Studies have been performed to assess stress levels of students enrolled at universities across the United States (Jemmott and Magloire, 1988; Whitman et al. 1984). However, very few studies have been performed to assess stress levels of graduate students, and to our knowledge, there have been no such studies conducted on fisheries science graduate students. Students within the field of fisheries are often required to obtain an advanced degree, especially a Master of Science or Master of Arts, in order to obtain employment in their chosen field. Therefore, the pressure to be successful in obtaining this degree is a factor that could possibly be stressful for these students. The objective of this study was to determine those facets of the fisheries graduate program of study at Tennessee Technological University which may be perceived as stressful to fisheries graduate students. In performing this study, an assumption was that fisheries graduate programs at other universities may be similar with respect to these facets.
All sixteen graduate students with a specialization in fisheries science in the Tennessee Technological University Biology Department volunteered to be interviewed to determine levels of stress while going through their programs of study. Of the students interviewed, 13 were males and 3 were females. All students had been in the program from 1 to 2.5 years.
Interviews were conducted privately and individually either in the student's office or in the Counseling Center at Tennessee Technological University. All interviews were performed by the Director of the Counseling Center, a licensed psychologist with no direct organizational connection to the Biology Department. Prior to questioning, all students were asked to sign a voluntary consent form. Eighteen questions were asked of each student. All questions were designed to be of an unobtrusive nature and to cover all aspects of their graduate program (Table 1).
Graduate student survey
1. Why did you decide to seek a graduate degree in Biology at Tennessee Tech?
2. How long have you been a graduate student at Tennessee Tech?
3. Do you feel that graduate studies in Biology at Tennessee Tech are stressful to you?
4. Do you feel stressed in the classes that you take for your degree objective?
5. Do you feel threatened by, members of the graduate faculty? Why?
6. Do you expect to feel stressed, or were you stressed, during your graduate seminar?
7. Do you feel that other graduate students are stressed during their graduate seminar?
8. If the answers to questions 6 or 7 were yes, what aspect(s) of the graduate seminar do you think result in these feelings?
9. Do you feel stressed about conducting independent research? Is this the first time that you have conducted independent research?
10. If the answer to question 9 is yes, why do you feel this way?
11. Do you feel that graduate faculty assist you enough with your research? Does this result in any stress for you?
12. Do you feel stressed about writing a thesis concerning your research? How do you plan to handle this stress?
13. Do you feel that graduate faculty should encourage graduate students to publish the results of their research? Would this be stressful for you? Why?
14. Do you expect to feel stressed when you have your oral defense at the end of your graduate program? Are there specific aspects of the defense that seem stressful to you?
15. If the answer to question 14 is yes, how do you plan to handle this stress?
16. If graduate school is stressful to you, would you recommend that other students pursue a graduate degree in Biology at Tennessee Tech?
17. What things could be done to reduce the level of stress in Biology graduate students at Tennessee Tech?
18. Do you feel that Tennessee Tech Biology graduate students are under an abnormal amount of stress as compared to Biology graduate students at other schools, and why? …