Graduate-education research indicates that the culture of Ph.D. programs can create barriers to students’ success. Mental health issues are a significant factor in retention and are correlated with academic difficulties. Our experiences have shown that the quality of students’ overall experience at the university often directly affects their academic success, as well as their success after they graduate. Therefore, the Duke UCEM will build upon The Graduate School’s strong commitment to enhancing support for the wellbeing of the whole student—social, emotional, mental, and physical.
From the outset, we emphasize to Sloan Scholars that Duke is strongly committed to their total wellbeing, that wellbeing is integral to their success, and that we have resources, faculty, and staff ready to help them if they are in distress. Specifically, we:
- Introduce Sloan Scholars to all Duke wellness services and specific staff members available to work with them. This begins with Early Start.
- Enlist and prepare faculty champions to help maintain increased attention on the Scholars’ wellbeing and alert Duke UCEM staff when Scholars are in distress.
- Identify personnel at Duke’s Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) to work specifically with Sloan Scholars. Three members of CAPS are currently serving as primary contacts for the Scholars.
- Customize a series of CAPS workshops on the experiences of students of color to specifically serve the needs of Sloan Scholars. The workshop series—R.A.C.E.: Race Acceptance, Center, Engagement—aims to help students of color develop workable coping skills for emotional distress and increase their psychological flexibility.
- Analyze student cases to identify Sloan Scholars’ most common wellbeing concerns.
- Develop additional programming to address issues such as imposter syndrome, depression, and stress and anxiety as needed.