What is a Town Hall Meeting?
there are many students in the department pursuing a PhD in Chemistry,
many of them would be hard-pressed to define what exactly that term
means. These Town Hall meetings are designed to help students better
define that term and to make the most out of both their current and
future experiences in the field.
meeting topics are chosen to address some of the deficiencies int he
department. Many of the topics interest students, but many people don't
know how to ask about them, or who to turn to as an authority on the
subjects. Our first meeting dealt with the structure of the department
and what changes are being made for the betterment of the PhD program
in general. The second meeting focused on careers outside the typical
academia or industry routes that many Chemistry PhD students pursue.
Future topic suggestions include explorations of the tenure process,
science and public policy, "Life as an Industrial Chemist,"
departmental governance, the common thread in the definition of PhDs
across the University, and results of the departmental climate surveys.
Town Hall meeting format has been very specifically designed for what
we aim to accomplish. The whole department is invited to the meetings
and students and professors are encouraged to intermingle and to
contribute their input. Additionally, the lunchtime presence of pizza
and soda lend a sense of informality to the whole process that allows
for the free-flow of dialogue on all sides.
this process, alternative careers have been explored, the definition of
the PhD has been debated, the work due to the Carnegie Initiative on
the Doctorate has been presented and alternate PhD routes have been
Our First Meeting
May 4, 2004
our first meeting, we decided to present the work of the Carnegie
Initiative on the Doctorate (CID) to the department and to see what
discussion would result from it.
set the stage, the audience consisted of 32 graduate students and 6
faculty members, including the current Chair of the Department, Bill
Roush. The presentation was done by CID team members Robyn Gdula and
Gorka Peris and centered on defining the CID and the Department's
contribution to the initiative.
was done through a close examination of the current PhD requirements at
the University of Michigan and a comparison to the other CID Chemistry
departments. We looked at what made the University of Michigan unique
in the process and at some of the attractive offerings at other
schools. In the process, the Department's CID proposal and agenda were
summarized and we concluded the talk with the Department's "Plan of
fruitful discussion followed the presentation concerning such aspects
of the degree as "student-led research projects" and a PhD "Mission
Statement." One of the most interesting exchanges to take place was
that concerning the dichotomy of definitions of the Chemistry PhD from
the points of view of the students and the professors.
See our Presentation!
This is the Powerpoint presentation that was used to present our
information. Although it was used as a general outline for discussion,
it should provide a good idea of what subjects were discussed.
Although only two meetings have been held, some positive outcomes have already been observed.
first meeting established a level of communication rarely seen between
professors and students. Through this interaction, students have
identified professors that are willing to consider new ideas and to
give honest feed-back. A level of collegiality has also been
established on which students can view professors on an intellectual
level equivalent to their own, eliminating the typical sense of a
"chasm" that exists between most students and well-established faculty
members. Additionally, students were able to express what they expected
out of a PhD program and to hear what the professors expected out of
the students before the degree is conferred.
second meeting was able to open many students' eyes to what alternative
job oppurtunities lie beyond the post-baccalaureate degree. Students
were not only told that these oppurtunities exist, but they were
presented by current members of non-traditional fields. Students were
able to take the exploration of these possibilities to the next level
by asking their own questions and challenging the speakers with some of
their own preconcieved notions. Many students were able to walk away
from the meeting with a renewed sense of control over their own future
Our Second Meeting
January 24, 2005
our department, we currently have students that want to go into
industry, teach in both large and small universities, become
science-fiction writers, go into public policy, or write science
information to be disseminated to the public. In order to lconsider
ourselves a "comprehensive" PhD department, we need to cultivate these
desires in all students in the department.
meeting was focused on an exploration of alternative careers for
Chemistry PhDs. When asking students what they plan to do after
receiving their degree, the common answers tend to be either becoming a
professor or going into industry. Although fine career choices, many
incoming PhD students may become discouraged becuase their future plans
do not fit into one of those two boxes. These are the students that
this meeting was aimed at.
this meeting, three speakers were invited from outside the typical
chemical job market. Nancy Ross-Flanigan, from the University of
Michigan News Service, spoke to the audience about a job in scientific
journalism and what it takes to present science to a public that has a
limited knowledge of what is going on in the field. Kristina Burow,
from ARCH Venture Partners, spoke to the students about how she applies
her PhD degree in a business-focused field. The final speaker was
Jeffrey D. Hsi, from Edwards & Angell, LLP, who discussed the
application of a Chemistry PhD in the law field.
Again the meeting was held over pizza and soda and approximately 40 or 50 students were in attendance.
Nancy handed out a summary of Science Writing Resources that interested students may find useful.
Kristina Burow Speaks to Students
Kristina Burow helps students understand how a Chemistry PhD can be applied in today's Business world.
Nancy Ross-Flanigan Speaks to Students
Nancy Ross-Flanigan explains to students how a PhD in Chemistry can help in writing science articles for the general public.