Working relationships between graduate students and faculty were identified as a key issue in the 2019 Graduate Student Needs Assessment conducted by the Center for Graduate Life in February.
While more than 80 percent said they were happy with mentoring and academic support, a large number of open-ended comments in the survey spoke of the need for more interaction, clearer communication about what to expect and the desire for greater empathy and flexibility.
None of these issues are likely to surprise Dr. Bruce Taylor, Ph.D., Dept. of Reading & Elementary Education. When he’s not teaching, he’s listening to student concerns as UNC Charlotte’s graduate student Ombuds.
“Students experience a variety of issues in working with others,” Taylor said. “At times there are challenges with an advisor or faculty member with whom they work closely--in a lab or in teaching. Other times there are challenges with other students in courses, labs or research teams. I work with students to consider their options for resolving these issues through dialogue or by reaching out to someone in their department or program to help navigate the issues and resolve the conflict.”
This is Taylor’s third year as Graduate Student Ombuds. Last year he met with 58 students – up significantly from the previous year.
The Graduate School recently launched efforts to address these concerns by encouraging a more transparent and supportive culture in the classroom and in the laboratory. The initiative includes a series of workshops on mentoring that focus on communication, expectation-setting and encouraging independence.
While those initiatives offer long-term improvement, Dr. Taylor will continue to work on addressing the issues with students as they arise.
“We need to help (students) resolve those issues and find resources they need,” Taylor said. “The more proactive we can be by developing program and faculty expertise to mentor students helps resolve those issues before they become big challenges.”
To make an appointment with the UNC Charlotte Graduate Ombuds, contact Dr. Taylor directly at 704-687-5347.
For more information or to reserve a seat for the mentoring workshiop, contact Dr. Katherine Hall-Hertel, Associate Dean for Graduate Academic and Student Affairs.