Research and Academic Resiliency and Adaptation Tool Kit
Graduate students can have their research forestalled for several reasons. Examples of unforeseen circumstances may include:
Helping students maintain timely research and academic progress, while considering the students personal and professional goals, is paramount. For example, one student may prefer to remain an extra year to conduct another series of experiments after a disruption; whereas, another student may prefer an adjustment to their proposed project in order to remain on their original timeline as prior to the disruption.
If a graduate student’s research has been disrupted or impacted, we recommend an individual approach using different elements of this tool kit. If an entire of cohort of students is affected, also refer to resources offered by the Vice-Provost, Academic Programs.
Graduate Faculty and Departmental Supports for Academic, Personal, and Financial Advice
Graduate students experiencing a disruption and/or otherwise impacted trajectory can often access supports and services through the Registrar’s Office or Graduate Unit, including academic and financial advising:
The first step is for the student and supervisor(s) to discuss the context of the disruption and/or otherwise impacted trajectory, and possible avenues forward.
The student and supervisor may also want to consult with the graduate chair/coordinator/program director and convene the supervisory committee (for PhD students) for additional input and advice.
Graduate programs have inherent flexibility in helping students meet their program learning outcomes.
To keep the student on their original trajectory as much as possible, consider a transition of their time to other academic learning activities that advance their progress towards degree completion and overall professional preparation (e.g., writing literature reviews, methodology, or discussion sections of thesis/dissertation; preparation of a publication; coursework; engaging in professional development activities such as the Graduate Centre for Academic Communication or Centre for Graduate Professional Development).
This may be a particularly relevant mitigation strategy with short-term disruptions where the students are still able to complete other work.
In consultation with the supervisory committee (as applicable), pivot the planned major project/thesis/dissertation to make academic progress.
Pivoting may take the form of revising aspects of a research question or objectives, the methodological approach or methods, or analyses. This may be a particularly relevant mitigation strategy if the student has not started data collection and is in the early stages of the program.
Pivoting the research may also be helpful and/or necessary after supervisory changes and if the nature of the student’s personal and professional interests or circumstances change.
In some cases, pivoting research will not be feasible or the research disruptions may be so significant that students may require additional time beyond the program length to complete program requirements.
Creating a Research and Academic Plan
Student in collaboration with their supervisor(s) should create a research and academic plan:
— Assess the student’s skills, interests, and values relevant to their research and professional goals
— Consider transition and pivot strategies from the original research and academic plan
— If additional training, courses, workshops etc., are needed to enhance skills (e.g., statistical analytic methods, online data collection), determine how these will be obtained
— Consider whether elements of the tool kit below are needed, such as course substitutions, exemptions, or extensions
— Make a detailed timeline for achieving the student’s academic and professional goals
— Consider the implications for funding and immigration status (for international students), as well as the potential opportunity costs of any transition and pivot plans
— Identify individuals who can facilitate the plan (e.g., other students, graduate coordinator, supervisory committee member)
— Proactively think of potential problems and solutions to the problems
— Build in check-in points, and modes and frequency of communications
SGS Supports for Promoting Research and Academic Resiliency and Adaptation
In considering how to operationalize supports, students, supervisors, and graduate faculty leaders can use relevant SGS policies and forms to request flexibility to deadlines, course enrolment, and registration, as applicable. For advice about academic progress and the resources that are available across the institution, students can contact the Frontline Student Academic Services office at firstname.lastname@example.org.
SGS Supports for Financial Aid
Graduate students experiencing a disruption may need financial support. For advice regarding financial supports that are available across the institution, students can contact SGS Financial Aid and Advising Office at email@example.com.
Information for Graduate Units
Graduate Chairs & Graduate Coordinators can consult the following webpage for additional information. (UTORid Login required).
To consult regarding implementation please consult the relevant services listed above. For overall consultation regarding academic resiliency and adaptation please contact:
Kelly Lyons, PhD
Acting Vice-Dean Research and Program Innovation, SGS