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Graduate Student Experience (GSE) Initiative


The Graduate Student Experience (GSE) Initiative is charged by Provost and Chief Academic Officer J. Christopher Clemens to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the overall graduate and professional student experience at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), for the purpose of ensuring that our campus has the appropriate policies and practices in place to ensure both academic rigor and student success and wellbeing. The GSE Steering Committee will pay particular attention to the impact of graduate and professional student working conditions on the overall student experience.

The GSE Steering Committee will develop recommendations and implementation strategies to be supported through ongoing biennial reviews incorporated into the existing program review process coordinated by The Graduate School. In addition to this long-term approach, the GSE Steering Committee will prioritize actions that can provide more immediate benefit towards enhanced student success and well-being. These efforts will be led and managed by The Graduate School, in collaboration with other units within the Office of the Provost, the Graduate and Professional Student Government, and key campus stakeholders.


Across the country, graduate students are experiencing high levels of stress and anxiety, as noted in the Executive Summary of a recent collaboration between the national Council of Graduate Schools and The Jed Foundation, titled Supporting Mental Health and Well-being of Graduate Students: Evidence-informed Recommendations for the Graduate Community. While mental health challenges are well documented among graduate students, the report notes, there is insufficient data on “student pathways to care” and “the effectiveness of resources, policies, and practices designed to create healthier departmental and campus cultures.” Following the framework outlined in the Statement of Principles and Commitments of Graduate Deans, the GSE will identify existing resources at UNC, gather an evidence base to inform the development of new resources, and develop recommendations and implementation strategies for streamlined communications to ensure relevant campus resources are readily available to students, faculty, and staff.

A key feature of the graduate and professional student experience is the relationship between students and their faculty mentor(s), particularly at the doctoral level where the traditional apprenticeship model of training is commonly deployed. A related phenomenon is the impact of funding on the graduate and professional student experience—specifically, the work requirements associated with a student's source of funding. Working conditions associated with Teaching Assistant (TA) and Research Assistant (RA) roles, for instance, can impact graduate and professional students' progression, their professional development and career readiness, and importantly, their health and wellbeing. As such, the GSE will assess the impact of graduate and professional student working conditions on the overall student experience. The GSE will pay careful attention to the wide range of graduate education experiences at UNC, including those of international students, online students, and students pursuing master's degrees.


Since planning began in October 2023, the GSE Initiative has made excellent progress in establishing its structure and membership, which includes faculty, staff, and graduate students, and the initiative has been met with widespread support across campus. The GSE Initiative is comprised of a Steering Committee, an Advisory Board, and five working groups with representatives from the College of Arts and Sciences, every school across the University, and key campus units such as Operational Excellence, UNC Global Affairs, the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, the Office of University Counsel, and the Office of Institutional Research and Assessment.

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