Unlike what some people think, grad school isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. Many graduate students battle work–life balance (in which work ends up winning), imposter syndrome (where they don’t feel they belong), and feeling alone throughout the process.
One way to combat these feelings is to focus on wellbeing, in both the physical and mental senses. With wellbeing of graduates being a main concern throughout the United States, the Graduate Student Reimbursement program was born. The concept of this program is simple: a grad student purchases a group fitness pass ($70) and completes 30 classes — ranging from Zumba to yoga to BodyPUMP — over the course of the semester (about 2-3 times per week). Once a student has completed these courses, they are able to apply for a reimbursement, making the pass free (thanks Graduate College and Alumni Funds)!
A simple concept with a HUGE impact! With 63 out of 66 students participating in this program in the Fall semester, the program was open to 30 grad students in the spring, due to funding. The response again was enormous and the Graduate College was able to sponsor 52 grads this semester, going 22 above the cap, and still had to turn down students.
Feedback from students has been tremendously positive and many explain that it isn’t just getting them active, but they’re making connections with other graduate students that they might not otherwise see or know. They also come to feel a connection to the Multipurpose Center, with the familiar faces of instructors and students, and learn how to navigate the maze of the building the courses reside in.
Interestingly enough, with increased physical activity, many other stresses decrease, and feelings of loneliness can subside as well. This program in no way is an alternative for CAPS, and mental health for all students across campus is something that everyone should be aware of and continue to advocate for students. However, if going to a 30-minute core workout with other grads encourages socializing and gets someone out of the research lab, it is worth it for everyone involved.
What are grad students saying?
The group fitness pass has been absolutely critical to navigating the ups and downs of finishing up projects and writing my thesis. We live in a world where there are so many stresses: low pay, student loans, trying to pay rent and live off of the pay we receive, trying to find a job where we can live comfortably. This is coupled with the stress of graduate school, the constant worry, the “Am I doing enough, should I even keep doing science?” mentality. Having a proper outlet for stress, like BodyPUMP and Yoga are crucial to finding a way to blow off steam and get healthy all at the same time. Please keep the program going!!
—Vicki (CMB PhD Candidate)
I participated in the reimbursement program last semester as well as this one and I LOVE it. The college I went to for undergrad was a very small liberal arts college, so I thought it was normal to get all group fitness classes for free. While the reimbursement program forces me to pay for these classes up front, I then can earn that money back by making a promise to myself to put my health first. If UVM really is committed to their student's health and well-being, this would definitely be a program that I would urge the administration to put in place for ALL students, and not just a small portion of us.
—Alexa Szotka (Counseling MS Student)
I was in the process of recovering from [depression] when I found out about this Fitness reimbursement program from Grad college. One of my colleagues and I bought our passes, more of my colleagues joined us, and as the semester went by, we all felt a positive impact those classes had on us. As for me, I found myself progress tremendously when I looked back at the end of the semester how far I had made on the recovery from depression. This program extremely helps my mental fitness, not just physical fitness. My motivation and stamina all went up since I joined this program. The bonus is that I got to work out with my fellow grad students, which makes the entire thing more fun.
—Phyu (CMB PhD Student)
With this program in place, I'm motivated to use my fitness pass to get the most out of it and I feel like I have a support system amongst the graduate students. We are all cheering each other on and encouraging each other to go to group fitness classes. And going with someone else is way more fun than going by yourself!
—Jess (Chemistry PhD Student)