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viewpoint

Dear graduate students

| Monday, March 25, 2019

If you follow any graduate school network, or even education news in general, then you’ve probably seen the headlines. In 2018, a survey conducted by researchers at the University of Texas revealed that graduate students are over six times more likely to experience moderate to severe depression and anxiety than the non-student population. Another study published in Nature Biotechnology concluded much the same: 39 percent of graduate students experience moderate to severe depression, with higher rates among women and non-gender conforming individuals; over half of those with depression or anxiety felt that they did not have a good work-life balance and half did not believe that their advisors or supervisors provided meaningful mentorship.

We believe that the graduate school experience should be better than this.

Collectively, we are Connor Mullen, Shinjini Chattopadhyay (co-vice president) and Amy Kryston (co-vice president), and we are running to be your next Graduate Student Union (GSU) Executive Board. We are running on the platform of cura personalis, or educating and caring for the whole person — mind, body and spirit. With our experience in quality of life development and community outreach, we believe that our work — through engagement with the graduate school population — will improve wellness for all that seek to better themselves.

While the specific reasons for the shocking rates of depression and anxiety are diverse, there are many root causes that can be traced from unique experiences. These include financial strain of a graduate school stipend (exacerbated by any dependents or health issues), poor student-advisor relationships, minimal resources or community for LGBTQ students, overwork and dismal work-life balance, social isolation and lacking a sense of belonging. Even students not dealing with anxiety or depression can suffer from regular advisor conflicts, loneliness and aimlessness. But there are ways to improve the graduate student experience.

We seek to care for the mind, body and spirit of all students through the following initiatives:

  • Improving advisor-student relationships by providing mentoring workshops.
  • Integrating mental health awareness and care through integration of McWell and University Counseling Center services into graduate student life.
  • Addressing gaps and concerns of graduate students with dependents by focusing on childcare and healthcare.
  • Improving financial wellness by working for reduced campus dining and offering budgeting workshops.
  • Building an empowered and cohesive graduate student community through regular social activities.
  • Creating and funding more opportunities in the South Bend community to develop a stronger sense of belonging.
  • Addressing LGBTQ and under-represented students’ needs.

But most of all, we want to listen to each individual student — to you. We want to empower you to improve your own experience, personal and professional. Join the conversation. Check us out on Facebook at Notre Dame Team Mullen, and please considering voting for us March 25-29.

We believe that graduate school can be better. We hope that you do too.

Sincerely,

Connor Mullen

Ph.D. Candidate, Civil Engineering

Shinjini Chattopadhyay

Ph.D. Candidate, English

Amy Kryston

Ph.D. Candidate, Civil Engineering

March 21

 

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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