Graduate students constitute nearly a third of UNC’s enrolled population, and nearly a third of them said they do not see themselves as part of a broader campus community, according to the 2022 Healthy Minds Study conducted by the Division of Student Affairs.
“I’m not really that connected to campus,” Paula Castellanos, a graduate student pursuing a master's degree in social work, said. “I go there when I have to go to class, but it’s really hard, because I have so much going on, that I do wish I had more time to build that community.”
Castellanos’ program is only one year long, and its intense pace requires her to prioritize academic deadlines over socializing. She spends her free time with her partner and dog rather than building friendships with her classmates, who she said are not very connected socially.
For graduate students in longer programs, their cohort can be the first line of social connection.
Mathematics doctoral student Luke Conners, who serves as vice president for communications for the Graduate and Professional Student Government, said that community among students is often program specific.
“A lot of that stems from just the folks you end up spending a huge amount of time with early on in your grad school experience,” he said. “It’s very formative. You go through the same struggles together and you get to know each other, and then those bonds hopefully tend to stick around for a lot of folks.”
Simone Wilson, a doctoral student in the School of Education and the co-president of the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association , said that the graduate community can even be concentration specific.
“Yeah, you can build community, but what happens when you don’t really like the people in your strand or your cohort?” she said. “And then you’re just kind of searching for friends elsewhere, which is really hard to do.”
Affiliate organizations like the BGPSA try to foster relationships across departments, Wilson said.