Enriching the PhD Experience Through International Doctoral Student Seminars

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Rebecca Elizabeth Salomon, MSN, BA1
Martha A. Abshire, PhD2
Matthew Alders, BA, BSc3
Sabianca Delva, BSN, RN2
Rita Forde, MSc3
Mavis Machirori, MSc, BSc3
Hanna Marketta Repo, MNSc4
Tamar U. Rodney, MSN2
Camilla Strandell-Laine, MNSc4
Ruth-Alma N. Turkson-Ocran, MPH, MSN2
Joanne Fitzpatrick, PhD3
Anne Jones, MSc, PhD, PGCert3
(1)School of Nursing, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC, USA
(2)School of Nursing, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD, USA
(3)Florence Nightingale Faculty of Nursing and Midwifery, King's College London, London, United Kingdom
(4)Department of Nursing Science, University of Turku, Turku, Finland


Nursing doctoral programs exist in varying models around the world. While there are many measures of success for these programs, one way is through the collaborative opportunities a program provides and the success of the students in maximizing these collaborative efforts (Edwards, Rayman, Diffenderfer, & Stidham, 2016). Doctorally prepared nurses value opportunities to learn from each other and form professional contacts as they prepare for their future careers (Jairam & Kahl, 2012). Seeking international peers through a web-based platform can be used to increase collaboration and peer support.


The purpose of this presentation is to describe an international doctoral student seminar and the lessons learned in the first year in order to support the development of other international collaborative partnerships by 1) describing the establishment of the group and 2) identifying benefits and barriers to the process.


The International Doctoral Student Collaboration was initiated by two faculty members from King’s College London (United Kingdom) following a meeting of The International Scientific Advisory Board (ISAB). After establishing an internal interest in the project, invitations were extended to Johns Hopkins University (USA) and University of Turku (Finland). These collaborators were initially chosen on the basis of their established links between the faculties at these institutions. A steering group comprised of doctoral students from the faculties of Nursing from each University was established to lead on this initiative. The inaugural seminar was held in September 2015 and hosted by King’s College London with further seminars hosted in turn by University of Turku and Johns Hopkins University. Due to the success of these seminars, the collaboration has been extended to include doctoral students from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (USA). Meetings continue to be held in rotation, with topics of the seminars jointly determined by the participating Universities. The host University then identifies a suitable expert on the chosen subject to facilitate the seminar. Each seminar is conducted via videoconferencing. Between seminars, students continue to network and communicate via other multi-media platforms.


Twenty-three students and faculty across the four universities participate in the seminar. Presentations in the first year have focused on how to build an international research profile, how to be involved with the peer review process in academic journals, and how to effectively engage in social media as a researcher. Benefits to the students have included being visiting scholars at each other’s university, building a professional network, and utilizing peer support . Students have taken opportunities to meet each other through mutual attendance at conferences and trainings, further strengthening the collaborations. Additionally, the group is currently collaborating on a manuscript for submission. Some of the challenges encountered in the first year have included navigating international time zones and different academic schedules. Also, a lack of shared web-based conference platforms meant that as each institution hosted a seminar, a new system had to be accessed.


International student collaboration presents a unique opportunity by allowing the student to create a community of support, develop leadership skills, and form an international professional network (Rautenbach & Black-Hughes, 2012). Shared team leadership, with each university taking rotating responsibility for content, has been linked with higher success of virtual teams (Hoch & Kozlowski, 2014). Additionally, researchers have suggested a framework for the enhancement of international scholarship by collaborative learning through a web-based initiative (Wihlbord & Friberg, 2016). This collaboration provides a unique opportunity for doctoral students to form an international professional network and a community of support among peers.


In the first year of this international doctoral student collaboration, key benefits to members have been the development of a professional network, leadership skills and peer support. Participation in the seminar encourages early engagement in career building with a focus on supporting international research.