Dec. 10, 2018

Surviving Graduate School Bootcamp

Grad School is Tough Here Are the Tools you’ll need to Thrive

Fall is upon us once again bringing with it the start of graduate school for many of our new recruits. This year the incoming graduate students at the Cumming School of Medicine were the first to experience Graduate School Bootcamp. This two-day orientation was the first of its kind and was designed to make sure new students are aware of all the resources at their disposal here at Foothills. From the Health Sciences Library to workshops on financial planning and scholarship support the students received basic training on all aspects of graduate life. If you are a current graduate student and are worried about missing out or you are unsure of where to find a particular resource, read on! This article has links to all the resources that were introduced during the Bootcamp.

Advice from the Vice Dean

The Surviving Graduate School Bootcamp was inaugurated with a brief and heartfelt presentation from the Vice Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, Dr. Glenda McQueen. She gave sincere and sound advice to students on coping with academic life, practical suggestions such as joining a social clubs and meeting fellow graduate students were her main recommendations.

Library Resources and Plagiarism

Dr. Diane Lorenzetti then spoke about the Health Sciences Library ( and a discussion on the various forms of plagiarism and how to avoid it was held by Lee Ann Penaluna, the Coordinator of Academic Integrity ( ).

Who’s who of Grad School

Students were introduced to all the various student bodies such as the Graduate Students Association ( ) and the Council of Foothills DGAs ( Dr. Tara Beattie, Associate Dean of Graduate Science Education, acquainted the audience with the administrative staff who work tirelessly to help students navigate all the administration involved in graduate life ( ). While Dr. Robin Yates, Senior Associate Dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies (FGS), presented an overview of his department and their role in helping with student affairs ( ).

Institutes and Research Facilities

A networking lunch on the first day gave students an opportunity to mingle with representatives from each of the various institutes which provide opportunities ranging from additional funding for training and conferences to special interest journal clubs. Senior graduate students from each institute also made the new students feel welcome and helped them understand the institutes that they would likely be interacting with based on their research and supervisor’s affiliation.

Scholarship Support

The new students were then given the tools to help them cope with all aspects of graduate life including Personal Financial Planning and introductions to the new Scholarship Support Hub. The Scholarship Support Hub is specifically designed to help with all aspects of scholarship writing. Workshops focused on specific scholarship applications, workshops for supervisors (including writing reference letters), peer mentorship with successful applicants and post-doctoral mentorship programs are all offered to help students write successful applications.

Career Services.

Dr Stephanie Warner had an honest and open discussion around career development and transitioning into the workforce. Although all the students have just started their graduate studies, it is always a good idea to have career goals. She also emphasised her commitment to visiting the Foothills campus, making it easier for students to book appointments for advice and counselling. From preparing great resumes to helping you with LinkedIn, Career Services is the place to go for career guidance ( ).

Supervisor-Student Relationships

Day two kicked off with a presentation from Dr Robin Yates on managing supervisor-student relationships. Perhaps the most important relationship you will develop during your time as a graduate student is the one you will have with your supervisor. Dr Yates taught students how to manage expectations and discussed strategies to communicate effectively for an efficient working relationship. Keep a professional tone and have a problem solving attitude when discussing work was highly recommended. Nothing is ever perfect and sometimes conflicts do arise so some advice and tips on how to deal with conflict management and how to prevent it all together were also discussed.

Mental Health and Wellness

Throughout both days of the Bootcamp, it was made clear the mental health and wellness is of the utmost importance to the Faculty at the Cumming School of Medicine. Mental health first aid kits were given to each student which contained various products to help students cope with anxiety. From silly putty to bath salts, there were numerous goodies included to help students deal with stress. This was an initiative designed and implemented by the Mental Health and Wellness Committee which is the newest sub-committee of the CFD. Ann Laverty, a counsellor from The Wellness Centre ( ), mediated a panel discussion with senior graduate students who discussed their philosophies on coping with stress in graduate school. This was followed by an overview of the resources available on Main campus. Importantly, counsellors make regular visits to the Foothills campus twice a week on Mondays and Fridays to make it easier for students to access encouragement and support.

Student Success Centre

The final resource discussed with the incoming students was the Student Success Centre ( ) who provide tailored learning support and advising programs as well as one-on-one services, free of charge to all graduate students. Additional programs are being brought to the Foothills campus that including a Writing Community and the Peer Coaching Program. The Writing Community will help students put together various manuscripts from your thesis to articles for publication with the aid of accomplished mentors. The Peer Coaching Program provides a safe space to chat to peers about any guidance or advice you may need that concerns your academic interests in graduate school.

Cultural Awareness.

The final workshop hosted within the Bootcamp was centred on cultural awareness. Graduate school is inherently multicultural from international students to the variety of cultures found right here in Canada you are bound to interact with someone from a different cultural heritage at some point in your graduate studies. Dr Aruna Srivastav discussed the various resources on the main campus for multicultural groups ( and ) and how the University is implementing its Indigenous strategy ( ).  

The Surviving Graduate School Bootcamp successfully prepared new students for the challenges they may face in graduate school and gave students an idea of where to find support. If you have any suggestions as to how to improve the Bootcamp experience or if there’s something you feel we didn’t cover, let us know by contacting us at  We’re always keen to make the event even more relevant to new grads.