Advance Professional Growth


The communication competency spans personal and professional development and includes the ability to:

  • Build relationships with others, establish rapport, empathize, listen, and be sensitive to others (active listening)
  • Respond to advice/criticism, and guide/provide constructive criticism
  • Contribute to groups, avoid and/or resolve conflicts, motivate others, and foster a collaborative environment
  • Communicate to various audiences effectively (orally and in writing)

Communication competencies are divided into three stages. Each stage includes recommended steps.

Early stage (years 1-2)

  • Initiate mentoring relationships
  • Learn communication conventions
  • Plan & present research
  • Explore manuscript requirements

Mid stage (years 2-4)

  • Communicate with mentors/committee
  • Develop presentation and writing skills
  • Initiate professional networks
  • Present research regionally and nationally

Late stage (years 4-5)

  • Communicate with mentors/committee
  • Expand communication skills
  • Expand professional networks
  • Publish & present research or scholarship

Activities and milestones that support attainment of the communication competencies include but are not limited to:


  • 1st program/track talk
  • Lab meetings
  • Seminar1
  • Coursework2


  • Leadership & Professional Series9

Graduate school/other

  • Professional Development Initiative (PDI)10


  • Research presentation3
  • Lab meetings4
  • Seminar5


  • Leadership & Professional Series9

Graduate school/other

  • Professional Development Initiative (PDI)
  • WSU/HRS11


  • Research presentations6
  • Lab meetings7
  • Seminar8


  • Leadership & Professional Series

Graduate school/other

  • Professional Development Initiative (PDI)
  • WSU/HRS12

Expectations for the communication competency


Uses aggressive, inflammatory, offensive language. Tone, quality of voice, or audiovisual supports inappropriate. Inappropriate response to advice or criticism. Unable to provide feedback and constructive criticism. Ineffective or very limited contributions to group. Limited or ineffective ability to build professional relationships and establish rapport.


Has some challenges when communicating with mentor, instructors, and laboratory members. Accepts and takes action on constructive criticism with some reluctance or difficulty. At times uses defeatist or counterproductive language. Some difficulty presenting materials in writing, orally or with visual aids.

Performs to Expectations

Able to anticipate context and potential for conflict and works to minimize when deeded. Demonstrated ability to communicate orally and in writing to scientific audience. Able to integrate tone, quality of voice, audiovisual supports appropriately to convey message to a variety of audiences. Seeks out and accepts advice and criticism. Able to provide suggestions when asked to mentor, peers and others.

1 We recommend that you attend and focus on the research significance and controls, presentation of the data; remain engaged during presentations inside & outside your research area; and read related papers from the speaker.
2 Seek opportunities for presentations, discussions and feedback during your coursework, such as: NEUROSCI 592 Research & writing, VET_PATH 544 Immunology, VET_PATH 545 Mechanisms of Disease. Consider electives outside of the discipline that support communication competency development.
3 Seek opportunities to gain practice and interact with various audience. Typical opportunities include presenting your research proposal, presenting and completing your qualifying/preliminary exam, participating in program retreats, WSU Showcase, CVM Research Symposium and attending/presenting at regional or national meetings.
4 Lab meetings can provide the opportunity to volunteer – “I’ll do it”. Seek out and accept opportunities to provide feedback to others. Typical opportunities include providing comments on internal manuscript and internal proposal review.
5 Take advantage and participate in opportunities to visit and dine with the seminar speaker. Prepare by becoming familiar enough with the speaker’s work to engage in conversation; develop habits of mind such that if called upon be prepared to ask a question.
6 Prepare & submit a proposal to present a talk at a national meeting.
7 Develop your communication skills with your mentor, peers and ‘junior’ members in the lab. Focus on active listening, anticipate context and potential for conflict and minimize when needed. Practice contributing in a collaborative environment, and supporting the motivation and accomplishments of others.
8 Seek opportunity to suggest a seminar speaker or introduce a speaker and host speaker during campus visit. Practice asking a question during seminar.
9 The iPBS Leadership & Professional Development Series offers sessions each year. We recommend that you consider topics such as “Communication to avoid and resolve conflict” & “Getting more out of Seminar”.
10 Participate in the Professional Development Initiative (PDI) which is hosted by Graduate School and the Graduate Professional Student Association.  An effort will be made to avoid duplicating a topic or offering between the offering from the iPBS and the PDI. We recommend that you consider sessions about providing feedback & editing.
11 Participate in professional development opportunities through the Provost Office, and WSU ADVANCE. We recommend that you consider a session about leveraging your electronic presence & developing your brand.
12 We recommend that you participate in select opportunities from HRS which help you learn about some of your likely future roles. Look for sessions and training for supervisory, management, independent researcher roles.