Stressed-out grad students can get help at workshop

Andrew Donohue

Handling the emotional moguls of what can seem like endless weeks and years of graduate school is becoming easier for students thanks to a series of workshops being run by University Counseling and Consulting Services.
The second-year program, which is designed to offer graduate students additional help outside of the traditional academic adviser, poses the question, “So you want to get out of graduate school before you’re 90?” The counseling and consulting service, along with University professors, will provide weekly seminars this winter. The seminars will be held over a five-week span, each covering a different struggle common to graduate students.
“Our goal is to reach out to the graduate student because they are in such a competitive program,” said Mary Early-Zald, University staff psychologist and program director for the counseling service. “A lot of demands are placed on the students by their programs and advisers. They end up running themselves into the ground.”
Beginning with the first seminar, titled “Balancing Your Life and Managing Stress,” on Feb. 3, workshops will continue weekly until March 4.
The following workshops will focus on such topics as overcoming procrastination, preparing for exams, limits and boundaries of graduate school, as well as career services.
Glenn Hirsch, assistant director for the counseling service, said students often lose their sense of isolation after they complete the seminar. “The students say, ‘It’s good to know I’m not the only one going through this.'”
Early-Zald found the same feelings of companionship among the graduate students. “The most important thing to students was getting an opportunity to talk to other graduate students who are going through the same thing.”
By stepping outside of the usual advisory boundaries of class selection and academic planning, the seminar fills a more personal need that isn’t available at other places around the University, Hirsch said.
On the other end of the learning spectrum, some of the faculty members involved find the seminar teaches both parties. Margie Tomsic, director of the Office of Measurement Services and presenter of the stress management seminar, said, “It’s nice to get the student feedback; it makes us aware of student concerns.”
“The students walk away with a stronger sense of hope,” Hirsch said. “They come away with strategies for dealing with the stress of graduate school.”
All workshops are free of charge to any full-time students and for students actively pursuing graduate degrees. In addition to these annual seminars, the counseling service also holds support groups for students seeking year-long consultation.