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Boise State hosts 63rd annual Western Association of Graduate Schools conference

Boise State President Dr. Marlene Tromp, Buster Bronco and Graduate College Dean Tammi Vacha-Haase on the blue turf. Image by Matt Crook

The path of a graduate student is not always an easy one. Graduate students contend not only with the weight of graduate-level courses, but may also struggle with the added strain of financial insecurity, health conditions, mental and emotional hurdles, multiple jobs and responsibilities, and family or personal distress.

That’s why the Western Association of Graduate Schools (WAGS) kicked off its three-day, virtual 63rd annual conference on March 22 to tackle “Graduate Education 360°: Supporting the Whole Student.”

Tammi Vacha-Haase, dean of the Graduate College. Image by Matt Crook

Hosted by Boise State, and led by WAGS president and Boise State Graduate College Dean Tammi Vacha-Haase, the conference set out with the goal of more fully exploring how universities can best support the mental, emotional, financial and overall well-being of graduate students.

More than 250 faculty and staff from 80 institutions in the Western U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Pacific Rim participated in this event.

Topics explored included addressing graduate student mental health trends and practices, creating holistic admission requirements, mentoring graduate writers, building community for graduate students, mitigating food insecurity, ensuring academic professional development, and more.

“As educators, there is nothing so important to us as the health and wellbeing of our students,” Vacha-Haase said. “By gathering together and sharing our insights, practices and experiences, we will be able to lead towards a brighter, safer, healthier and more fulfilling future for our graduate students.”

Keynote speaker Boise State President Marlene Tromp presented “Growth Mindset and Leading During Challenging Times” in which she discussed the research-based mental-framing process, and how it enables one to shift their perspective when faced with challenging circumstances or struggles to succeed. To learn more, visit: https://www.boisestate.edu/president/initiatives/growth-mindset/

GradWell

Boise State’s Graduate College Associate Dean Scott Lowe, GradWell Faculty Director Kelly Rossetto, Director of Counseling services Matt Niece, and GradWell Coordinator Brette Stephenson also presented a panel on the university’s GradWell program.

GradWell: Be Well to Do Well, is a nationally recognized campus-wide program to support graduate student mental health and wellness, through a coordinated partnership between the Graduate College and the campus counseling services. The four-year old program provides advocacy, group meetings, counseling services, workshops and educational resources regarding graduate student mental health and wellness. Gradwell also focuses on helping faculty form strong connections and promote wellness among the graduate student community.

According to Rossetto, faculty are a primary touch point with students and play a key role in supporting graduate student well-being.

“In my role, I am able to inform faculty about challenges our students face, while also sharing strategies for working with graduate students in meaningful ways,” Rossetto said. “Faculty cannot take away stress, but we can work toward helping students thrive amidst the challenges they experience.”

Mascot Buster Bronco on the blue turf
Buster Bronco welcomes participants to virtual WAGS conference. Image by Matt Crook