Professional development conference helps in transition from learning to working


Brock graduate Mario De Divitiis, Leadership Niagara executive director, will be a guest speaker at the SHIFT: Make it Happen! conference.

A half-day professional development conference for graduate students May 1 is all about planning for the transition from learning to working.

SHIFT: Make it Happen! combines skill-sharpening workshops with presentations and discussions with professionals about essential competencies of entrepreneurship, creativity and leadership required in today’s job market. The Faculty of Graduate Studies is presenting the conference as part of its Academic and Professional Development program. Sixty to 80 graduate students are expected to attend the event.

“We are covering a lot of territory in a few hours,” says Karin Perry, coordinator of the Academic and Professional Development program.

Perry has spent the past few months working with a subcommittee comprised of staff from Career Services, Learning Services, Graduate Students’ Association and the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation to plan the program and line up a dynamic group of speakers and presenters.

“Ultimately, we’d like students to walk away with an armload of practical skills, a few meaningful and elevated conversations about their career options, and make some solid professional connections,” says Perry.

Brock graduate Mario De Divitiis (BA ’06; MA’08), Leadership Niagara executive director, and Jennifer Polk, an academic and career coach based in Toronto, will share the opening remarks. Polk stressed the value of talking about graduate level skills.

“In graduate school you become a content specialist in your academic discipline. In the workplace, by contrast, your skills, strengths, and values will likely determine what jobs you get, not the specific knowledge you acquired as a graduate student.”

That will be followed by a fast-paced program of concurrent sessions that are a mix of micro-training workshops and small-group discussions led by professionals from a variety of sectors. The micro-training sessions include a resume clinic, mock interviews, advice on skills translations, personal branding, preparing a teaching dossier and using social media effectively for job searching and career networking.

The conversational workshops are geared to specific sector themes, including management and consulting, entrepreneurial, health and biotechnology, arts, culture and digital, research and academia and non-governmental organizations.

“All of the professionals leading the conversational workshops have fascinating career paths and will provide talking points and an open format for graduate students to have their critical questions answered,” Perry said.

Keri Damen, MaRS Discovery District director of entrepreneurship programs, will give closing remarks and then a SHIFT mixer in the Scotiabank Atrium will wrap up the day. The mixer will also be the launch of the Coffee Connect, a new initiative that matches grad students with professional mentors.

Guest speakers:
Brock graduate Mario De Divitiis, Leadership Niagara executive director, describes himself as a “born entrepreneur.” His family has led Niagara’s hospitality industry for the past two decades. He has a strong background in the public and private sector, including two years with the Niagara Region in the Integrated Community Planning Department. Since joining Leadership Niagara as its first executive director three years ago, he is key to the organization’s mission to identify, nurture and grow future leaders across all community sectors. He is also co-chair of the NEXTNiagara advisory panel and a member of the Niagara Research Planning Council. De Divitiis holds both a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a master’s degree in Public Administration from Brock and was a 2011 recipient of Niagara’s 40 under 40 business achievement awards.

Jennifer Polk, an academic and career coach based in Toronto, works with graduate students and PhDs. Many may recognize Polk as a regular blogger for University Affairs. She contributes a Transition Q & A series that feature stories “showing how PhDs go on to do many wonderful, fulfilling things.” Her past work experience includes being a website content editor for a concert listings website, and a freelance researcher and virtual assistant for some small consulting firms. ?Polk has a PhD in history from the University of Toronto. While completing her doctorate degree she was involved in the graduate student community writing a newsletter and organizing a conference and lecture series.

Keri Damen is the MaRS Discovery District director of entrepreneurship programs, a mission-driven innovation centre located in Toronto. MaRS works with partners to catalyze, accelerate and amplify innovation. MaRS’ ventures have created over 4,000 jobs and, in the last three years alone, is has raised over $750 million in capital and earned over $375 million in revenue. Damen is responsible for the entrepreneurship education initiatives at MaRS, and has an International MBA (IMBA) from the Schulich School of Business at York University. Her career has also included work with the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) at the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia, the European Foundation for Entrepreneurship Research (EFER) in the Netherlands.

Conference schedule:
11:30 a.m.-11:45 a.m. Registration, Plaza 400 Level Mezzanine
12 noon-12:45 p.m., Opening group plenary, Plaza 400 Level Mezzanine
Mario De Divitiis, NEXT Niagara executive director, Leadership Niagara, and Jennifer Polk, Academic and Career Coach

1 p.m.-1:50 p.m. Concurrent session 1, Plaza 400 and 300 Level
2 to 2:50 p.m. Concurrent session 2, Plaza 400 and 300 Level
3 to 3:50 p.m. Concurrent session 3, Plaza 400 and 300 Level
4 to 4:30 p.m. Closing plenary, Plaza 400 Level Mezzanine
4:30 to 5:15 p.m. SHIFT mixer Scotiabank Atrium in the Cairns Complex
Keri Damen, MaRS Discovery District director of entrepreneurship programs

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