At a recent meeting on educational issues, someone reported feedback from big companies on fresh graduates from academic graduate programs in general. It is widely felt that there is a gap between the training and the expectation in the corporate world. More specifically, most companies felt that fresh graduates from academic programs need to have more preparation in four areas: strategic thinking, project management, team work, presenting the big picture of a project (the elevator talk).
Hmm, these are all important for surviving in academia too! I thought. Maybe there should be more emphasis on having final projects (with final presentations) in our courses at all levels (undergraduate, MA and PhD). To make these handful of projects count, mentoring during the project and feedback after the project hold the key.
This semester, for G6101, there will be an assigned data project as part of the final exam, mimicking the format of our qualifying exam on applied statistics. G6101 doesn't have many presentation opportunities for the students (yet). For W4335 "sample surveys", I am experimenting assigning two small project ideas every week as "optional projects". Students are required to do two such projects during the semester and "present" their results in the discussion board. Hope these will bring them closer to their landing pad in the new world (whatever and wherever it may be) after they finish our program/course.