Collat Professional Ed partners with researchers on leadership and professional development academy

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rep iisage academy 550pxThe first cohort of the IISAGE Leadership and Professional Development Academy completed their training in April 2023. Designed primarily for graduate students and postdoctoral trainees, the academy is a partnership between faculty in the Department of Biology and the Professional Education department in the Collat School of Business.Landing a major grant is one of the best signs that a scientist has made it as an academic researcher. But the path from graduate school to principal investigator can be anything but clear. The researchers behind the Integration Initiative: Sex, Aging and Evolution, or IISAGE, were determined to address this as part of their five-year, $12.5 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

“We wanted to make sure we have career development opportunities for all of our IISAGE members,” said Nicole Riddle, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Biology and primary investigator for IISAGE. So Riddle and Peggy Biga, Ph.D., associate professor in biology and second investigator at UAB for IISAGE, collaborated with the Professional Education department in the Collat School of Business, directed by Cori Perdue, Ph.D.

The result is the IISAGE Leadership and Professional Development Academy, which completed training its first cohort in April 2023. “The Academy is founded on the premise that the future of research and industry will be led and managed by individuals who operate at the frontiers of the biosciences and possess the leadership skills required to guide their organizations into an increasingly complex future,” Perdue said.

Sessions target strategic competencies

This year’s cohort of 23 participants included graduate students, postdocs and faculty from UAB and other IISAGE institutions: Brown University, Cornell University, University of Houston, Marquette University, University of Maryland and Michigan State University. The academy’s five interactive workshop sessions and experiential learning activities were designed to target strategic competencies in leadership, communication, teamwork and collaboration, management, and entrepreneurship.

The sessions included:

  • Innovation to Impact, taught by Molly Wasko, Ph.D., University Professor and Associate Dean for Research, Innovation and Faculty Success in the Collat School of Business;
  • Two courses taught by Collat Credentialed Course Instructor and Certified DISC Behavioral Analyst Sarah Jamison:
    • Emotional Intelligence and
    • Communication and DISC;
  • The Leadership Myth, taught by Collat adjunct faculty member David Wilson; and
  • Top Things a Project Manager Should Know, taught by Collat adjunct faculty member Elizabeth Wright.

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“The workshop was very strong in providing us with an overall view of project management skills, techniques, and in some ways, some pitfalls to look out for — or to avoid with effective planning,” said one participant. “It’s up to us to develop the ability to adapt these types of frameworks into the environments we work in and adjust them to the scope of our projects, professionally or personally.”

“I think a strength of the workshop was helping us to truly consider what is possible for business development that grows out of academics,” another participant said. “The workshop forced me to really think about who the customer for our work is and how to consider the connection to value.”

The academy will be repeated each spring for the five-year duration of the IISAGE grant. “The primary target population for the leadership academy is the trainees, both the ones working in IISAGE PI labs and others in our departments,” Riddle said. “This time around, several faculty also participated in the academy, as we wanted to make sure we know the content and know what we are recommending to our trainees. Given it was the first time, we also wanted to make sure we got to learn the same lessons, provide a PI perspective and identify areas where we need to make adjustments. Our plan is to have one faculty member attend each year.”

Custom-designed programs for grant proposals and projects

Perdue says Collat Professional Education can design similar programs to complement other researchers’ grants and can develop programs in a variety of formats, including live online, face to face and fully online. “We would love to partner with more individuals and groups submitting grant proposals or working on current projects that have a professional development piece that we could custom design for their group to meet their needs and goals,” she said. “Collat Professional Education is set up with a team to help develop programs and provide all of the infrastructure and support needed to provide a turn-key experience. We learn the needs of the group and then work with faculty and industry experts to create and deliver engaging custom professional workshops, boot camps, academies and more.”