Philadelphia College of Pharmacy launched a new multi-year, student-centered program this summer that looks to improve students’ personal and professional development throughout their USciences experience.
Called the Student Excellence and Professional Preparation Program or StEPP, the program has four core areas: professional trait development, leadership, career planning and development, and service/civic responsibility. What’s unique is that the program starts before the new students even arrive at USciences.
“We want our students to become connected to PCP and the University before they even begin their education,” said Dr. Jill A. Pfeiffenberger, former chair of the StEPP Committee that developed the program. “We recognized that students might not be fully ready for the professional phase of the pharmacy program because there are only two pharmacy courses in their pre-professional years. Students are academically prepared, but need further development professionally.”
“In the past it was not until they were P2 and P3 students that they had a better sense of pharmacy careers. One goal of StEPP is to accelerate their understanding.”
Surveys, student representatives, and focus groups indicated that:
- Professional behaviors and expectations were not well defined or fostered, yet were expected
- Most students, especially U1 and U2, did not feel connected with PCP or the profession
- Students “realized” later in their program that they should have been involved earlier in activities, organizations, internships, etc .
- Students want more connection with faculty, faculty advisors, and professional mentors
- Students want more career guidance, especially earlier in the program.
The first phase of the program was to unite incoming PCP students with a P1 mentors. After undergoing training, 16 PCP students reached out to the incoming class via e-mail and established individual relationships. The students connected at least once per month.
Once on campus, the mentors got a chance to meet face-to-face with the students. They will continue to connect with them and encourage their participation in various College activities that foster professional development, at least twice in the fall and twice in the spring. Help has come from fellow students such as Sophia Ng PharmD ’14 who has been instrumental in preparing the mentors. Ng brings her experience from her undergraduate education where she served as a student advisor in her biology program at Cornell University.
“As students progress through the pharmacy program, the upperclass student mentoring will be complemented by PCP faculty members, especially in the later stages of the P3 and P4 education,” said Dr. Lindsay Curtin, newly appointed director of the StEPP program.. “As it gets closer to graduation, we want our alumni to be involved for career advice.”
StEPP starts with the first core focus area, focusing on personal and professional development, and takes up the majority of the first and second years before overlapping with the second core focus, leadership. Each successive core area is then introduced and overlaps with the previous core focus to reinforce the skills. Upon graduation, students should be able to practice responsibly and uphold the standards and ideals of the profession of pharmacy.
“StEPP is unique here. We strive for it to improve our students’ engagement and satisfaction with their experience at PCP as well as complement their academic coursework in preparing them to be successful pharmacists,” said Dr. Lisa Lawson, PCP dean. “I am particularly happy that this was a highly creative, grassroots effort by faculty and students of PCP to develop this program. If this proves to be successful, it may serve as a model for some of the other of the University’s colleges.”