About This Project

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The Mental Health Opportunities for Professional Empowerment in STEM (M-HOPES) is a collaborative project led by Montana Technological University, Montana State University Billings, and the University of Montana and funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The goal of this project is to design, pilot, assess, and implement evidence-based, sustainable and replicable strategies to facilitate and enhance graduate-student mental health across all three campuses.

Our objectives are to:

  • Build a set of innovative, inclusive, evidence-based experiences that enable diverse STEM graduate students to acquire skills for positive mental health and resilience
  • Provide innovative professional-development experiences for STEM faculty advisors to support graduate-student mental health and transform the cultures of their departments to become more inclusive
  • Pilot the scale-up and expansion of these innovations to other campus settings

Faculty Mentoring


Three-part Series: Fridays, February 25, March 11, and April 8, 2:30-4 p.m.

How do you define success in your mentoring practice, both for your students and for yourself? What is important to you in your mentor relationships? Is wellbeing critical for sustained success in academia? How do we effectively foster it?

This 3-part workshop series, grounded in research about graduate student mental health and well-being, is designed to address these questions and more. Participants will acquire skills that will allow them to support their students (and themselves!) through the rigors of an academic STEM program. Workshops will include research presentations, case studies, and dynamic discussion oriented toward engaging faculty with practical, applied skills in active listening, effective communication, and de-stigmatizing mental health discussions.

Funded by an NSF-funded collaborative grant (UM, Montana Tech, and MSU-Billings), the series will be delivered by UM faculty and researchers with expertise in Clinical Psychology, Community Health, and Integrated Behavioral Health: Dr. Annie Belcourt, Dr. Bryan Cochran, and Dr. Holly Schleicher.

As preparation for this Graduate Student Mentoring Workshop, we ask all participants to register and attend the Indigenous Mentoring Workshops (IMP) on February 4 and 11 from 1-3:30 p.m., or to let us know in their registration that they have attended it previously. The principles and values in the workshop, developed to focus on support of indigenous graduate students, apply widely to graduate student mentoring.

We are planning to hold these sessions in-person, but will pivot to Zoom if COVID cases dictate. 


To register for this workshop through the Office of Organizational Learning and Development, please complete this short form.


Session 1 (Feb 25th): Making Connections, Building Context: Insights into Graduate Student Mental Health and Wellbeing

We will share insights into the realities facing STEM graduate students in 2022 through data on student wellbeing, career expectations, and potential obstacles in this workshop. We will discuss how to talk with your advisees about these relevant issues from an informed and empathic perspective.

Session objectives:

  1. Learn about common mental health difficulties that might impact people in academic careers.
  2. Discuss how current issues impact the experience of graduate student advisees.
  3. Practice ways to talk with graduate student advisees about likely stressors and potential impacts on their health.

Session 2 (March 11th): “I Don’t Have Time for this Workshop!” Making Space for Faculty and Student Wellbeing  

We will discuss and define faculty and student wellbeing and success within the mentor relationship. We will identify signs and symptoms of burnout and apply skills personally and in the mentor relationship to decrease the impact of burnout and enhance academic wellbeing and success, employing a strength-based, rather than deficiency, model.

Session objectives:

  1. Define and identify the facets of wellbeing, success, and burnout among faculty and students
  2. Employ skills to enhance wellbeing and success, personally and with students
  3. Develop skills for discussing and addressing wellbeing and success with students

Session 3 (April 8th): Be the Mentor Your Students Need and Want: Skills and Strategies for Successful Communication with Your Graduate Students

We will further develop skills of communication with students, focused on destigmatizing discussion of wellbeing and mental health. This session will refine specific techniques for self-care, de-escalating, and referral to appropriate support resources.

Session objectives:

  1. Identify faculty anxieties about communication, and address tools to overcome them.
  2. Develop skills for de-escalation of student crisis situations.
  3. Identify and appropriately refer students to support resources.

Student Support

Right now, graduate students have the opportunity to participate in a Graduate Student Experience Survey that will help inform inclusive wellness initiatives and creative activities slated for graduate students this upcoming spring 2022 semester. 

MSUB graduate students are also invited to take a free, online skills training session in Cognitive Behavior Therapy for spring, scheduled for Tuesdays, 11-12:30 for 4 weeks at the beginning of the semester (January 25, Feb 1st, Feb 8th, Feb 15th) followed by peer groups offered to students. 

A 6-Session Peer Support Group will be offered to Psychology graduate students in late February 2022. One of the most creative and innovative forms of therapy, narrative performance education, will be combined with psychoeducation to address student challenges and develop coping skills. The mental health skills learned through this support group can benefit almost everyone, especially graduate students! The support groups will be free form and flexible in nature: attendees will come away with several practical everyday strategies to promote positive mental health and coping with stress.

Time: Tuesdays 12-1/1:30 pm (Feb. 22, March 1, March 15, March 22, March 29, and April 5). The sessions will be held in person in the 5th floor student lounge in the LA Building at MSUB. To register, please complete this short form.

This work is funded by the Innovations in Graduate Education (IGE), National Science Foundation (NSF) through grant nos. 2105254, 2105251 and 2105221 to MSUB, Montana Technical University, and the University of Montana, “Mental Health Opportunities for Professional Empowerment in STEM (HOPES).”