PSM at American University has been described as "science plus." Here's what the "plus" means:
Creating a cohort group (with others sharing membership in the class): Just prior to the start of classes, PSM participants, students, Director, Coordinator and Faculty meet for dinner. Students receive cohort email addresses and access to Blackboard, software which permits members of a group to share documents and ideas.
All students are encouraged to sign up on MentorNet.net to “meet” a mentor with whom questions and answers may be exchanged.
PSMers are also introduced to two sources of information they will need as graduate students: a reference librarian and a Career Center representative. The AU Library has a rich collection of both paper and online resources and is part of the Washington Research Libraries Consortium (WRLC), through which additional resources are available. The AU Career Center offers an array of programs, from critiquing resumes and cover letters to speaking practice to job fairs.
Interacting with the working world
A PSM education includes exposure to professionals in the working world. One such opportunity is provided by the Bio/It Coalition whose monthly meetings attract scientists and IT professionals.
Students, faculty, and professionals from PSM's hugely enjoyed a Wisdom Dinner where students dined in 2004 at a leisurely pace and presented their questions to working professionals.
When science conferences are to be held in the DC area, the PSM Coordinator facilitates opportunities for PSM students who are encouraged to volunteer in exchange for free attendance at some of the sessions.
A speaker series brought practitioners to campus. A variety of subjects was addressed and time provided for interaction between students and speakers:
- Gabriele Mclaughlin, Innovation Architect at Xerox Global Services, spoke about personal management. She called upon the members of her audience to manage themselves and their careers lest someone else do it for them. She particularly urged students to become bloggers as a way to build a resume on the spot and to collect a note of recognition for a particular job well done, or a good job may be forgotten.
- Gil Miller, Chief Technology Officer at Mitretek, spoke on "Large, Complex Systems: It's Not Just About the Technology Anymore." Mitretek is a fascinating company in that it deals with multiple subjects, environment, energy, high tech, etc. and it's nonprofit. Miller spoke extensively about non-technological issues and how they impact the design, evolution, and behavior of large complex systems.
- The third speaker also arrived from Mitretek: Bob Clerman, VP Corporate Mission Initiatives. He too embodied the goal of becoming multidisciplinary and spoke about the "The Multidisciplinary Leader: Jack of All Trades, Master of What?"
- The final speakers focused on environmental issues. Mel Kollander and David Madge, both of the Temple Univ. Institute for Survey Research, spoke on how pollutant exposure can now be monitored with field studies, rather than distant stationary devices used in the past.
Specific professional skills learning opportunities in the subjects of writing and leading were also part of the year's work.
It was a year of building, building cohorts, a new program, and an exciting innovation!