Eastern Michigan University associate professor Carmen McCallum heads up federally funded project to increase well-being and mentorship in graduate students

Initiative seeks to prevent loss of graduate students, which can greatly affect society, as such developing scholars have capacity to solve many of the world’s looming problems

YPSILANTI – An Eastern Michigan University professor is the lead investigator in a federally funded effort that seeks to enhance mentoring skills and well-being in graduate students studying in STEM disciplines.

Carmen McCallum, an associate professor in the Department of Leadership and Counseling, is heading up a project titled "Mentoring for Life: Enhancing STEM Graduate Student Well-Being."

The project aims to facilitate greater socialization and sense of belonging among diverse STEM graduate students, and will teach students to become effective mentors in the future.

Growing concerns over well-being

Dr. Carmen McCallum

The initiative has been developed in response to growing mental health concerns among graduate students nationally, and builds off significant work McCallum has done in the fields of academic persistence and success, and mentoring.

The project has received funding of $500,000, a National Science Foundation Innovations in Graduate Education (IGE) award, to pilot a Mentoring Fellowship program designed to expose STEM graduate students to evidence-based practices in mentoring and well-being.

“This training will both enable greater socialization and sense of belonging among diverse STEM graduate students, while also teaching students to become more effective mentors in the future,” McCallum said. “The fellowship is geared towards STEM graduate students, but all students are welcome to apply.”

Other principle investigators in the project include Devika Choudhuri, also an EMU professor in the department of Leadership and Counseling; Wade Tornquist, EMU Interim Associate Vice President for Graduate Studies and Research; and Venice Sule, an associate professor of higher education at Oakland University.

Loss of graduate students affects society

McCallum sums up the project with the following points:

• Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines have a retention issue, especially for underrepresented graduate students. Although students leave school for many reasons, one underlying and well documented cause is a lack of attention to mentoring and students’ well-being.

• Students who do not feel as if they belong are more likely to leave, as are students who are unable to develop a trusting, supportive relationship with faculty.

• The loss of these graduate students greatly impacts society, as these are often individuals who have the capacity to solve many of the World’s central problems.

• The project will pilot, test, and validate mentoring interventions and simultaneously teach graduate students to be effective mentors.

“Providing graduate students the skills and resources to mentor effectively will ensure sustainability as these students become faculty, supervisors, and mentors themselves,” McCallum said.

About Eastern Michigan University

Founded in 1849, Eastern is the second oldest public university in Michigan. It currently serves nearly 18,000 students pursuing undergraduate, graduate, specialist, doctoral and certificate degrees in the arts, sciences and professions. In all, more than 300 majors, minors and concentrations are delivered through the University's Colleges of Arts and Sciences; Business; Education; Engineering and Technology; Health and Human Services; and, its graduate school. EMU is regularly recognized by national publications for its excellence, diversity, and commitment to applied education. For more information about Eastern Michigan University, visit the University's website.

July 08, 2020

Written by:
Geoff Larcom

Geoff Larcom