BioMolecular Sciences Advocacy Council Enhances Student Experience

Graduate student-run group hosts journal club, networking events

UM pharmacology professor Josh Sharp presents on professionalism to the BMS Graduate Student Advocacy Council. Photo courtesy Erik Hodges

OXFORD, Miss. – The graduate students and faculty of the Department of BioMolecular Sciences in the University of Mississippi School of Pharmacy have worked together to re-establish an organization that promises to benefit the many graduate students within the department.

The BMS Graduate Student Advocacy Council formed during the fall of 2018 as the department renewed its official student registration of the former BMS Journal Club. The organization plans to include more opportunities for interaction outside the labs with faculty and student networking events, journal club meetings and football tailgates.

“Professional science is incredibly difficult for numerous reasons,” said Erik Hodges, biomolecular sciences graduate student and president of the advocacy council. “Because of these challenges, it is imperative that students have a dense network of support, which we are fortunate to have with biomolecular sciences faculty and administrators.

“The BMS Graduate Student Advocacy Council aims to provide a direct line of communication between the students and the faculty, and we hope to do whatever we can to facilitate students’ success.”

One of the group’s initiatives is the Professional Skills Workshop Series. The workshops focus on skills not taught in a traditional classroom setting, such as time management and communication.

The group’s first workshop featured a talk on “Q&A Etiquette” by Josh Sharp, assistant professor of pharmacology. Sharp provided students with strategies to demonstrate professionalism from both sides of the presentation podium, including how to ask and answer critical questions.

“For me personally, I found his discussion to be both enlightening and emotionally moving,” Hodges said. “At one point, he explained that we must ask ourselves every morning, ‘Do I want to be the kind of person that publicly cuts other people down, or someone who treats others with respect and dignity?’

“No doubt the whole world would benefit from this type of introspection, and I am confident that everyone who attended Dr. Sharp’s presentation benefited greatly from his insight.”

Kristie Willett, chair of the biomolecular sciences department, is encouraged by the students’ initiative to redevelop the advocacy council. Reflecting on her own graduate school experience, Willett believes the students will benefit greatly from the organization’s ambitions.

“This will give the students opportunities to enhance their leadership skills, drive aspects of departmental programing and become more invested in the broader success of the department,” Willett said. “Our students have some great ideas for their own professional development.

“I really welcome their suggestions and appreciate their initiative in bringing in speakers and hosting departmental networking functions.”