The UMSOD Pathways Program is designed to provide students a framework from which to investigate areas of their choosing within dentistry, working with faculty throughout the four-year program, and engaging in different types of scholarship through elective courses and capstone project completions, depending on which pathway they choose.
These investigations (selective educational experiences and immersion projects) occur in research laboratories, clinics and private practices , and in global and local community settings, to provide "real-world" experience. Students also become proficient in articulating their experiences through written and oral reports. In many cases, projects are accepted for publication in peer-reviewed journals or presentation at national conferences. Above all, the Pathways Program provides opportunity for students to develop habits for self-directed lifelong learning by seeking out and choosing the content of this extended learning opportunity, as well as the opportunity to commit to and completing a meaningful capstone project. The overarching goal of the Pathways is to provide a space within the curriculum to ignite passion, foster purpose and sustain individual professional identity formation.
The Pathways Program is based on autonomy. Students direct their own learning through this multiyear program that begins in their D-1 year and culminates in a celebratory Pathways Day in their D-4 year. Students choose what interests them in the expansive dental health/healthcare realm and engage at their own pace in the direction they chose. They may elect to work in teams or individually. They have opportunities to work within the school, across campus, around the state, or around the globe within their chosen focus.
The Pathways Program is based on mentorship. From the beginning of the D-1 year, each and every student is assigned a "Guide'', a faculty member who meets with the student one-on-one and provides guidance within the Pathways program, and in many cases, within the full spectrum of the student's education and career efforts. Both the faculty and the students embrace this and appreciate the valuable time together. In the D2 year, if a student chooses the Immersion Pathway, they will then select their project and engage a faculty mentor, who then provides guidance in the specific project, its planning, execution, completion and dissemination of results. All faculty members serve as guides to one or more students in the Pathways program, regardless of the pathway chosen. This program has dramatically enriched and enhanced the students' appreciation of the faculty. Upon exit interviews in the D-4 year, one of the top three items of value that the students identify is "the faculty". They describe their faculty as 'going the extra mile' to support their professional development through this and other programs in the school. Similarly, faculty members consistently report the opportunity to get to know students on a deeper level through this Pathways Program guide system, as one of the greatest benefits of the Pathways program to the faculty. The Pathways Program has brought us together in myriad ways as a community.