Five Supervision Suggestions from a Graduate Student

A student listens. Photo credit: Paul Joseph

By a Graduate Wellness Peer & MA Student, Department of Educational Studies

It is no surprise that for many graduate students, the relationship they have with their supervisor plays a large role in their overall experience as a graduate student at UBC.  Students who have a positive relationship with their supervisor may thrive, while others may languish without adequate support.  Below are five suggestions I’d like to offer as a current graduate student for supervisors to consider:

1. Treat each of your graduate students individually.

Every graduate student is different. They have unique life experiences and come from diverse cultural backgrounds. They also have individual reasons for going to graduate school, various career plans, research goals, and distinctive personalities. Taking time to get to know each of your graduate students can help you tailor your support to their specific needs and help them make the most of their graduate degree.  Use the first few minutes of every interaction with your students to learn something new about them and listen genuinely.

 2. Communicate, communicate, communicate!

Communication is a key element that influences the quality of your relationship with your students.  Try scheduling a fixed time to have a weekly or bi-weekly check-in with your students individually.  If you have more than one student you supervise, consider hosting a semi-regular group meeting where the students can share what they are working on, seek advice and support from their peers and develop greater social connection.  Students may then form their own writing or study groups to help support and inspire one another, while building social connections to help them thrive.

3. Recognize the importance of positive mental health.

Many graduate students are stressed out. Some may be experiencing a mental health challenge, which is impacting their academics. If you notice signs of distress in your students, please take the time to talk with them about this, check in with them, offer support and resources, and show that you care about their wellbeing.

Your mental health is also extremely important. You are a role model for your students and can influence their attitudes about mental health.

4. Take only the number of students you can effectively supervise.

Please only accept additional graduate students if you have a reasonable amount of time to supervise them individually. Graduate students, especially research-based students, need a lot of mentorship and support from their supervisors. If you do not have enough time for each of your students, it becomes more difficult to communicate frequently, understand their individual needs and support them to be optimally challenged. 

5. See your students more holistically.

Graduate students come to university with a rich background of experiences. They may have a family they are supporting, work commitments and/or volunteer roles.  It’s important to see students holistically beyond just their academics to better understand the strengths each of them brings and the opportunities that might be available to them throughout their studies.  Encouraging students to take time from their busy schedules to attend professional development sessions, seek advice from a graduate career advisor, or attend a wellness workshop can all play a role in supporting their wellbeing and set them up for a successful experience as a graduate student at UBC.