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'My goal is to hold us accountable': OU Graduate College creates survey to address strengths, weaknesses of each department

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(Under)Graduate College

In a “historic university-wide effort,” OU graduate students will be administered a survey to inform the university of their experiences in the OU Graduate College.

Set to launch April 6, the Graduate Student Experience in the Research University survey will evaluate different aspects of graduate students’ experiences, including their quality of advisement and academic training, financial situations, wellness and whether or not they feel supported in their academic unit, according to Senior Associate Dean of the Graduate College Sherri Irvin.

The SERU Consortium of research universities designed GradSERU to compare OU students’ experiences with other SERU members. Irvin said the survey is anonymous, and no one at OU will have access to respondents’ identifying information.

Irvin said the survey is important because of the challenges and stress graduate students regularly encounter. She said graduate students nationwide have high rates of anxiety and depression.

“We want to figure out how we can help support graduate students’ wellness and how we can support graduate students completing their programs,” Irvin said. “We also want to help support graduate students in finding jobs and feeling like they’re flourishing while they’re in our program and not feeling like they’re struggling.”

After the data and responses are collected, Irvin said the Graduate College will evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of each department. She said they’ll also gather information on the financial situations among OU’s graduate students.

“Undergraduate and graduate students sometimes struggle with homelessness or potential homelessness and with food insecurity,” Irvin said. “This is going to enable us to collect systematic information about things like graduate students’ wellness, graduate students’ mental health (and) graduate students’ financial situations so that we can work as an institution to put some support in place that will help address those situations.”

Director of Graduate Student and Postdoc Retention and Support Rodney Bates said he wants the Graduate College to develop a strategic plan to address the survey’s results regardless of the outcome.

“If those results are saying graduate college is not affordable or graduate college is not inclusive or graduate college doesn't prepare me, as administrators, we need to develop strategic plans to answer that,” Bates said. “My goal is to hold us accountable (so) that we address those concerns.”

Sociology graduate student Oyindamola Okuwa said it’s a “good feeling” knowing there’s an opportunity for graduate students to voice their experiences anonymously through the survey.

“I feel that I need to do this because I need to be able to share my own experience, (and) I need to share my own story,” Okuwa said. “The graduate school is doing this survey because they want to know people's experiences. I’m going to fill it out because I want the Graduate College … to be aware of how I feel as a graduate student.”

Geography and Environment Sustainability graduate student Chris Rocha said he is encouraged and excited about potential positive change the survey may bring to OU.

Under the “immense pressure” all graduate students face, Rocha said he encourages other students to fill out the survey to ensure every voice is heard.

“A survey like this is important so that university leadership has a better understanding of what graduate students are experiencing as a whole,” Rocha said.

Okuwa said she encourages other graduate students to complete the survey because a higher response rate gives the Graduate College a “true picture” of graduate students’ experiences.

“We are a great team, and we’re all better together,” Okuwa said. “We're better when everyone feels valued (and) when everyone feels like they are supported at an individual level.”

Alexia Aston joined The Daily in the fall of 2020 as a news reporter. Alexia is a journalism major from Clinton, Oklahoma.

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