Graduate school. A challenge? Most definitely! Toxic? No, thanks!

Large group reaching their hands toward the center

When Kathryn R. Wedemeyer-Strombel spoke out in The Chronicle about the unhealthy graduate school culture she was experiencing as a PhD student, she received push-back from both professors and peers. “A PhD,” some said, “should be challenging.” This is true, but there is a fine line between a culture that pushes you to do your very best, and a toxic one that breaks you down. When you are in the middle of it—struggling with exams, teaching commitments, and applications—it can be difficult to tell the difference.

Wedemeyer-Strombel outlines some of the key differences between a healthy and an unhealthy culture on her Twitter thread, shares her own experiences, and provides helpful recommendations for graduate-program directors and faculty for how to create a positive learning environment.

If you find yourself stuck in a toxic environment, there is help. Reaching out to the Student Counseling Services and Student Conflict Resolution Center can be important first steps.

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graduate school