The Preparing Tomorrow’s Leaders for Science (PTLS) Scholars Program

Faculty nominations due March 25, 2021.

PTLS is a proven program that transforms graduate students and post docs into confident professionals able to lead, collaborate and communicate effectively to achieve greater results. It makes participants more effective now, gives them an edge when competing for a job, and prepares them for successfully transitioning into their next position, whether that is academia, an institute, a small business or a large company.

Who can become a PTLS Scholar?

The program is for master’s and PhD students and post docs in biochemistry, bioengineering, bioinformatics, computer science, food science, engineering, mathematics, social science and plant science, or who have a faculty advisor in IPG. Other disciplines may be included upon special invitation or request. Preference will be given to those students who have completed one year of coursework.

What do PTLS Scholars gain from the experience?

PTLS is about (in the words of past PTLS Scholars)

  • Transforming yourself into being a confident and competent professional who can effectively lead teams.
  • Boosting your resume by demonstrating skills employers expect – that’s why Monsanto/Bayer has funded PTLS for more than five years and being a participant is a selling point when interviewing.
  • Getting exclusive access to PTLS alumni in jobs nationwide that feel an immediate connection to you being part of the same program.
  • Getting to practice and receive feedback on your soft skills (e.g., facilitating, planning, influencing, collaborating, leading people) vs. just learning about them.
  • Collaborating and building friendships with other grad students, making school less isolating.
  • Achieving stretch goals as a result of peer accountability.
  • Getting a more intimate look at companies so you build a network and figure out what you really want to do (academia or industry).
  • Learning to interview confidently and being more effective in the job search.
  • Realizing your strengths based on what others say around you, and how to use them to be more effective both in grad school and beyond.
  • Learning how to influence others and get people on teams to work better together.
  • Getting to know like-minded people from different fields.

Here’s what a few business and academic leaders said about the program:

“Not only does this translate into students who have greater success in the job market, but we also observe more immediate effects on students’ productivity in the academic setting.”

“The students’ soft skills were WAY above average. Mizzou has great students and this program makes them better.”

“I didn’t think that you could teach people to be leaders. They either are or aren’t. But, PTLS has completely changed my mind about that.”

Why is PTLS unique?

Students learn by working through issues they will encounter on the job – learning to plan and execute, lead discussions, and have hard conversations. Students learn by working through issues they will encounter on the job – learning to plan and execute, lead discussions, and have hard conversations.

PTLS is transformational. It works because it isn’t just a class – it is a collection of experiences and opportunities that are unique to this program which starts each fall. Like an athlete, PTLS scholars have a personal coach to help them. They are part of a strong team and a tradition which help them achieve goals they often hadn’t considered before. PTLS Scholars become more intentional and focused on achieving what is important to them.

This program has been proven to be effective because it is not a typical class but an immersion experience where participants are treated as professionals, working in small groups which become support teams for personal growth. All aspects of the program are interwoven for reinforcement of development and learning. There is personal one-on-one coaching and access to leaders most students don’t receive. Training is unique and professional assessments are used in the process. Scholars receive help solving current challenges and with building skills to prepare for future opportunities. It is a unique opportunity for those who want to take their performance to the next level.

What skills do students learn and practice in PTLS?

PTLS Scholars will have a competitive advantage over their peers nationwide because they will know how to:

  • Present themselves professionally and confidently
  • Influence others, work collaboratively and lead teams
  • Deal with conflict and have hard conversations with confidence
  • Write and present effectively
  • Network and build mentoring relationships
  • Lead meetings
  • Manage a project
  • Interview with confidence and identify a “best fit” position
  • Manager their time and energy
  • Lead others with an engaging style
Student at tableIndividuals have a personal leadership coach throughout the year

What is the required commitment?

During Phase I (fall semester), the time required is approximately 5-6 hours per week (2 hours for the full group meeting, 1 hour for the small group, and a few hours of preparation). The program has been successfully conducted virtually since 2020 – this format enables more effective breakout groups and enables us to attract a wider variety of speakers. When feasible, the format will shift to a hybrid approach.

Advisors and students in this program have found the students’ productivity and general effectiveness increases, and it is often a net zero time investment as students become more efficient and eliminate tasks and activities with little value. Phase II, which takes place during the spring semester, is being examined for a potential redesign and will be less time intensive than Phase I. Phase I is a re-requisite for Phase II.

What is the process for selecting students?

Faculty and administrators will nominate students. Selected candidates will be asked to submit an application, and from those, a set of students will be interviewed and the final PTLS Scholar team will be identified. We are looking for a diverse group of students who have leadership potential, demonstrate initiative, are coachable, and want to develop themselves and help others grow. PTLS prepares students who have career aspirations in either academia or industry.

Students engage in hearty discussions with scientists and leaders in industry.

Faculty members and advisors can nominate a student by sending the student’s name, email and an explanation of why the student should be considered to Loriana Sekarski, leader of the PTLS Scholars Program, at Loriana will follow up with nominated students on the full application process.

Who is MU partnering with to offer PTLS?

BONSAI, a leadership coaching and consulting company, has been leading PTLS since 2014. They have developed and delivered similar programs and provide coaching for leaders in many businesses and organizations. Bayer Corporation is funding this effort because they want to develop better leaders for the industry, both in business and in academia.

If you have questions or if you are a faculty member and would like to nominate a student, please email