Spotlight Event: Igniting Students’ Communication Potential: Peer-Coaching at the Science Comm Improvement Lab w/ Paul Consalvi
On July 14th, 2023, we welcomed Professor Paul Consalvi and two graduate students, Mieoko Miyazawa and Anamika Anand, members of the Science Communications Improvement Lab (SCIL) from the UTokyo Kashiwa campus, to share their ongoing initiatives for enriching graduate education and professional development. Seeing the entrepreneurial spirit animating Paul, Mieko, and Anamika was inspiring and encouraging.
SCIL is an innovative experiment started by Paul, a longtime resident of Japan with extensive business experience, together with resourceful graduate students like Mieko. Seeing that graduate students in the Kashiwa campus had a lot to gain from more systematic professional development programs, Paul, Mieko, and other graduate students collaborated to launch SCIL, which consisted of a writing center, an English discussion club, and a series of research workshops, all of which aimed at helping graduate students learn the skills to communicate their scientific findings to scholarly and more comprehensive communities effectively. SCIL thus contributes enormously to graduate education in the Kashiwa campus because science-communication skills are crucial for getting grants, publishing papers, and contributing to scientific research at the national and global levels.
What is truly innovative about SCIL is that it is run entirely by graduate students. To be sure, Paul, with his business background, trained the first generation of graduate students Mieko to acquire the basics of coaching, facilitation, and design thinking. (And he continues to mentor them.) Nevertheless, the first generation trained the next generation of graduate students, including Anamika, with the same skillset through formal sessions and informal practices. In essence, SCIL operates according to the principle of peer learning. It was inspiring to learn how passionate graduate students are about learning and how courageous they are in taking ownership of their education.
Needless to say, the very success of SCIL poses a vitally important challenge regarding faculty development at UTokyo: how might faculty members integrate SCIL into a larger ecosystem of graduate education and professional development in the Kashiwa campus (and beyond) so that they can better help graduate students grow to become first-rate scientific researchers and educators? Perhaps, SCIL and GFD might be able to work together to tackle the challenge – as the effective development of the next generation of faculty members is crucial for the future of higher education.back