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Graduate students from Physics & Astronomy and the Department of Chemistry pioneered a peer mentorship initiative, alongside the Graduate School’s professional development program in order to better serve incoming graduate students. 

In 2020, Department of Physics Ph.D. first-year student Taylor Robinson came to UNC-Chapel Hill during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and met many others in her graduate student cohort for the first time through a computer screen. The onset of the pandemic compounded the already-rigorous pursuit of a graduate degree; Robinson found support from a student-led peer mentorship initiative that eased the transition from undergraduate to graduate student.

Prior to the pandemic, Department of Chemistry Ph.D. candidate Tayliz Rodriguez, active in a bevy of initiatives on campus that support women and minorities in STEM, saw a need for peer mentorship based on the results of a departmental survey. In 2018, Rodriguez began work, alongside Ph.D. candidate Morgan Clark in the Department of Physics and Astronomy, to outline how a peer mentorship program might be designed and what it might provide to students.  

After having taken a workshop in effective mentoring offered by Brian Rybarczyk, assistant dean for academic and professional development at The Graduate School, Clark and Rodriguez reached out to Rybarczyk as they sought to launch a similar initiative in their respective departments. The result is Graduate Achievement Through Mentorship (GrAM), now part of the Allies for Minorities and Women in Science and Engineering organization for which Rodriguez and Clark serve as co-presidents. 

Clark, from Rochester, New York, said the first year of graduate school can be taxing, and she wanted to foster connections with graduate students who had already completed their first year of study.   

“It’s been fun seeing how excited and invested our students are in helping out other students,” Clark said. “We’re hoping that building more of a peer-support system will help women, minorities, and others feel like they have a place and a support network. I hope this will give people the sense that they belong here and that there are other people like them.”

For the complete article please visit Graduate students pioneer peer mentorship program – Carolina Graduate School Magazine (

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