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Connecting to Community as a Graduate Student

Graduate school is a rush - both intellectually and temporally. Last August I moved from Indianapolis to Ann Arbor for a 16 month Master’s program in the School of Social Work for Community Organizing. I initially struggled to find ways of not only getting to know this community but also to find ways to engage with a positive impact. Connecting to my community is personally important to me and I feel it’s essential to share and build relationships with communities around me. Graduate students are uniquely positioned to engage their professional and academic experience and can be the leaders of reflective, intentional, and meaningful community engagement that applies their discipline’s academic rigor to community action and impact.

Time Trials

I am not a “typical” graduate student (if such an elusive creature exists). I live over an hour from Ann Arbor, have 3 children, a husband, a dog, and a busy practice as a Nurse Practitioner at University of Michigan Hospital- all while being a Ph.D. student, and current Ph.D. candidate.

I thought I’d show you what a recent Thursday looked like for me:

04:40 Try to wake up. Eventually get dressed, pack breakfast and lunch for myself. Make sure that my 4th grade son has his daily planner signed, snacks for the day ready, and boots packed. Leave wipe board notes to my husband for anything else. Start a load of laundry, so my son has his martial arts uniform for later. Coffee automatically brewing.

My Story of Depression in Grad School

There came a point for me, during my fourth year, when things just bottomed out. I wasn’t teaching or taking classes, since I had just become a candidate, which meant I had a year of fellowship to get going on my dissertation. I’d been struggling for a while with a generally manageable level of stress and anxiety and what (looking back) I now realize was depression. None of this seemed unusual though, because grad school is a stressful environment to begin with, and it’s so easy and common for anxiety to develop over 5-7 years of graduate school. When everyone around you is generally stressed and often dealing with anxiety to varying degrees, that starts to seem normal and you don’t think much of it.