Stanford University
Postdoctoral Scholars

August 2010

Orientation of incoming postdoctoral scholars


I am writing to share several changes and additions to the orientation of new postdoctoral scholars at the university. Over the past six months, I have been working with the SUPD leaders and met with postdoc focus groups about the programs offered through Postdoctoral Affairs. This entailed discussions regarding orientation. We examined the orientation practices at peer institutions and compared our orientation content with what is provided to students and staff at Stanford. In the background was also a pressing need to allocate staff time in OPA to critical systems projects.

As a result, we’ve implemented several changes that aim to meet three purposes behind an orientation program: 1. ease the transition of postdocs to Stanford (i.e., preparation pre-arrival and upon arrival), 2. inform new postdocs of the key setup steps/logistics they must take when they arrive; and 3. advise them on the best strategies and give them useful information in order to facilitate the most productive educational experience while at Stanford, including an awareness of the cultural adjustments that many international scholars experience.

Towards meeting these goals, orientation will now take place through multiple approaches:

New additions to the OPA Website:
“Incoming Postdocs”: this dedicated section has several information: pre-arrival as well as multiple checklists for postdocs to follow upon arrival, in the first weeks here and by the end of their first year. Direct your new postdocs to this section as soon as their appointments are approved.
Frequently Asked Questions: OPA is partnering with the Student Services Center to develop an exhaustive knowledge-base of frequently asked questions that new and continuing postdocs as well as their administrators direct to OPA on a regular basis and their answers! The knowledgebase, called AskJane, is searchable and has already been populated with more than 30 questions related to various aspects of postdoc administration. The list is growing. Browse the list and suggest further additions to OPA by writing to Remember to look up your questions there before writing to OPA!

For your information, the OPA website is undergoing a facelift that will be reveal further additions and enhancements in the next several days.

The new OPA website will also have a dedicated page: Orienting New Postdocs – Toolkit for Administrators. Administrators in departments are key to a successful start of their postdocs at Stanford. OPA expects that departments support the transition of their new postdocs locally, and provide basic Stanford information such as getting an ID card, parking, email setup …etc. Towards supporting this role, the OPA website will include recommendations for administrators to follow when onboarding a new postdoc. Check the page when it goes live in a few days!

De-coupling the creation of an EmplID from Orientation attendance. This has created a bottleneck in processing of new appointments and a sense of constant urgency every Wednesday in our office when the appointments information would be entered in PS for the session the following day. To address this issue and in preparation for our transition to PeopleSoft, PS EmplIDs will now become available at the time the appointment is approved at OPA.

The weekly Thursday Orientation will focus on Postdoc Benefits, and accordingly shortened to start at 10 am and end no later than 12 noon. This session remains required for postdocs in order to ensure that they are informed of their benefits, understand them, sign-up correctly, and get their questions answered.

In lieu of 5-minute, one-slide information about various opportunities and services at Stanford for postdocs, several one-hour topic-based sessions will be scheduled on a monthly basis to provide in-depth information and guidance on career planning, fellowships, and visas, and other areas of interest or need to postdocs. These sessions replace the short, one-slide, snapshot that used to take the first 30 minutes or so of the Thursday Orientation. The first session is scheduled next Thursday, August 12 on Finding and Applying for Postdoctoral Fellowships, open to new as well as continuing postdocs and will be led by Debra Porzio, Postdoctoral Fellowships Manager at the School of Medicine Research Management Group.

I look for your support in taking advantage of the new resources available to you and to your new postdocs, as well as to your thoughts and suggestions!

Happy Summer!!


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