GSLW Helps Graduate and Professional Students Navigate Challenges

November 18, 2021

How is Michigan State University (MSU) able to help graduate and professional students in a world where undergraduates are more likely to receive attention and resources? The answer: Graduate Student Life and Wellness (GSLW).   

Graduate school can be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences in a student’s life. It can also be one of the most challenging. GSLW acts as a guide for graduate students’ well-being at Michigan State University.  

With classes in session at MSU, students are back home in East Lansing in classrooms, residence halls and Spartan Stadium, among other places on campus. It is safe to say everyone has been eager to get back to the regular activities of college life. That experience, however, is different for graduate and professional students. With nearly 40,000 undergraduate students at MSU, graduate and professional students sometimes feel people forget they are on campus to accomplish big goals, as well. This is where GSLW comes in. This unique organization aims to help graduate students navigate their way through a world that seems more focused on undergraduates.  

The Office of Graduate Student Life and Wellness has several areas of focus. The first is wellness and well-being. To assist in graduate students’ wellness, GSLW created tailored well-being workshops during orientations, as well as standalone sessions throughout the year. In these workshops, they discuss topics such as stress management, self-care in graduate school and conflict resolution. They also provide Dissertation Support Groups, which is a six-week series offering tips in a supportive community of doctorate students engaged in the dissertation process.   

The other area of focus is the orgnaization’s leadership institutes. One way GSLW helps graduate and professional students to develop leadership skills is through the Fall and Spring Leadership Series. This is a three-part series held in both the fall and spring semesters and is open to all graduate students with a focus on building leadership skills. GSLW also offers leadership fellow programs. These are year-long cohort-based experiences where fellows implement change-oriented leadership projects focused on improving graduate student outcomes.   

Through the years, these programs and resources have been advantageous to many graduate students. However, COVID-19 put a screeching halt to the way graduate students were able to connect with GSLW. When the pandemic shut down all in-person activities, GSLW adjusted and created new virtual spaces for students. “The transition to virtual was jarring and it’s hard to build a community virtually,” said GSLW Director Meg Moore.

Due to this challenge, there has been an increasing need to connect with graduate students, so GSLW made operational changes in their programs. For example, prior to 2020 it was easy to lure students to meetings with food and other activities. The virtual layout, however, made that impossible, so they promoted the ability to join meetings from the comfort of your own home. COVID-19 has required GSLW to be creative and provide different ways for students to connect.  

Changes may have been made, but the constant for GSLW – it remains the helping hand that many graduate and professional students seek when finding their way through graduate school at MSU. 

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