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 an annual award of up to $1000 to support students who will be delivering a paper or presentation at an academic conference. The funds can be used flexibly to support one or more conference trips during the academic year (Sep. 1 – Aug. 31) and should be used to cover expenses associated with: travel, registration, membership fees (if applicable), lodging, and per diem. Unused funds DO NOT carry over to the following year. Depending on endowment yield, and the number of overall requests, students traveling to a conference outside North America can request, but are not guaranteed, an additional $500.

To receive funding, graduate students must submit a request at least two weeks before leaving for the conference or funding will not be distributed. Students should request for funding as soon as possible after receiving notification of acceptance at a conference, following the procedure below. Students who are not currently residing in Madison should inquire with the Graduate Coordinator and DGS before requesting funds since funding amount may vary depending on travel plans. This funding is made possible through the McCarty Award Plan (MAP).

Instructions for Receiving Travel Funding

To request funding, students must fill out a travel funding request form at least two weeks in advance of the conference, which will file the request with the Director of Graduate Studies and the Graduate Coordinator. The form requires the following information:

  • Name of the conference (with proof of acceptance to the conference)
  • Dates of the conference
  • Location of the conference
  • Name of the paper, panel or workshop
  • Cost of conference registration (+ membership if required) with documentation
  • Estimated cost of travel (flight, taxi, etc.), with documentation
  • Estimated cost of lodging
  • Total amount requested, up to $1000 for a domestic conference or $1500 for an international conference.

Students who do not request the full amount for any given conference will be able to use the remainder for an additional conference in the same academic year (Sep. 1 – Aug. 31).

Students must have no Incompletes outstanding on their transcripts and must be in good standing in order to receive the scholarship.

Depending on endowment yield and remaining funds in the McCarty, students who incurred expenses applying to a conference to which they were not accepted do have the option to seek reimbursement for those funds from their $1000 total, if they choose. To respect the additional labor of departmental staff who would have to deal with these on an on-going basis, there will be a 1-week period at the end of the academic year where these reimbursements will be solicited.

Students should only submit requests for the amount of funding they will actually use, and should be judicious in their budgeting and estimates (both because we are a public institution under scrutiny for how public dollars are spent and because this will allow you to maximize the number of conferences you can attend in a year).

The student must obtain a copy of the official conference program, a program badge, or an online link to a PDF of the program to be given to the Graduate Coordinator within two weeks upon returning from the conference. The program should indicate the student’s name and the paper title. Failure to submit proof of attending the conference will result in loss of access to funds for future years.

For students who are participating in a conference-like event and are wondering whether funds exist to support travel and lodging to events where they are not giving a formal presentation, please get in touch with the Graduate Coordinator or DGS.

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.

Baxter Research Funds

Award Purpose

The Department of Communication Arts provides graduate students access to annual awards up to $3000 to carry out research for their dissertation projects or other publications in progress. The research awards can be used to help students defray costs associated with: traveling to research sites, data collection, recruiting study participants, accessing archives, acquiring research materials, supplementation of external awards (e.g. to top up research dollars of external grants to ensure no loss of funding), and other such expenses. Students may apply for funding once per academic year, and can apply in multiple years, though preference will most usually be given to students who have not yet received an award. The awards will be available on a rolling basis throughout the year. The number of students we support per year, and the amount of support available, will depend on endowment yield. Before applying, especially later in the academic year, students should feel free to reach out to the DGS or the Graduate Coordinator to check on status of the fund for that particular year. Conference travel funding through the department of Communication Arts can supplement funding received from the Graduate Schools Student Research Grant Competition.

Applying for Baxter Research Funding

To receive funding, graduate students must submit a two-page proposal to the graduate coordinator. The proposal should include:

  1. An abstract (of no more than one single-spaced page) of the research project you intend to carry out. Whether it is as part of your dissertation project or an article you hope to publish, please be specific and realistic about what you intend to do/produce for the award period in question. Abstracts should be written with non-specialist readers in mind, and should explain the importance of the project, not just describe the work to be done.
  2. A budget (one single-spaced page) that details and justifies how you propose to spend an award of (up to) $3000. Budgets should be itemized and estimates of costs should be as accurate as possible (i.e., if travelling somewhere, run a search for flight prices; if recruiting participants, look at the details/costs of the service you will use, etc.).

Proposals can be submitted on a rolling basis to the graduate coordinator who will then share applications at a subsequent meeting of the Graduate Committee. Members of the Graduate Committee will review the applications, and based on the proposal, will decide on whether to fund the award in full, in part, or whether to request revisions and a re-submission for the next meeting.

Conditions of the Award
Grant money may be spent only on legitimate research-related expenses (fieldwork or archive costs, data processing, transcription costs, participant recruitment, supplementation for an external award, etc.), and not on conference-related expenses or living expenses. Costs for travel, lodging and per diem should be realistic and should reflect the fact that we work for a public institution. Grant money should be spent within a calendar year of the award. Carrying funds for longer than a year may impact a student’s ability to receive funding the following year.

At the end of the award period (1 year from award notification), students must submit a report of their activities, a description of how funds were used, and evidence of the work they completed to the graduate coordinator and DGS. This can include a draft of a dissertation chapter, a published article, a conference paper, etc. Failure to submit the final report may adversely affect a student’s ability to obtain funding in future years.
Recipients are also expected to note support from the The Marilynn R. Baxter Trust Gift in the acknowledgements section of any publications resulting from the grant.

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