Professional Development and Career Planning

Department Resources for Professional Development

Two important departmental resources for professional development are a graduate student’s advisor and the department colloquia. The advisor is concerned with a graduate student’s academic progress as well as with the professional development of advisees. Throughout a graduate student’s residence in the program (and often beyond), an advisor will discuss and answer questions and concerns about professional development. For instance, as submission deadlines to academic conferences approach, an advisor may discuss with a student potential submission options and the appropriate venues for these submissions. If a student is working on revising a seminar paper for potential public in an academic journal, an advisor will often guide the student through the revision process. When a student is applying for jobs, an advisor will often edit application materials. When a student is interviewing for a position or negotiating a job offer, an advisor will often provide tips for how to proceed.

The four areas of the Communication Arts Department (Communication Science; Film; Media and Cultural Studies; Rhetoric, Politics, and Culture) hold individual and joint colloquia on most Thursday afternoons during the academic year. Often, these colloquia are devoted to research presentations from department faculty and graduate students as well as campus visitors. Sometimes, the colloquia will address issues of professional development. Colloquia topics on professional development include practicing conference presentations; preparing a teaching dossier; practicing job talks; negotiating the revise and resubmit process in journal publishing; and networking. Colloquia on professional development engage graduate students in discussion on professional topics, workshop materials, and offer advice on best practices.

Faculty Reviews of Graduate Student Teaching

Since most Communication Arts PhDs pursue academic careers, developing teaching skills constitutes an important aspect of professionalization. Some colleges and universities may ask a student to prepare a teaching demonstration as part of the on-campus interview process, or otherwise seek evaluation and evidence of a graduate student’s teaching abilities. To facilitate the development of graduate student teaching, faculty will provide reviews of Teaching Assistants in courses in which they have worked directly with graduate students in the classroom. Graduate students should expect these reviews in every semester in which they serve as a TA in one of these faculty-led courses (e.g., a lecture-discussion section course taught by a faculty member). Faculty TA reviews highlight the following: strengths and weaknesses regarding the teaching assistant’s ability to communicate clearly; strengths and areas of improvement regarding grading and giving feedback; and interactions and communications with students and faculty.

In relevant courses, the faculty will complete a teaching review and share it with the Graduate Coordinator no more than three weeks after a semester has concluded. The Graduate Coordinator will maintain files of teaching reviews for each graduate student in the department, and send a copy of the review to the student’s advisor. Faculty also will share a copy of the review with the student reviewed, who may wish to incorporate favorable reviews and quotations into a teaching dossier. Graduate students should feel welcome to discuss all reviews with their supervising faculty members. Graduate students should note, too, that these reviews will assist faculty in addressing matters of pedagogy when preparing letters of recommendation for academic employment, which will benefit students in their job searches.

Travel to Meetings and Conferences

The Department of Communication Arts provides a once-per-academic-year travel stipend for those students who will be delivering a paper or presentation at an academic conference.

To receive funding, graduate students must submit a request before leaving for the conference or funding will not be distributed. Students should request funding as soon as possible after receiving notification of acceptance at a conference. Students who are not currently residing in Madison are not eligible for funding.

Instructions for Receiving Travel Funding

To request funding, students must submit an email request in advance of the conference, cc’d to both the Director of Graduate Studies and to the Graduate Coordinator. The email should state:

  • the name of the paper
  • the name of the conference
  • the dates of the conference
  • the location of the conference

The student should also forward the email indicating that their paper is accepted for inclusion in the conference and will be placed on the program. The Graduate Coordinator will then send a letter to the student indicating the amount of scholarship funding to be expected.

The student must obtain a copy of the official conference program to be given to the Department Administrator within one month upon returning from the conference. The program should indicate the student’s name and the paper title. If the student has no Incompletes outstanding on their transcript, the scholarship will be processed after the conference program is turned in and should be received within six weeks.

Instructional Media Center

Located on the third floor of Vilas Hall, the Instructional Media Center (IMC) provides media and technology services for the entire department. The IMC houses the Hamel Family Digital Media Lab, the Walter Mirisch Seminar Room, and Communication Arts media production classrooms.

The IMC circulates laptops, video projectors, and other equipment to graduate students for instruction and short-term use. This equipment can be reserved online via Connect2 ( The IMC also maintains a media library containing thousands of DVDs and blu-rays of films, television shows, video games, and off-air recordings. A searchable, online catalog of these materials is located at Graduate students may check out any item not reserved for classroom use for their research.

IMC staff can assist graduate students with their research needs. Upon request, the IMC can provide film to video transfers, media creation (files, DVDs, blu-rays), video capture, as well as training in these areas. The IMC also issues keys for certain classrooms, and provides assistance for the Center for Communication Research. The IMC is staffed by individuals with a wide range of media knowledge and skills to assist graduate students. If you are unsure which staff member is best suited to assist you, email with your inquiry.

Campus-Wide Resources for Professional Development

In addition to opportunities at the department level, the Graduate School provides many resources to help you plan your path to career success. (See