In addition to cultivating an environment and practices that enhance graduate student education and development, G+PS is committed to promoting and facilitating programs, services, and a culture that fosters healthy minds and a sense of community and wellbeing among graduate students.
In 2016, UBC became one of the first universities to adopt the Okanagan Charter: An International Charter for Health Promoting Universities and Colleges. In doing so, UBC signaled a formal commitment to health promotion through the integration of a wellbeing perspective into all aspects of campus culture and services and through fostering the destigmatization of mental illness.
Recognizing the distinctive issues faced by graduate students, and using the Okanagan Charter as a roadmap, G+PS worked collaboratively to develop a graduate student specific wellbeing strategy in 2017. We are committed to completing its implementation, which includes the following ongoing and planned initiatives. Many other G+PS strategic priorities, such as the promotion of student-centric educational practices, increased student funding, and enhanced supervision also relate to the advancement of student wellbeing.
Key initiatives and areas of support
WellBeing-focused Outreach to academic units
Working with UBC Wellbeing and other campus partners, G+PS is encouraging academic units to consider wellbeing perspectives in their own environment, and is supporting them to strategize and implement wellbeing-related initiatives or changes. These include mental health first-aid training, related workshops for faculty, staff and students, and programmatic changes.
Working to ensure campus services and housing meet graduate student needs
Whether it’s counselling, career services, communication, child-care, housing, or other key services the University provides for its students, it’s essential that the often distinctive needs of graduate students are met. G+PS works collaboratively with its many campus partners to investigate and, if necessary, address any potential gaps. Recent changes have included the mode of counselling service delivery to graduate students, priorities for 1BR in-residence apartments for graduate students, and access for graduate students to winter session housing.
Graduate Life Centre
There is a desire among many graduate students to have a designated ‘graduate’ space on campus where they can study, work, hold events, and socialize. While undergraduate-oriented student spaces, such as the Nest and Collegia, serve those students well, graduate students have little dedicated space and programming aimed at developing social connection and intellectual community, fostering a sense of belonging, and combating research and writing in isolation. Given the critical importance of intellectual community in students' scholarly development, a collaboration between the Graduate Student Society, the VP-Students Office and Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies has been formed, to explore the potential of opening a Graduate Life Centre.
GRad students and MEntal health
A joint pilot initiative with Counselling Services, Wellbeing and Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies offers additional mental health and wellbeing support geared specifically towards graduate students and centered around known stressors many graduate students are faced with. This pilot was created out of the identified need for more strategic mental health support for graduate students as highlighted in the Graduate Student Wellbeing Status Report (2017), a joint partnership between the Office of the Vice-President Students, Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies and graduate student representatives.
Bringing together additional key campus partners to help support these facilitated support group sessions, the goals of each will be to identify and address key mental health concerns, foster resiliency, develop proactive coping strategies, identify resources, and create social connections through discussions.