The Graduate Student Health Survey
Written by Erin Michel, Graduate Assistant for the Graduate College
As graduate students, we all get a lot of emails. It comes with the territory. You might’ve glanced at the Grad College’s request to complete a survey, moved on, or even deleted it. We urge you to reconsider taking the Grad Student Health Survey, however, if any of the above apply to you: are you a graduate student? Do you like gift cards? Do you want to help us become more in tune with the needs of our dear GradCats, and implement programming to meet those needs? Check your inbox (or your archived folder) now!
Marielle Newton, Mental Health Graduate Assistant and Mental Health Counseling master's student, worked with Graduate College Dean Dr. Rose Marie Ward to create and distribute the survey. “When the Graduate College created a position for a graduate student that would focus on mental health programming, one of the first things that Dean Ward and I talked about was that we could definitely do some kind of generalized [mental health] trainings or workshops, but that to implement programs that would [truly] be effective and helpful, we needed some data,” explains Newton. Newton and Ward have collaborated for an entire semester, determining which measures would best reflect the diverse health needs of the student body while narrowing and refining it to a clear and cohesive instrument.
“I will admit that the survey is kind of long,” Newton says with a laugh. “But all the programming and training that the Graduate College is going to be able to offer to all graduate students [as a result of the survey], regardless of the program they’re in, could be incredibly valuable for [helping] people feeling like they can handle the stress and challenges […] that are so unique to graduate students.” Research shows that doctoral and master’s students worldwide experience anxiety and depression at rates more than six times higher than that of the general public, which scholars suggest may be due to the multitude of competing demands that define graduate education. In addition to the typical pressures of higher education, graduate students face additional stressors, including pressure to publish and teach, as well as family responsibilities, financial pressures, and lack of campus social community. Newton adds that many campus services, at UC and other institutions, are tailored towards undergraduates. “Graduate students don’t necessarily feel they can use those resources,” she explains. “So, if the graduate college can fill that need by offering training or partnering with other organizations, then we feel like that will make the graduate student experience a lot richer.”
Newton and Ward have done their due diligence in utilizing a solid research base to create the survey. While many of the items are aimed at getting a broad picture of mental health needs across the grad student population, two specific scales target mindfulness and imposter syndrome. Newton explains that the evidence points to these two constructs as key players in the challenges associated with graduate school. “Graduate students face a feeling of being so busy and stressed that they aren't actually even present in their own experience in graduate school. Mindfulness is well known as the most effective way to feel more present and connected to the world around you,” she explains. By assessing students’ existing competencies regarding mindfulness, Newton and the Graduate College can best understand where extra programming is needed. Similarly, Newton explains that research points to imposter syndrome substantially influencing grad student mental health (check out this past GradCurrents article to learn more!). “Whether they’re TAs or Research Assistants, graduate students are put into situations that make them feel like they aren’t actually qualified to be there, and so they don’t necessarily take up as much space or invest as much into their experiences as they would [otherwise].” The Graduate College is prepared to invest significant resources in empowering graduate students to push past their imposter syndrome and achieve all that they are capable of; the survey will help them know where to start. Students who complete the full survey will be directed to a separate page where they will be invited to provide their email address to receive a $5 Amazon gift card. “The gift card is kind of a token of our gratitude [for student participation] so that we can get good and applicable data to create a vision for mental health programming,” says Newton.
Students who complete the full survey will be directed to a separate page where they will be invited to provide their email address to receive a $5 Amazon gift card.
Students who have any questions or concerns regarding the survey can reach out to Principal Investigator, Dr. Rose Marie Ward, at email@example.com or Research Assistant Marielle Newton, M.A., at firstname.lastname@example.org.