April goes above and beyond to create a support system for the Smith MSc & Ph.D. students. She's invited speakers to town halls to talk about mental health and provide tools/tips to help us manage stress. As next-generation researchers & instructors, it's important that courses taught by us support student wellbeing, and April realizes the importance of positive mental health and EDII. She listens to our feedback and has even scheduled a debrief lecture after a controversially perceived guest lecture, where she'd address concerns and provide ways that encourage a more inclusive classroom. Not only is she a proud advocate for positive changes around the school, but she has also personally taken an active interest in being the change through her actions. Meeting with April has been one of the best decisions I've made in the last couple of months. She took the time to listen to me, was respectful, caring, and made me feel heard and valued as a PhD student at Smith.
Encouraging positive mental health with students ensures that we are providing an optimal learning environment for our students whereby they can bring their best selves to our graduate programs.
During the pandemic, we have observed an increase of student mental health concerns, particularly related to working in isolation which is amplified for graduate students. Encouraging students and reaching out to check in and let them know you are an individual who is approachable and open to having conversations about mental health can be significant for students who may be suffering in silence. I believe that emphasizing the importance of consistency and investing in our mental health is a critical message for students to hear, particularly during stressful times. Students sometimes reach out to have one-on-one conversations, which during the pandemic has been particularly important to create community and connection when so many of us are experiencing isolation. I have advocated for students to have access to their student offices to allow for the opportunity to get out of their home environment to reduce the impact of isolation. As we transition back to in-person activities, my focus has been on creating events to assist with students feel connected to our program, which in turn can create opportunities for positive social interactions that have been lacking during the pandemic.
--- April Wallace