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Rackham Committee on Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-Being

The committee hopes to shift the focus from being primarily on whether students are making progress towards their degree. Instead, we call on Rackham Graduate School and graduate programs to prioritize graduate-student health and well-being alongside academic success. In promoting and prioritizing student health, we emphasize the World Health Organization definition of health: a state of physical, mental, and social well-being.

Rackham’s Mental Health and Well-Being (MHW) Committee is focused on advocating for the mental health and well-being of graduate students, including ensuring that graduate student mental health and well-being are prioritized by Rackham and individual graduate programs. The MHW Committee is working to implement the recommendations of the Rackham Graduate School’s Task Force on Graduate Student Mental Health (which ran from 2019-2021) and is also developing resources that departments and graduate programs can use to promote graduate student mental health and well-being. The MHW Committee, and its associated Advisory Group, will also work to identify emerging issues, to evaluate potential resources and changes, and to ensure that efforts within Rackham are well-integrated with those elsewhere at the university.

This work is urgently needed to better support the health and well-being of our students. Many graduate students face mental health challenges such as major depression, severe anxiety, disordered eating, and/or suicidal thoughts. A recent meta-analysis found that 24 percent of Ph.D. students showed clinically significant symptoms of depression, and 17 percent showed clinically significant symptoms of anxiety (Satinsky et al. 2021 Scientific Reports). This situation requires us to critically examine structures that can be changed to better support graduate student mental health and well-being.

Supporting graduate student mental health and well-being is not only the right thing to do, but also will promote academic success and long-term health of students. Well-being and academic performance are interdependent and dynamic: four in ten graduate students reported that mental or emotional health affected their academic performance in the previous four weeks (Eisenberg et al. 2007 Am. J. Orthopsychiatry).

Overall, supporting graduate student mental health and wellness is an essential component of Rackham’s mission to advance excellence in graduate education, to cultivate a vibrant and diverse student community, and to impact the public good through scholarship. The MHW Committee and MHW Committee Advisory Group are eager to take on this work.

Committee Members

We have assembled a diverse, multidisciplinary committee made up of faculty, staff, mental health professionals, and graduate students.

Sara Abelson

Graduate student and Lead for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Projects with the Healthy Minds Network, Health Behavior and Health Education

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

Graduate student, Chemical Engineering

Meghan Duffy

Professor, 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 (Interim), 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

Nyshourn Price

OSS Admissions Coordinator, School of Social Work

Darlene Ray-Johnson

Resolution Officer, Rackham Graduate School

Andrea Valenzuela

Graduate student, Chemical Biology

Arthur Verhoogt (ex officio)

 

Advisory Group

Ethriam Brammer

Assistant Dean, DEI Implementation Lead, Rackham Graduate School

Mary Jo Desprez

Director, Wolverine Wellness

Meghan Duffy

Professor, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Chair, Rackham Committee on Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-Being

Kim Elliott, 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, 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 Operation Engineering

Kristen Jensen

Manager, Associate Deans’ Initiatives (Interim), 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

Director, Rackham Program Review

Rachelle Wilcox

Physician, University Health Service

Supporting Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-Being

Graduate school was already challenging and stressful for many students, and recent events have exacerbated existing stressors and added new ones. The Rackham Committee on Graduate Student Mental Health and Well-Being has created this resource to summarize the major stressors students are facing, and to provide guidance on principles, approaches, and strategies that mentors and graduate programs can use as they support students during these extremely stressful times.

Reports of the Graduate Student Mental Health Task Force

As mental health challenges continue to pose difficulties for graduate student health, well-being, and academic progress, Rackham formed the Graduate Student Mental Health Task Force in June 2019 to identify and implement specific changes in the U-M graduate student experience. Their reports outline recommendations to better support graduate student mental health at individual, program, and institutional levels, as well as a call on Rackham and individual graduate programs to prioritize graduate student mental health and well-being alongside academic success