Professional development seminars

Requirements and timing

Each student must complete 2 professional development seminars. Normally these seminars should be completed before the qualifying examination.


Seminars must be professional in orientation. Therefore, the seminars are additional to academic coursework and teaching development, and should not directly relate to the student’s doctoral research. The two required seminars should be distinct in topic or provide progression in skill on a topic.

Seminars should be commensurate with doctoral-level studies. Learned skills could support complex problem solving processes involving non-academic as well as academic experts. Examples include skills in expert facilitation, knowledge management, process or policy design, program evaluation, monitoring and assessment processes. Skills could be applied, including professional writing, oral communication, proposal writing, business writing, project management, time management, entrepreneurship, teamwork, coding and consulting.

In the regular course of PhD studies, the student is encouraged to and expected to develop research, teaching and other academic skills; however, these are distinct from the professional development requirement to support practice outside of academia.

Note: A list of approved professional development seminars is provided in Microsoft Teams in the SEED PhD group.


The format of the milestones is open, and may include courses, workshops, seminars, training or events, whether online or in-person (broadly referred as “seminars”).

Professional development “seminars” may also be more innovative or self-directed in nature. For example, a student could develop an entrepreneurial business plan; compete in a business competition involving project management, teamwork and oral presentation; or propose and implement a consulting project. These options are encouraged but need special approval from the Associate Director, Graduate Studies.


Each seminar must be equivalent to a minimum of one-day (8 hours) of in-class course content. Milestones will often be longer in duration, for example, a professional course may be one-week. Short seminars that are related or connected together (e.g., as a series on a topic) may be “added together” to reach the minimum requirement for one milestone.

Training organizations

Students are encouraged to seek training from external organizations like industry, professional associations, government or third sector organizations. Seminars may also be offered directly by SEED or other units at Waterloo.

Examples of organizations and training include:

A list of ideas and opportunities for seminars is provided in the Microsoft Teams SEED PhD Students group.

If proposing a new seminar idea, please submit a completed SUSM PhD Milestone Request for Approval form.

Financial assistance

No funding for the seminars is provided by SEED. The students may discuss options for support with the supervisor.

Seminar assessment

The student will complete a seminar according to the requirements and assessment process and criteria of the training organization. If a formal assessment is performed it should be noted in the student’s report. In all cases, the student will be expected to complete a report and make a declaration that they have completed the milestone requirements.

Student report

After completion of a professional development seminar, the student shall write a short (approximately one-page) milestone report describing the seminar, reflecting on the value of the seminar, and providing a recommendation to the PhD program regarding the merits of the seminar for future PhD students.

Report your completed seminar by submitting a Report on Completed SUSM PhD Professional Development Seminar form.

Program approval

The student milestone report will be assessed by the Associate Director, Graduate Studies, and if acceptable, the milestone will be approved for the student. As appropriate, the Associate Director, Graduate Studies may add any new milestone to the list of approved professional development seminars.

Academic record

After approval, milestones will be recorded on the student’s academic transcript as a “PhD Professional Development Seminar”.