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### Enhancing Graduate Students’ Well-being: Strategies for Growth

Editor’s note: Graduate and Professional Student Appreciation Week is scheduled for April 1-5. Here are the initiatives undertaken by The Graduate School to commemorate this week.

Finding Megumi “Meg” Moore’s office can be a challenge without prior knowledge of its location. Only a subtle graphic featuring two leaves offers a clue to the activities within the wooden and frosted glass door. However, inside, a groundbreaking approach to supporting graduate education is unfolding.

Meg Moore serves as the director of the [ppp1]—more commonly known as GROW. This partnership between The Graduate School and the Division of Student Life and Engagement sets itself apart among R1 universities. The primary goal of GROW is to ensure that graduate students not only excel academically and professionally but also flourish in all aspects of their lives. By providing support, resources, and fostering a sense of community, GROW prioritizes the holistic well-being of students in graduate education.

Moore emphasized the unique approach of GROW towards well-being, stating, “Well-being can be a very touchy-feely subject, and I think a lot of people shy away from it because of that. That’s where GROW is different.”

Initially, GROW had a different identity. Its predecessor, the Graduate Student Life and Wellness program, originated nearly twenty years ago under the Student Affairs department. This office focused on various aspects of health such as sleep, nutrition, and fitness.

“The core essence of this office has always been deeply caring for student success,” mentioned Moore. “Ensuring that students take care of themselves and each other.”

Over time, the office evolved to meet the changing needs of students. Moore, who previously served as a graduate student program coordinator for the office while pursuing her Ph.D. in Higher, Adult, and Lifelong Education at MSU, witnessed these transformations firsthand.

“As students’ needs and identities evolve, the office has adapted in various forms to align with these changes while maintaining a consistent vision,” Moore explained.

Assuming the director role in 2020 amidst the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Moore faced the task of steering the office through unprecedented times.

“The transition to virtual operations posed a significant challenge as many of our hallmark programs were traditionally conducted in-person,” Moore reflected. “Adapting to these circumstances was a defining moment for the Graduate Student Life and Wellness program, leading to its reimagining as GROW.”

The evolution into GROW marked a significant shift, emphasizing inclusivity beyond graduate students to encompass professional students, visiting scholars, and postdocs. This change not only introduced a new name but also a revised mission focusing on skill development.

Moore articulated the office’s new mission, stating, “I envision this office equipping students with skills applicable beyond their current academic pursuits, ensuring they carry these skills forward, be it in academia, industry, or any future endeavors. Well-being encompasses a spectrum of skills, including stress management, self-reflection, and relationship management.”

GROW facilitates skill development through a wide array of workshops tailored to the specific needs of students, departments, or colleges. While stress management and imposter syndrome workshops remain popular, the office is open to hosting sessions on diverse topics to cater to the varied needs of the student community.

The essence of GROW lies in fostering a sense of connection and solidarity among students, emphasizing that they are not alone in their academic journey.

During a recent workshop organized in collaboration with the Council of Graduate Students (COGS), the focus was on navigating professional conflicts. Moore, in addition to sharing evidence-based conflict resolution strategies, encouraged open dialogue among participants. The workshop transformed into a lively exchange of personal experiences and insights, extending well beyond the scheduled duration.

Lizzy King, a graduate assistant at GROW, highlighted the significance of creating a supportive community within the office. She emphasized, “Having a central space on campus dedicated to fostering connections is truly rare. Our efforts aim to facilitate self-awareness, well-being, and community engagement among individuals.”

Apart from workshops, GROW’s Dissertation Support Groups bring together students from diverse disciplines to collaborate on their research projects. These groups often extend their interactions beyond the structured program, providing mutual support during crucial milestones like dissertation defenses.

The Leadership Fellows Program, a flagship initiative of GROW, has evolved into a year-long cohort program focusing on community-building projects within departments. From its humble beginnings with a single student from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the program has expanded to include over 20 Fellows from across MSU. GROW mentors the Fellows throughout their projects, offering both guidance and financial support.

Moldir Moldagaliyeva, a doctoral student in the Information and Media program, is one of the Leadership Fellows working on a project to support international graduate student mothers facing unique challenges. Moldagaliyeva expressed her commitment to making a positive impact within her community and department.

The testimonials from students like Edmond Anderson, a master’s student in Data Science, underscore the value of GROW in promoting wellness and mental health within the academic environment. Anderson appreciated the emphasis on well-being and community support, acknowledging the rarity of such initiatives in educational settings.

Dean Pero Dagbovie of The Graduate School acknowledged the pivotal role of GROW in advancing MSU’s commitment to sustainable health, a key focus area of the university’s strategic plan. The renewed efforts of GROW align with the university’s vision of supporting graduate student success and well-being.

Moore’s overarching message resonates with the core ethos of GROW, emphasizing the significance of individual well-being and personal circumstances in the academic journey. She concluded, “GROW signifies that every aspect of who you are and where you stand in life is valued. Your academic progress, personal challenges, and overall well-being—all of it matters. You are seen as a whole person throughout your graduate school experience.”

For further details, please visit [ppp2] or reach out to Moore via email at [ppp3].