The Care and Feeding of Graduate Students

Graduate student learners fill an interesting niche:  they are more heavily invested in their fields than undergraduates, but they are not yet fully-qualified professionals.  

Stephen Nawrocki ([email protected]), a graduate program director and 25-year thesis-advising veteran, examines the special needs of graduate students and present techniques for supervising, mentoring, and motivating that can help you to foster their development.  Special attention given to turning graduate students into solid writers in their chosen subject matter.

  • Understanding Graduate Students (Barna) - This article focuses on sources of stress, coping mechanisms, and perceptions of graduate students. While brief and lacking references, it is nonetheless an informative read.

  • Supporting Graduate Students across Student Affairs (Barnhart & LeMaster) - This is a somewhat more technical report that is geared towards administrative issues, and so it may be more helpful for Student Affairs / Residence Life / Mental Health  Services agents than for faculty, but it contains some useful information nonetheless.

  • The Flip Side of the Attrition Coin: Faculty Perceptions of Factors Supporting Graduate Student Success (Gilmore, Wofford & Maher) - This in-depth study found that faculty explanations for the success (or failure) of their doctoral students cluster into three major themes:  student motivation, access to formative learning experiences, and student foundational knowledge.  Includes an excellent, in-depth reference list. 

  • Mentoring Graduate Students (Johnston) - This brief presents some of the psychosocial models that describe the development of the mentor/mentee relationship.  It includes good FAQs for mentors.

  • Supporting Graduate Students (Parkman) - This article reports on the U. of Arizona’s development of ‘survival’ workshops designed specifically for graduate students.  Topics include time management, writing skills, stress management, and research methods.  Is this a strategy we might want to adopt at UIndy? 

  • Why Do So Many Graduate Students Quit? (Patterson) - Only half of all doctoral students complete their programs.  While many profs  attribute drop-out to student failure, it is likely that systematic and cultural aspects of graduate programs (such as poor communication & weak mentoring) significantly contribute to the problem.  Read this only if you are not already feeling inadequate!

  • How to Mentor Graduate Students: A Guide for Faculty (Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan) - A nice summary of what successful mentors do in Chapter 3; portions are focused on UM local resources but it does include various mentoring plans from different departments, which faculty from other universities could potentially modify for their own use.

  • How to Get the Mentoring You Want: A Guide for Graduate Students at a Diverse University (Rackham Graduate School, University of Michigan) - The companion piece to their guide for faculty, this manual is designed for the graduate student, providing advice for getting the most out of a relationship with a faculty mentor.  I liked the way that it encourages certain professional behaviors that may not be as     obvious to the modern “iGen” generation of students, such as effective communication strategies.  It also helps the student understand the special circumstances and stressors facing graduate faculty members.

  • Stress Relief for American Graduate Students: Results from a Nationwide Survey - This article focuses on sources of stress, coping mechanisms, and perceptions of graduate students. While brief and lacking references, it is nonetheless an  informative read.

  • Second Symposium on "Promising Practices in Supporting Graduate and Professional Students", Washington University at St. Louis, held June 6-8, 2019