Faculty of Graduate Studies earns national award for innovative student wellness program

National award for innovative student wellness program

Thomas Loebel, Dean & Associate Vice-President, Graduate Studies; Sarah Irwin-Gardner, Manager, Graduate Student Wellness Services; and Fahim Quadir, Vice-Provost & Dean, School of Graduate Studies at Queen’s University (and former Interim Dean at York University)

York University’s Faculty of Graduate Studies is the recipient of the 2018 Award for Excellence and Innovation in Enhancing the Graduate Student Experience for its achievements through its Wellness Consultation Service.

colour logo for the Canadian Association for Graduate StudiesThe award, presented by the Canadian Association for Graduate Studies (CAGS), recognizes the Wellness Consultation Service for providing graduate students at York University with access to specialized mental health resources, consultation and counselling services. The first-of-its-kind program offers fast, accessible and confidential services, and works to remove barriers that may prevent graduate students from seeking help. Launched in December 2017, the Wellness Consultation Service serves approximately 6,000 graduate students.

“Graduate students at York have fast access to a mental health professional dedicated exclusively to the graduate student community and their unique needs,” said Thomas Loebel, dean and associate vice-president, Graduate Studies. “Universities across Canada have acknowledged mental health and well-being as a priority, and York has taken the lead in creating a staff role and associated programs within the Faculty, in what is a first across the country. This prestigious award is a testament to our continued commitment to supporting our graduate students and to enhancing the quality of graduate education at the University.”

The Wellness Consultation Service is an innovative program that works to enhance the graduate student experience at York University, and the Faculty of Graduate Studies plans to expand the program to include more specialized mental health care services for graduate students.

“The hope is that graduate students find meaningful ways to attend to and enhance their sense of personal wellness, and the Wellness Consultation Service can act as a starting place for that,” said Sarah Irwin-Gardner, manager, Graduate Student Wellness Services. “On behalf of all my colleagues at York University, I want to sincerely thank CAGS for this wonderful recognition.”

The Award for Excellence and Innovation in Enhancing the Graduate Student Experience (GSE) is presented annually by CAGS to a member institution. Its purpose is to encourage, recognize, and reward administrative or programmatic excellence and innovation in enhancing the experience of graduate students, from recruitment through degree completion. This year, CAGS was particularly interested in applications that highlighted the theme of accessibility, including programs that address financial stress, mental health, physical limitations, prejudice and violence.

York University has been invited to showcase the program during a workshop at the upcoming CAGS Annual Conference, to be held in Winnipeg in November. It will be an opportunity for the Faculty of Graduate Studies to share its experiences and best practices, and serve as a model for other graduate schools across Canada.