PFL Ambassadors

You may have seen our PFL (Preparing Future Leaders) Ambassadors traveling around campus lately. Instead of displaying the dove brooches favored by Madeline Albright, they proudly wear PFL lapel pins.

The Graduate School announces the official launch of the PFL Ambassadors Program. This new professional development initiative recognizes graduate students who have demonstrated exceptional leadership skills through their involvement in Preparing Future Leaders programs. Drs. Barbi Honeycutt and Melissa Bostrom have invited an elite group of graduate students to represent PFL as Ambassadors during the 2012-2013 academic year.

Preparing Future Leaders (PFL) is the Graduate School's premiere professional development initiative for graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. PFL helps participants develop the knowledge and skills that empower them to recognize their potential as leaders today. PFL offers over 100 professional development seminars, workshops and events every year centered on three main themes: Career Skills, Teaching and Mentoring, and Responsible Conduct of Research. Participation in PFL gives participants a unique skill set that will set them apart from everyone else, which is PFL's slogan: How will you stand out?

According to Barry Peddycord, a Ph.D. student in Computer Science, "The Graduate School provides a tremendous resource to its graduate students through the Preparing Future Leaders program. Many institutions leave the success of their graduate students squarely in the hands of their thesis advisor, which puts an unreasonable burden on both student and the professor. Grad students should be motivated to utilize PFL to help develop themselves from silo'd specialists to well-rounded, global-thinking professionals." And Haritha Malladi, Ph.D. student in Civil Engineering, adds, "From the very first semester of grad school, I loved attending PFL seminars across all its themes. Where else would you have the opportunity to learn how to write a research introduction, figure out how to put together good learning objectives for your class AND understand the nuances of professional attire, all within your lunch break? Not only are you giving booster shots to your career development, you can even earn certificates for doing so!"

The PFL Ambassadors are a group of ten graduate students from several different disciplines who have firsthand experience of the benefits of PFL and the leadership qualities that they fine-tuned from attending PFL programs themselves. They have a commitment to the current and future well-being of PFL and graduate student body. Ambassador Audrey Watanabe, a master's student in Industrial Design, shares her enthusiasm for the program: "I am excited to serve as an Ambassador to meet new people, help others, and to work with my fellow incredibly driven and dedicated Ambassadors. We all share a common intent to ultimately better our student community." Serving as a PFL Ambassador allows these students to connect with other students, faculty, and staff from across the university, and beyond. Depending on the types of events and projects they choose, Ambassadors can also increase their opportunities for networking, enhance presentation and communication abilities, and build leadership and organization skills beyond the PFL programs they've already participated in. As Ambassador Chirag Gajjar, a Ph.D. student in Fiber & Polymer Science, puts it, "PFL Ambassadors is an exciting opportunity to give back to the PFL program while practicing the professional and leadership skills learned through PFL, expanding your network, and making friends with other awesome PFL Ambassadors!"

The Ambassadors will not only serve as voices to share the merits of PFL, but aim to improve PFL by creating new initiatives and sharing new ideas. As part of the program requirements, Ambassadors are expected to complete a comprehensive project that has a direct impact on the PFL program and the university. Sample projects include creating a teaching workshop on incorporating service-learning projects in the classroom, starting a reading group for current research in educational scholarship, developing an on-demand workshop about plagiarism, and producing career skills seminars to connect community leaders with graduate students.

The creation of the PFL Ambassadors program is sure to rustle up lots of excitement around the university. Students should be excited to learn more about the opportunities PFL will afford them and learn how to take full advantage of the program. There are many benefits to participating in PFL events and Ambassador Molly Storment, a Ph.D. student in Communication, Rhetoric, & Digital Media, highlights a very good one: "I strongly feel my participation in PFL helped me 'stand out' in my Ph.D. applications." Faculty should encourage their students to participate in PFL events in order to grow professionally and expand their knowledge into deeper realms of understanding in teaching, mentoring, career skills, professionalism, and responsible research practices.

Ambassador Marc Kai, a Ph.D. student in Chemical Engineering, sums up his experience from PFL this way: "The saying usually goes that 'you get out of it what you put into it,' but PFL goes above and beyond due to the synergy possible within a multi-disciplinary, group setting. I am very thankful for this opportunity, and look forward to the future Ambassadors that have yet to be discovered!"

If you'd like to invite a PFL ambassador to your department, college, or association event, contact our Secretary of State at

Article by Alicain Carlson, PFL Ambassador and Ph.D. student in Horticultural Science

Homepage Photo (back row, left to right): Katherine Ryker (Ph.D. student, Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Science), Barry Peddycord (Ph.D. student, Computer Science), Alicain Carlson (Ph.D. student, Horticultural Science), Marc Kai (Ph.D. student, Chemical Engineering); (front row, left to right): Audrey Watanabe (M.A. student, Industrial Design), Chirag Gajjar (Ph.D. student, Fiber and Polymer Science), Natalie Cooke (Ph.D. student, Food, Bioprocessing, and Nutrition Science), Haritha Malladi (Ph.D. student, Civil Engineering), Molly Storment (Ph.D. student, Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media), Menglong Hu (Ph.D. student, Chemistry)

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