What is Own Your Future?
Own Your Future is a four-year curriculum-driven doctoral professional development program that:
- Makes explicit key learning outcomes that extend beyond the discipline curriculum
- Facilitates doctoral student self-directed professional development learning
- Supports doctoral student engagement in maximizing the value and applicability of their doctoral degree for career preparation and development
Preparing Doctoral Graduates to be Leaders in the Contemporary Labour Market
The PhD has traditionally been considered a degree that prepares students for an academic career. Until recently, Universities have not paid much attention to the fact that graduates are also successful in finding careers outside of academia. With this awareness, the global culture of doctoral education has begun to shift and to recognize the true and multifaceted value of the PhD degree. The challenge currently faced by research-intensive universities is how best to prepare doctoral students for a full range of careers.
Western University has met this challenge by developing and implementing Own Your Future (OYF) – a self-directed and individualized professional development program that complements doctoral students’ formal academic preparation and enables them to find fulfilling, meaningful career paths. In the words of Dr. Alan Shepard, Western University’s President, we are empowering our students ‘to be agents in their own destiny’.
Extending the Doctoral Curriculum to Include Professional Competencies
In partnership with key units across campus and our graduate community, the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies at Western University is leading a shift in the culture and structure of graduate education through the Own Your Future (OYF) program. OYF is informed by an employer advisory committee and ongoing feedback from doctoral students and the graduate education community. OYF’s value and impact are grounded in three key characteristics:
First, OYF makes professional development meaningful and makes the advantages of participating, transparent and explicit. OYF is designed around the following six curriculum-based competencies that were determined based on broad consultation and an exhaustive review of research: Communication and Relationship Building, Leadership, Thriving, Teaching and Learning, Intercultural and Social Fluency, and Career Engagement. Each competency is described by clearly articulated learning outcomes and skills.
Second, the structure of the program rests on an on-line Power Skills Assessment tool that teaches students how to self-assess their proficiency in the six OYF competencies and provides them with the results of their assessment. The personalized assessment results identify their own strengths, where there is room for improvement and where they have no experience. The assessment results then direct them to workshops designed to build and enhance their skillset. The OYF approach is self-directed; there is no prescribed set of workshops to attend. Students make decisions about where to invest their time and efforts based on their personal and professional goals and desires.
Third, the largely invisible language that is necessary to recognize and articulate these skills and competencies has been made explicit throughout the four years of the program. The first two years are geared towards doctoral preparation; the last two years focus on career preparation. Therefore, by participating in OYF, doctoral students learn what skills are needed to succeed during and after their studies. They become proficient in these skills and are able to articulate them to others, with ease.