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Home » Discover Rackham » Rackham Creates Standing Committee on Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-Being

Rackham Graduate School has announced the creation of the Committee on Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-Being. This initiative recognizes that graduate student mental health has direct and disparate consequences for the academic success of all graduate students, and it therefore needs the continuous attention of the graduate school, graduate programs, and all who mentor and work with graduate students. It follows the recommendation of a task force on the subject that Rackham convened in 2019.

Creating the standing committee was the first of 10 recommendations the task force made to Rackham in its 2020 Year 1 report, all of which were accepted by Dean Mike Solomon. Much of the task force’s second year was devoted to developing this committee’s mission and structure. This includes the creation of an advisory group drawn from across campus in order to take advantage of the wealth of perspectives and expertise offered by the U-M community.

Central to the committee’s mission is the establishment of a mental health and well-being advocate program, which would see mental health advocates embedded in graduate programs across the university.

“Working with Rackham to create an advocate program that has the knowledge and tools to assist programs and connect academic expertise to the work of mental health professionals is one of the committee’s first priorities,” says Solomon. “I appreciate the progress the mental health task force has made in developing such a program, and I look forward to the committee being able to pilot it in the year ahead.”

Among the other areas of focus delineated in the report was the creation of a resource for graduate programs and mentors that provides an overview of the major stressors in graduate school, as well as principles and approaches for supporting graduate students during stressful times.

The task force also began work in a new area not covered in their Year 1 report, but which emerged from the events of the summer and fall of 2020—the impact of policing on graduate student mental health. Task force member, committee member, and U-M School of Public Health Ph.D. candidate Sara Abelson developed a survey to better understand the relationship between the two, and while the work remains ongoing it has already revealed clear and significant correlations. The topic is expected to be a major focus of the new committee in the coming academic year.

In addition, beginning this academic term, Rackham will set a normative expectation that graduate programs require annually updated mentoring plans for their students.

Other recommendations from the Year 1 report remain ongoing, including:

  • Amending Rackham Program Review to include mental health and well-being in the upcoming 2024 review cycle
  • Creating Rackham staff positions to centralize efforts to better support graduate student mental health and well-being
  • Developing programs focused on preventing and addressing toxic cultures within graduate school
  • Increasing access to long-term mental healthcare through an increased number of embedded Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) counselors, access to wellness professionals, peer mentoring, and tele-therapy
  • Increasing awareness of existing resources and development of additional skill-building programs for graduate students
  • Changing leave policies, including the creation of a short-term leave option

“On behalf of the Rackham community, I would like to thank all members of the task force for their continued work and for the progress they made, especially given the challenges of the last year,” Solomon says. “I look forward to continuing to more fully realizing their recommendations in the years ahead, and to better supporting our students’ mental health at all stages of their graduate school journey.”

The creation of the committee was announced at Rackham’s third annual State of the Graduate School event, which was held virtually on Wednesday, September 22, and also covered the launch of a new doctoral internship program and reconsidering the use of the GRE in doctoral admissions.

The committee membership includes:

  • Sara Abelson, Ph.D. Candidate, Health Behavior and Health Education; Lead for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Projects, Healthy Minds Network
  • Robert Adams, Associate Professor of Architecture; Associate Professor of Art and Design; Director of University of Michigan Initiative on Disability Studies
  • Bader AlBader, Ph.D. Candidate, Architecture
  • Miranda Brown, Arthur F. Thurnau Professor and Professor of Asian Languages and Cultures
  • Yixuan Chen, Ph.D. Candidate, Chemical Engineering
  • Meghan Duffy, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Chair, Rackham Committee on Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-Being
  • Todd Favorite, Director, Psychological Clinic; Clinical Associate Professor of Mary A. Rackham Institute
  • Luke Hyde, Associate Professor of Psychology, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts and Faculty Associate
  • Ann Jeffers, Associate Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering
  • Kristen Jensen, Manager, Associate Deans’ Initiatives, Rackham Graduate School
  • Laura Monschau, Embedded CAPS Psychologist, Rackham Graduate School
  • Joy Pehlke, Health Educator and Lead for Student Engagement and Academic Partnerships, Wolverine Wellness
  • Rosemary Perez, Associate Professor of Education, School of Education
  • Darlene Ray-Johnson, Resolution Officer, Rackham Graduate School
  • Nyshourn Price, Admissions Coordinator, School of Social Work
  • Gina Shereda, Program Lead for STEM Professional Development, Rackham Graduate School
  • Andrea Valenzuela, Graduate Student, Chemical Biology

The advisory group membership includes:

  • Ethriam Brammer, Assistant Dean and DEI Implementation Lead, Rackham Graduate School
  • Mary Jo Desprez, Director, Wolverine Wellness
  • Meghan Duffy, Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology; Chair, Rackham Committee on Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-Being
  • Kim Elliot, Advisory Group Director; Office of Academic Programs/Chief Enrollment Management, School for Environment and Sustainability
  • Angie Farrehi, Director of CARE Center, College of Engineering
  • Patty Griffin, Director of Housing Student Conduct and Conflict Resolution and COVID Response, University Housing
  • Kate Hagadone, Mental Health and Wellness Counselor, Medical School
  • Paula Hathaway, Manager of Graduate Education, College of Literature, Science, and the Arts
  • Andrea Hill, Wellness and Inclusion Advocate, Biostatistics
  • Matt Irelan, Graduate Program Coordinator, Industrial and Operations Engineering
  • Kristen Jensen, Manager, Associate Deans’ Initiatives, Rackham Graduate School
  • Mallory Martin-Ferguson, Associate Resolution Officer, Rackham Graduate School
  • Jennifer Nguyen, Student Services Supervisor, Linguistics
  • Jessica Randolph, Director, Student Services, Mathematics
  • Shoba Subramanian, Director of Curriculum and Educational Initiatives, Medical School
  • Ida Faye Webster, Associate Resolution Officer, Rackham Graduate School
  • Rachelle Wilcox, Physician, University Health Service