Improving Graduate Student Well-Being through Constructive Management of Expectations

Mark Pickup

Grant programExploring Well-being in Learning Environments: An Integrated Seminar Series and Grants Program

Grant recipientMark Pickup, Department of Political Science

Project team: Clare McGovern, Department of Political Science, Steve Weldon, Department of Political Science, Julia Melesko, research assistant

Timeframe: February 2020 to April 2021

Funding: $5,000

Description: The purpose of this project is to explore how we might reduce graduate student anxiety and increase well-being by identifying and managing inaccurate expectations. These include expectations that students have of the University, the graduate program and their supervisor; expectations that supervisors have of their students; and expectations that graduate students have of themselves. We would like to conduct both a survey and interviews with graduate students, supervisors and former graduate students to identify inaccurate expectations and develop both learning materials, supervisor resources and an information session to manage such expectations.

References: We will be building off the draft document “Well-Being through the SFU Supervisory Process: A Guide for Action” developed by Health Promotion at SFU and “Eleven Practices of Effective Postgraduate Supervisors” (James and Baldwin, 1999).

Questions addressed

  • What are the expectations that graduate supervisors and of graduate students have of each other, and of themselves, in this role? 
  • Where are the matches and mismatches in student-supervisor expectations?
  • What is the state of wellness in our department’s graduate student population?
  • To what extent, and in what ways, were graduate supervisor practices impacted by the findings and guide? 
  • What other resources/modifications would be useful to supervisors, and to incoming graduate students?

Knowledge sharing: We will be working with Health Promotion and will share with them the materials we develop and any lessons learned. The feedback session in our department meeting will also be an opportunity to share our emerging findings. The materials we develop will be included in the graduate student handbook and incorporated into the graduate student orientation session at the beginning of each academic year.