GPN emphasizes wellbeing, works to improve graduate student experience

Jennifer Campbell.

The 2017/18 academic year saw major changes to the Graduate Program in Neuroscience (GPN), from the appointment of Dr. Liisa Galea as Graduate Program Director in July 2017, to the hiring of Jennifer Campbell (pictured above) as Graduate Program Coordinator in March 2018. Looking ahead to the 2018/19 year, the GPN team hopes to streamline administrative processes, improve student and faculty communications, and offer engagement opportunities for students beyond coursework and research.

Since Jennifer’s arrival, she has been quietly implementing the approach she honed over more than a decade at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, where she completed her education and worked as a health educator. At Rutgers, Jennifer developed curriculum for K-12 educators on a variety of topics, such as the genetics of breast cancer. She also coordinated professional development for health care workers on tuberculosis. Here at UBC, she’s bringing her experience in education and network building to improve the day-to-day lives of GPN students.

“There are a lot of similarities between my roles at Rutgers and my work here,” Jennifer says. “My hope is that by taking a student-centered, empathy-based approach, I can provide a level of service that meets students’ needs beyond paper work and tracking down signatures.”

“It’s tough being a grad student, and not just academically— I’ve been there,” says Jennifer, who completed a Master’s in Public Health. “Student wellbeing is a priority for us, and we want to do all we can to better support our students. We are planning to send a survey out later this year to assess student’s needs and interests in wellbeing initiatives—we hope everyone will fill it out.” 

To be a better resource for students, Jennifer has taken advantage of on-campus training, including QPR Suicide Prevention, Positive Space, Mental Health First Aid, Early Alert, and more to be able to identify potential problems and direct students to the best tools available to them on campus, no matter their circumstances.

“I’m not a counsellor, but I am a resource for students and can help them get the support they need on campus,” Jennifer says.

In the past year, the GPN team has migrated their website to a new platform with up-to-date information, and have begun the process of redirecting old profiles to the new site and shuttering the old program website.

They have also implemented new administrative procedures meant to help students better navigate the program. For example, new checklists were created to help students prepare for the Master’s defense, or set up their first committee meeting. Jennifer hopes these checklists will be living documents that can continually be updated as students use them and provide feedback. The team also implemented a new progress report this year with the goal of checking in with students to see how they are doing and what they have accomplished. 

The goal of all these changes is to improve student wellbeing; happy, well-supported students are the backbone of a strong research team.

In addition, following a successful first “Life After Grad School” workshop in March, the GPN team looks forward to continuing the series with a follow-up session on October 11; stay tuned for registration details.They’re also working with the Neuroscience Graduate Student Association to support student events, from science talks to World Cup viewing parties.

For more on changes to the GPN, visit neuroscience.ubc.ca. To schedule an appointment with GPN Director Dr. Liisa Galea, or for any questions or feedback on the program in general, email Jennifer at neuroscience.ubc@ubc.ca