Fellow Development Program

Rodriguez Lab


The Fellow Development Program is a distinguishing feature of the Self Graduate Fellowship. It provides general education and training in communication, management, innovation, and leadership to assist Self Graduate Fellows in their preparation for future leadership roles, complementing the specialized education and training provided in Ph.D. programs.


Each Self Graduate Fellow, by accepting the fellowship award, recognizes the benefits of the Fellow Development Program and makes a commitment to participate. The program time commitment is approximately 80 hours per year plus preparation and travel. To continue to hold the Self Graduate Fellowship, a Fellow must make satisfactory progress toward the doctoral degree and be an active and full participant in Fellow Development Program events each year for four consecutive years.

Development Program Events

Currently, annual events include skill sessions, communication coaching workshops, luncheons, a poster session, and a symposium. Since its inception, the form and content of the program have continued to change and be improved in order to meet the goals of the program.

Skill Sessions

Skill sessions serve as the professional development weeks for Self Graduate Fellows. The focus is on building knowledge and skills in communication, management, innovation, and leadership. Two sessions are scheduled each year.  The Fall Skill Session is held in August and the Spring Skill Session is held in January.

Communication topics include oral and written communication, media communication, research communication, crisis communication, cultural communication, interpersonal communication, and social media and communication networks.

Management topics include negotiation and conflict resolution, business planning and development, financial management, human resource management, and project management.

Leadership topics include advocacy, decision-making, ethics, vision and goal setting, teamwork, and collaboration.


The development program includes discussions of public policy topics designed to increase the fellows’ abilities as opinion leaders who possess broad knowledge of the major issues of their time.  The public policy topics are introduced during the Fall Skill Session and further addressed during luncheons.  Approximately ten luncheons are scheduled each year, five each semester.  Luncheons are held during the fall and spring semesters, typically on Tuesdays.  A buffet luncheon is held from 12:15-12:45 p.m., followed by a public policy presentation from 12:45-2:00 p.m.

Public policy topics are identified in discussion with current fellows and one topic is selected for the annual focus.  Internal (KU) and external experts are invited to present to the fellows on various facets of the selected policy topic.   

Recent Topics:
  • Information Policy (2022-2023)
  • Environmental policy (2021-2022)
  • Crisis policy (2020-2021)
  • Higher education policy (2019-2020)
  • Innovation policy (2018-2019)
  • Energy policy (2017-2018)
  • Media policy (2016-2017)
  • Higher education leadership and policy (2015-2016)
  • Affordable Care Act and health care reform (2014-2015)
  • Alternate energy and energy policy (2013-2014)
  • International relations (2012-2013)
  • Organizational entrepreneurship and leadership (2011-2012)
  • Economics, public finance, and fiscal sustainability (2010-2011)

Poster Session

A poster session affords current fellows the opportunity to present their research and learn about the research of other fellows.  Faculty mentors are invited to participate in this annual event typically held in November or December.

Communication Coaching

Communication coaching workshops with KU faculty and outside experts build skills and confidence in communication through group and individual practice.  Fellows work with other members of their cohort and individually with communication instructors in the fall and spring semesters each year.  The communication coaching workshops are held in a progressive sequence over the four years. 

Government and Science Policy Seminar

Self Graduate Fellows travel together to Washington, D.C. for a customized government and science policy seminar. This seminar is held every other year; fellows participate in their second or third year in the fellowship.  The seminar typically takes place in October, overlapping with the KU fall break.  The seminar features sessions with experts on topics including political parties and leadership, Congress, public policymaking and processes, the federal budget, science policy advocacy, and policy fellowships.  The seminar also includes tours of the city and monuments and a networking dinner with local Society of Self Fellows (Self Graduate Fellowship alumni).


The annual Symposium brings together Self Graduate Fellows, members of the Society of Self Fellows, and friends of the fellowship for meetings, networking, and celebration.  The Symposium includes the Board of Governors annual meeting, a Society of Self Fellows luncheon, a public lecture featuring a special guest, a reception and dinner celebrating the outgoing fourth-year fellows, and an alumni panel.  The Symposium is held all day Friday and Saturday morning in mid-April.

Symposium Lectures:
  • 2022: “Climate Change and Thinking Ahead.” Bina Venkataraman, journalist, science policy expert, author, and futurist
  • 2021 (rescheduled to October 7, 2021, from the 2020 cancelled date due to COVID-19): "How to be an Antiracist," Ibram X. Kendi, Ph.D., one of America's foremost historians and leading antiracist voices 
  • 2021: "Strategy in Times of Crisis," Safi Bahcall, Ph.D., a bestselling author, biotech entrepreneur, and business consultant
  • 2019: "The Neuroscience of Innovation," Helen Fisher, a Ph.D., a pioneer in the biology of human personalities and neurochemistry of leadership
  • 2018: "Big Science and the Future of Discovery," Brian Greene, Ph.D., one of the world's leading theoretical physicists and a brilliant, entertaining communicator of cutting edge scientific concepts 
  • 2017: "Making a difference- What's love got to do with it?" Charles Svoboda, Ph.D., Aerospace Engineer, The Boeing Company; Self Graduate Fellow, Aerospace Engineering, 1998-2002
  • 2016: “Wireless Technologies: From Entertaining to Essential,” Cory Beard, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, University of Missouri-Kansas City; Self Graduate Fellow, Electrical Engineering, 1995–1999
  • 2015: “Understanding the Evolution of Healthcare,” Matt H. Ackermann, Ph.D., Consultant Medical Liaison, Rheumatology/Bone, Lilly USA; Self Graduate Fellow, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, 1997–2001
  • 2014: “Energizing Change: The Self Graduate Fellowship’s Action Imperative,” Karl B. Brooks, Ph.D., Region 7 Administrator, United States Environmental Protection Agency; Self Graduate Fellow, History, 1996–2000
  • 2013: “A Character Study: The Role of Makeup in the Psychology of Beauty and Perception,” Sarah A. Vickery, Ph.D., Principal Scientist — Communication, Research, and Development, Color Cosmetics, P&G Beauty, Procter & Gamble; Self Graduate Fellow, Chemistry, 1997–2001
  • 2012: “How Economists Forgot Entrepreneurship and Mislaid the Creativity Economy,” Nathan C. Berg, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Economics, School of Economical, Political, and Policy Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas; Self Graduate Fellow, Chemistry, 1998–2001
  • 2011: “Medicinal Chemistry: The First Steps in the Life of a Drug,” Kristine E. Frank, Ph.D., Senior Scientist, Global Pharmaceutical Discovery, Abbott Bioresearch Center, Worcester, Massachusetts; Self Graduate Fellow, Chemistry, 1994–1998
  • 2010: “Engineering Wind Turbines — Should People Take These Things Seriously?” Kyle K. Wetzel, Ph.D., President and Chief Executive Officer, Wetzel Engineering, Lawrence, Kansas; Self Graduate Fellow, Aerospace Engineering, 1994–2005
  • 2009: “Leading is a Marathon, Not a Sprint,” Karyl B. Leggio, Ph.D., Dean, Sellinger School of Business and Management, Loyola College in Maryland, Baltimore, Maryland; Self Graduate Fellow, Business, 1995–1998