Postdoctoral Affairs Strategic Plan 2022-26
Virginia Tech is committed to providing an exceptional postdoctoral experience, supporting the growth and development of postdocs as scholars and individuals.
The following strategic plan describes how Virginia Tech’s Office of Postdoctoral Affairs will improve the university’s support for postdoctoral associates over the coming five years. The plan is data-driven and informed by national best practices. In addition, the plan will be a living document, adjusted to input and data in the coming years.
Vision: To be a national model for exceptional postdoctoral training and support.
Mission: Serving and supporting scholars oo they may serve the world.
1) The postdoctoral community will be vibrant, engaged, and connected
Create a welcoming community for Virginia Tech postdocs that connects them to one another and campus resources and opportunities.
Results of Virginia Tech’s postdoc climate survey from April 2022 showed that 23 percent of postdocs often or always feel isolated (with another 43 percent occasionally feeling so) and that only 37 percent are either satisfied or very satisfied with their social experience at Virginia Tech. These findings align with National Postdoctoral Survey data that have shown isolation and other mental health challenges worsened for postdocs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. VIrginia Tech must work to foster a stronger postdoc community at the university and provide means for postdoctoral associates to connect with one another and the broader university.
- Start the postdoc in a positive direction by developing and offering new postdoc orientation experiences and welcome documents.
- Improve communication channels for postdocs to engage with one another and receive updates and information from the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.
- Support the postdoc experience by improving communication with and support for faculty supervisors.
- Enhance support for Virginia Tech Postdoctoral Association activities and initiatives.
- Ultimately, increase engagement and connection among the Virginia Tech postdoc community that will foster improved climate at the university AND lead to opportunities to engage thankful postdoc “alumni” in future programming and initiatives.
2) Provide an exceptional postdoctoral training experience
Elevate career and professional development to help postdocs make the most of their time at Virginia Tech and prepare for what’s next.
The 2022 Virginia Tech postdoc climate survey identifies many positives in the training environment at the institution with 82 percent of respondents satisfied or very satisfied with their work/professional experience at the university. In addition, 72 percent agree or strongly agree their position is preparing them adequately for their future career. Postdocs did indicate a need to better develop the following skills: writing grant proposals, teaching, preparing application materials, and interviewing for jobs (including tenure-track faculty jobs).
- Create new or promote existing resources and programming to assist postdocs in high-demand skills, including essential skills related to networking, the faculty and non-faculty job search, communication, grant writing, teaching, leadership, management, and more.
- Build out both asynchronous, online resources and synchronous programs that foster community and peer support for skill development.
- Promote online resources and tools available through the National Postdoctoral Association and others.
- Provide structure for postdoc development to support career success by increasing creation of mentorship or individual development plans by postdocs and their supervisors.
- Offer future faculty mentor training for postdoc supervisors and postdocs, who often serve as mentors in their current roles or will in the future (in collaboration with Faculty Affairs and Graduate School).
- Enhance resources for faculty pursuing externally sponsored funding for postdocs.
- Create a culture of effective mentorship and professionalism between postdocs and faculty improves the overall postdoctoral training experience at Virginia Tech and ultimately heads off personnel issues that can arise when expectations are not clear and effectively communicated between postdocs and their faculty supervisors.
- Through the creation and promotion of a collection of career and professional development resources and programs, postdocs will be more successful finding careers in the field of their choice.
- The ability to promote the outcomes of the postdoctoral population will enable the office to clearly communicate the value of postdoc training at Virginia Tech to prospective postdocs.
- Outcome tracking will assist the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, the Office of Research and Innovation, and the university in better competing for training grant opportunities that require postdoc outcomes be measured and tracked.
3) Become a destination for postdoctoral talent
Assist faculty in recruiting and mentoring postdocs.
Virginia Tech’s 2022 postdoc climate survey found postdocs chose to come to Virginia Tech primarily to work with a particular faculty member or research group (77 percent said this was very or extremely important in their decision). Other factors that were important in choosing to postdoc at Virginia Tech included: success of supervisor’s former trainees (43 percent indicated this was very/extremely important); compensation (33 percent) and benefits (34 percent) compared to other offers; work in same geographic area as spouse/partner (36 percent). The presence of equivalent faculty benefits to Virginia Tech postdocs is a major asset when compared to other institutions (64 percent of public institutions offer paid maternity leave and 60 percent matching retirement plans to postdocs per the National Postdoc Association’s 2019 Institutional Policy Report). We should promote benefits (both financial and traineeship) of a Virginia Tech postdoc more aggressively in marketing, enhancing postdoc recruitment.
- Launch the Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship Program with financial support to hire exceptional postdoc talent.
- Collaborate with participating faculty mentors to assess impact.
- Build and distribute an assessment of faculty mentor needs.
- Development of postdoc recruitment tools and resources for faculty mentors.
- Effective promotion of the Presidential Postdoctoral Fellowship program and future recruitment initiatives improve the Virginia Tech postdoctoral training brand.
- By assisting faculty mentors in recruiting exceptional postdoctoral talent, the reputation of Virginia Tech’s research enterprise will be strengthened.
4) Support infrastructure for Office of Postdoctoral Affairs
To ensure processes and procedures are put in place to aid the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs in sustaining, improving, and demonstrating the impact of the office.
- Understand the needs and objectives of the postdoctoral community through the creation of annual Virginia Tech Postdoc Climate Survey.
- Receive guidance and support from campus through the establishment of an advisory board to assist the office.
- Develop connections and partnerships with other offices across campus to amplify bandwidth and resources.
- Improve connections with colleges, institutes, and departments to synergize efforts around supporting postdocs at the local and university level.
- Build mechanisms to track Virginia Tech postdocs’ impact and career outcomes.
- Sharing resources and best practices across campus will improve the overall training environment for postdocs at the university.
- A more effective internal process to manage data collection will assist the office in connecting with new, current, and former postdocs, which will build greater affinity between these groups and Virginia Tech. Later, this could be leveraged into opportunities for former postdocs to give back in the form of financial support or programmatic support (serving on career panels, willingness to speak with current postdocs about their careers) to improve the postdoctoral experience at the university.