Faculty Academy of Graduate Student Well-Being

About the Initiative

Graduate Studies will be launching a new initiative invested in the support of graduate student well-being called the Faculty Academy of Graduate Student Well-Being. This initiative will train faculty to deliver graduate student seminars on mental health and well-being within graduate programs. This course is based on the success of a course created by Professor Carolyn Dewa (Public Health, Psychiatry, and Behavioral Sciences) who developed a well-being course (course syllabus) offered as a graduate seminar for one quarter. This course has been offered to a number of graduate programs since 2019 and takes a public health approach to mental health promotion. It addresses skills to deal with common graduate school stresses by introducing graduate students to the scientific evidence regarding stress and tools for self-care. The skills introduced in this course can be used both personally and professionally.

This program is designed to empower faculty across campus to instruct similar courses within their own graduate programs. A train-the-trainer model that will build a cohort of faculty that can lead initiatives to promote graduate student well-being. Faculty participants will learn the scientific evidence on mental health and develop facilitation skills to lead conversations on well-being.

Carolyn Dewa and her colleague Kathy Holmes-Sullivan (Lewis and Clark University) will partner with Graduate Studies to design and implement this initiative. Trained faculty may receive the title Academy for Graduate Student Well-Being Faculty Fellows for their graduate programs and receive academic enrichment funds ($1,000) for those that deliver seminars for their programs. The effectiveness of the material and teaching, as well as its impact on students, will be evaluated.

In addition to being equipped to teach material for the graduate student well-being course, participants in the Academy will:

  • Review classroom teaching and facilitation skills to use with this material
  • Discuss how to set protocols and safety nets within your academic community for Mental Health  & Stress Reduction
  • Explore methods and strategies for supporting vulnerable students including historically underrepresented students
  • Create a community of practice and resources for the graduate student mental well-being courses
  • Enhance faculty well-being

Apply for the Inaugural Cohort 

The Faculty Academy of Graduate Student Well-Being will train faculty to instruct graduate student well-being courses within their own graduate programs or across a cluster of graduate programs. Faculty participants will learn the scientific evidence on mental health and develop facilitation skills to lead conversations on mental health. While participants will be exposed to mental health research and discussions, as well as consultations with mental health experts, but the program will not be a space for group therapy or individual therapy for faculty. 

Participant Criteria and Information

  • Applications for the Fall 2021 Cohort are due June 18, 2021.
  • Both Academic Senate and Academic Federation faculty are invited to apply. 
  • Trained faculty may receive the title Academy for Graduate Student Well-Being Faculty Fellows for their graduate programs and receive academic enrichment funds ($1,000) for delivering seminars for their programs.  
  • The program will run September 7, 8, 9, 14, 15, and 16 from 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. on Zoom (virtual). Additional consultations and events will be offered throughout the year, including an end of the year program. Faculty must be available to attend all program events.

Apply for the Faculty Academy of Graduate Student Well-Being

If you have any questions about the program or the application, please contact Elizabeth Sturdy, Director of Mentoring and Academic Success Initiatives, by emailing ejsturdy@ucdavis.edu.

Graduate Student Well-Being: Recent Reports

  • Recent reports have shown that anxiety and depression have increased amongst graduate students during the pandemic (see Nature 585, 147–148; 2020). On our campus, we have seen increased reports of isolation, anxiety, depression, diminished motivation, and stress.The pandemic has only compounded on the mental health challenges graduate students had already been facing preceding March 2020. 
  • A 2018 study by Nature recently called mental health trends amongst graduate students “evidence of a mental health crisis in graduate education” (Evans et al., 2018). According to the study, more than a third of doctoral students have experienced anxiety or depression and 39% reported moderate to severe depression symptoms. The study called for more interventions for graduate students and mental health education for faculty. 
  • UC Davis surveys mirror national trends. According to the UC Davis Graduate Student Well-Being survey, 42% reported mild or severe depression  (University of California Office of the President, 2016). In the 2019 study by graduate student and Professors for the Future participant, Leonardo Jo, the most common sources of stress for graduate students were research responsibilities or pressures, impostor syndrome, academic performance, financial / job insecurity, writing responsibilities and isolation or lack of community support (Jo, 2019). Of those experiencing anxiety or depression, 20% disagreed that their major professor provided adequate support. This study also determined that the graduate group/department plays a critical role in supporting graduate student mental health (27.58% of graduate students gained knowledge of mental health resources from the program) (Jo, 2019). 

How UC Davis is Leading the Way

Graduate programs play a critical role in providing graduate students with guidance and resources in navigating graduate school. As we have seen in recent studies, many graduate students are experiencing mental health challenges during their graduate program and do not always receive early information on signs, resources, or support. By offering a course, the graduate program encourages graduate student participation, ensuring they receive the information, and fosters a sense of community within the cohort. The course is also designed to be academic, not self-help, so it allows students to engage with well-being information without enlisting in therapy or having to share personal experiences. This program also provides faculty with training and resources to facilitate wellbeing conversations with graduate students - a critical step for empowering faculty to support graduate student well-being.

The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) recently issued a report on “Supporting Graduate Student Mental Health and Wellbeing: Evidence-Informed Recommendations for the Graduate Community” that includes a series of recommendations to address these alarming trends. Recommendations included training on graduate student mental health and well-being for faculty and more support mechanisms for graduate students as they navigate their graduate degrees. Vice Provost and Dean Jean-Pierre Delplanque is one of the Graduate Deans to sign the CGS Statement of Principles and Commitments of Graduate Deans to show his investment in graduate student well-being. Additional reports, papers, and resources can be found on the CGS Graduate Student Mental Health and Wellbeing page.