Motivation and Well-Being for Faculty and Grad Students

Motivation and Well-being Webinar

If you’re an academic – and especially a graduate student – on the internet, you probably know Nathan C. Hall, PhD. He’s an associate professor at McGill University but also behind the hugely popular Shit Academics Say, or SAS. His social media accounts have hundreds of thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook. SAS is also a research project, with Dr. Hall recruiting participants for his and his students’ studies.

In this webinar Dr. Hall shared research findings from his lab about motivation and well-being in graduate students and faculty members. Here are a few highlights:

  • When it comes to graduate students, confidence (self-efficacy) is key. That is true for both writing and reading, as well as how able you are to navigate the day-to-day work of graduate school. The more confident you are, the better you feel – and the less you experience imposter syndrome.
  • There is extensive evidence that who you work with matters when it comes to graduate students, and doctoral students in particular. Department climate also matters. Working in a positive environment predicted better well-being, less stress, and less depression.
  • Pre-tenure faculty members who are encouraged to balance responsibilities, have clear expectations for tenure, and experience collegiality at work experience more positive psychological outcomes.
  • Adjunct faculty members experience low job satisfaction, high quitting intentions, high depression rates, high illness symptoms rates, and high rates of other negative outcomes such as imposter syndrome and emotional exhaustion compared to non-contingent faculty members. These worsen over time.

Near the end of the webinar, Dr. Hall shared what most surprised him about his research. He responded that he was surprised by the extent to which graduate students want to talk about these issues. The pressures faculty members experience are mirrored or even amplified in graduate students, and he finds this heartbreaking.

For lots more discussion about these and related issues, watch the full webinar.

Here are the research papers and other resources mentioned during the webinar:

  1. The PhD Experience: A Review of the Factors Influencing Doctoral Students’ Completion, Achievement, and Well-Being
  2. Not just a phase: Exploring the role of program stage on well-being and motivation in doctoral students
  3. Examining the Factors Impacting Academics’ Psychological Well-Being: A Review of Research
  4. Antecedents, correlates and consequences of faculty burnout
  5. Why Are Associate Professors So Unhappy?
  6. Avoiding PTDS: Post-Tenure Depression Syndrome
  7. An English-language write-up about the Quebec study
  8. CAUT report 

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