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Tuesday, March 2 • 12:20pm - 12:35pm
Talk Session 3: Mental health challenges and experiences for underrepresented minority students in STEM doctoral programs

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This longitudinal, qualitative study explored and critically interrogated how the culture, climate, and structure of graduate education impacted the mental health of underrepresented minority (URM) graduate students as they completed doctoral degrees at primarily White institutions (PWIs). Recent research has shown that graduate students are substantially more likely to have mental health challenges than the U.S. population as a whole. URM students face many challenges on the path to degree completion and are likely to be at risk for a higher incidence of mental health challenges. This research project followed 17 URM graduate students at three different Midwestern PWIs to understand their experiences with mental health as they progressed through their STEM doctoral programs. Using critical race theory and constructivist grounded theory analysis perspectives, we explored the incidence, timing, and factors that impacted students’ experiences of mental health issues, with a critical focus on departmental/program structure and power dynamics. It is clear that ongoing research into the experiences of graduate student with mental health issues is urgently needed in order to support graduate students, provide appropriate resources, and more critically, to identify and address the cultural and institutional environments that exacerbate and perpetuate the experience of mental health challenges for graduate students. Initial findings indicate that mental health challenges are exacerbated by a lack of social support, solo status, and aversion to seeking out professional help due to cultural stigma or lack of diverse counselors. This work takes important first steps toward understanding mental health among URM doctoral students at PWIs.


Megan Kowalske

Department Chair, Western Michigan University
Qualitative researcher focused on diversty, equity, and inclusion in STEM from a critical and feminist perspective. Department of Chemistry Chairperson and Associate Professor of Chemsitry and the Mallinson Institute for Science Education at Western Michigan University.PI on an NSF... Read More →

Tuesday March 2, 2021 12:20pm - 12:35pm CST