mentor
  • highlight this experience in developing transferable skills and leadership in job searches


As you prepare proposals, you might find it helpful to peruse recent national reports on needs and best practices in professional development: