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### Comprehensive Assistance for Graduate Students: A Holistic Approach

As the University commemorates its graduate and professional students this week, The Well interviewed [ppp1] executive director of strategic initiatives to discuss the [ppp2], an endeavor aimed at providing support to this student population.

How did the Graduate Student Experience (GSE) originate and why is it deemed necessary?

Following Beth Mayer-Davis assuming the role of dean of The Graduate School, numerous graduate and professional students shared their experiences, prompting the inception of the GSE. This initiative is, in part, a response to the students’ appeals for more comprehensive support.

Studies indicate that graduate and professional students are encountering heightened levels of stress and anxiety. The challenge lies in identifying sustainable solutions that address the underlying causes rather than offering superficial remedies. There are various stressors that can be alleviated within the campus environment.

What are the primary objectives?

The primary aim is to formulate both long-term strategies and immediate projects that can positively impact students.

One such objective is to streamline access to existing support services through the introduction of a new campus resource navigation website set to launch in the upcoming fall semester.

Another focus area is the influence of mentor-mentee dynamics on a student’s tenure at Carolina. A proposal made to the provost involves the implementation of mandatory mentorship training for faculty members to ensure that both mentors and students engage in supportive and fruitful relationships. Additionally, efforts are underway to introduce individual development plans and mentor-mentee compacts, mandatory for all doctoral and research-focused master’s students.

Furthermore, attention is directed towards enhancing the working conditions of graduate and professional students. The Graduate School recommends doctoral students limit their research or teaching assistant roles to a maximum of 20 hours per week. A new TA training program is also in development for all students serving in TA positions.

The fourth initiative entails evaluating the current mental health and well-being services, including Campus Health, UNC Health, CAPS, and other providers, to gain a comprehensive overview of the available support systems. A fundamental principle guiding these efforts is the belief that graduate education should promote academic excellence while nurturing overall well-being.

What is the student’s role within the GSE?

The GSE involves 107 individuals from various campus units, including 18 graduate students. Collaborating closely with the Graduate and Professional Student Government ensures alignment with the organization’s objectives and student requirements. The steering committee includes the current GPSG president, Lauren Hawkinson, and the incoming president, Katie Heath, facilitating a seamless transition.

The initiative comprises five working groups, two dedicated to TA-related issues, two to RA-related concerns, categorized based on disciplinary expertise, and a fifth group focusing on student life and wellness holistically. Each working group and the advisory board include graduate and professional student representatives to ensure diverse perspectives are considered.

What feedback has been received from students?

The response from students has been overwhelmingly positive, with a keen interest in observing the tangible effects on their daily experiences. In the upcoming semester, opportunities will be extended for additional volunteers to participate in the initiative, encouraging interested graduate students to get involved.