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Faculty Academy of Graduate Student Well-Being

About the Initiative

Graduate Studies is launching a new initiative called the Faculty Academy of Graduate Student Well-Being. Taught by Professor Carolyn Dewa (Public Health, Psychiatry, and Behavioral Sciences), the Academy will expose faculty to critical scholarship on well-being with the intention of supporting graduate student success. Faculty will learn how to design and teach graduate student seminars on mental health and well-being within their own graduate programs. The initiative will use as its model a course created by Professor Dewa (course syllabus), which she has offered to a number of graduate programs since 2019. It takes a public health approach to mental health promotion and fosters skills to deal with common graduate school stresses by introducing graduate students to the scientific evidence regarding stress and wellness. The skills introduced in this course can be used both personally and professionally.

This program is designed to aid faculty across campus in teaching similar courses within their own graduate programs. The Academy adopts a train-the-trainer model that will build a cohort of faculty who will lead initiatives to promote graduate student well-being. Faculty participants will learn the relevant scholarship 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 will be named Faculty Fellows of the Academy for Graduate Student Well-Being. Those who go on to develop and teach a seminar in their graduate program will receive $1,000 in academic enrichment funds. Graduate Studies will also evaluate the effectiveness of  both the training and the seminars for improving graduate student well-being on campus.

In addition to being equipped to teach a 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 their academic communities 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 expanding the graduate student well-being courses.
  • Enhance their own well-being.

Apply for the Inaugural Cohort 

The Faculty Academy of Graduate Student Well-Being will train faculty to design and teach graduate student well-being courses within their own graduate programs or across a cluster of graduate programs. While participants will engage with mental health research and discussions and consult with mental health experts, the program will not be designed to provide group therapy or individual therapy for faculty. 

Please note, this initiative is limited to 20 participants. Applications will be reviewed by July 2. Applicants will be notified of acceptance or denial by July 7.  Applicants will be reviewed on the following criteria:

  • Graduate program/field representation
  • Teaching experience
  • Familiarity with graduate student mental health and well-being challenges and experiences
  • Experience mentoring or supporting graduate students 
  • Graduate Program Chair support

Participant Criteria and Information

  • Applications for the Fall 2021 Cohort are due June 18, 2021.
  • Applicants must be a member of a graduate program.
  • Both Academic Senate and Academic Federation faculty are invited to apply. 
  • 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-year wrap-up. Faculty must be available to attend all program events.

Apply Now!

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 among graduate students during the pandemic (see a 2020 Nature article by Chris Woolston). On our campus, we have heard increased reports of isolation, anxiety, depression, diminished motivation, and stress.The pandemic only compounded the mental health challenges graduate students commonly face.
  • A 2018 study in Nature identified “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 another 2019 study by graduate student and Professors for the Future Fellow, 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% stated that their major professor did not provide adequate support. This study also suggested 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 for navigating graduate school. By offering a course focusing on wellness, a graduate program provides vital information and also fosters a sense of community and mutual support 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 having to share personal experiences. The Academy Program also provides faculty with training and resources to facilitate well-being conversations with graduate students and among their colleagues.

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.” 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.