University of Minnesota
School of Physics & Astronomy

Physics Education Seminar

Friday, April 12th 2019
3:35 pm:
Speaker: Phil Buhlmann, Dept. of Chemistry, University of Minnesota
Subject: Addressing Stress and Mental Health in a PhD Program

Our department makes stress and mental health a major point of attention for our graduate program. Our approach is not to lower the bar for the PhD degree. Instead, we strive to eliminate unnecessary sources of stress and create conditions in which students feel engaged, supported, and empowered. The key to our initiative lies in contributions from students, staff, faculty, and the university health services. While only professionals can provide therapy, three chemistry faculty members serve as Mental Health Advocates and help to direct faculty, staff, and students to relevant resources. Students formed the group Community of Chemistry Graduate Students (CCGS), which organizes regular events on physical and mental health and stress management. To reach out to students outside the department, the CCGS also prepared a range of insightful videos on the topics of mental health in graduate school, academic success, and the transition into a job after graduate school. CCGS representatives and the
director of graduate studies also worked with university health services to develop biannual surveys that help us better understand sources of stress. The survey taught us a lot about our students and, within a relatively short time, allowed us to improve a range of graduate program procedures.

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