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New, common office for postdoctoral affairs opens

by Oct. 11, 2016, 4:07 PM

Alumni Hall, future home of the Graduate School at Vanderbilt.
Alumni Hall, home of the Graduate School and Office for Postdoctoral Affairs. (Vanderbilt University)

In order to better serve the postdoctoral community at Vanderbilt, operational oversight of all fellows and trainees has coalesced into a new Office for Postdoctoral Affairs housed within the Graduate School. Previously, the administration of postdoctoral programs had varied across different departments and schools.

Provost Susan R. Wente (Vanderbilt University)
Provost Susan R. Wente (Vanderbilt University)

“Vanderbilt’s commitment to recruiting and training tomorrow’s scholars and research leaders doesn’t stop at the Ph.D.,” said Provost Susan R. Wente. “Advancing postdoctoral education was one of the priorities of the Graduate Education Study Group. Having common and shared oversight of this group of scholars will ensure that they are well supported during their time here.”

There are more than 500 postdoctoral scholars currently at Vanderbilt. Having recently received a doctoral degree, postdoctoral scholars are pursuing additional training or apprenticeship in preparation for their careers, generally under the supervision of a mentor and department with aligning scholarly interests. It’s a transitional position by design and the independent nature of the work can often leave postdocs feeling disconnected from their peers.

“This new model represents a powerful way to promote a stronger sense of academic and intellectual communities among our postdoctoral scholars, who come from a diversity of disciplines,” said Mark Wallace, Dean of the Graduate School.

Mark Wallace (Vanderbilt University)
Mark Wallace, Dean of the Graduate School (Vanderbilt University)

Christopher Smith, a postdoc in the Department of Psychology since 2014, is pleased with the change. He did not often cross paths with the biomedical postdocs at VUMC with whom he had similar research interests until he became aware of Vanderbilt’s campus Postdoctoral Association (PDA). Now an officer with the group, he appreciates the university’s efforts to foster more connections among this unique group of scholars. “With this new setup, we in the PDA are excited to connect more with the greater postdoctoral community across all of Vanderbilt’s colleges, departments and centers,” he said. “Having a centralized office responsible for postdoctoral affairs across the university will undoubtedly benefit the entire postdoctoral community on campus.”

The office will oversee the day-to-day operations of Vanderbilt’s postdoctoral program, which includes managing appointments and reappointments, conducting orientations, advising postdocs about funding mechanisms and opportunities, connecting postdocs to professional development opportunities such as career planning and grant writing, as well as sponsoring events for the postdoctoral community. The office will also assist in the recruitment of postdocs and promote the achievements of Vanderbilt’s postdocs.

The Office for Postdoctoral Affairs is located within the Graduate School’s main office in Alumni Hall.