Friday, October 27, 2017

Important Reading for Faculty and Students

Source: Nature
A short article appeared in Nature this week entitled Graduate survey: A love–hurt relationship.  I'm not a fan of the title, but the article is important reading for prospective graduate students, current graduate students, and university faculty. 

The article summarizes the findings of a survey of 5700 doctoral students worldwide.  Perhaps not surprisingly, the responses "uncovered a strong, perhaps crucial, connection between a well-matched PhD adviser and the student's success."  In my experience, it is often the adviser–student relationship that determines student success, rather than the graduate program.  If you are a student, chose your adviser carefully.  Make your choice of adviser a higher priority than your choice of program if you are in a fortunate position to have such a choice before entering graduate school.  If you are an adviser, recognize that student success equates to your success.  One size doesn't fit all.  Recognize that students have varied abilities and goals and adapt your mentoring accordingly. 

One of the more important topics covered was student anxiety and success.  I was surprised to read that anxiety and depression are prevalent in graduate student life.  More than a quarter of the respondents listed mental health as an area of concern and 45% had sought help for anxiety or depression caused by their doctoral studies.  Of these students, only 35% felt they had helpful resources at their institution and 20% said they didn't feel supported. 

I am now more than 20 years out of graduate school.  I remember anxious times in graduate school, but I've largely forgotten those issues and tend to remember the good times.  Thus, seeing those numbers was eye opening for me and an important reminder of the challenges facing our graduate students. 

There are may other nuggets in the article that should be helpful for students and faculty.  It's well worth the quick read. 

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