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Anthropology '23

Ariel Axelrod

Motivation and Self-Attitudes Among Stanford Graduate Students

Mentored by: Miyako Inoue & Nethra Samarawickrema (Anthropology)
21-22 Small Grant recipient

Graduate students face a variety of systemic pressures to achieve normative ideals of success, which can constitute a major source of stress. This interview-based project seeks to understand how Stanford graduate students develop their own definitions of success and find fulfillment in the face of pressures from peers, family, mentors, and academic culture. The in-depth, semi-structured interviews draw from the fields of anthropology and psychology to explore life histories, sources of motivation, definitions of success, and levels of self-esteem and self-compassion. Analysis pays special attention to students’ personal conceptualizations of their experiences and turns in their narrative arcs. Interview subjects include master’s and Ph.D. students from a diversity of backgrounds and academic disciplines. Findings can contribute to understanding of the pressures graduate students experience and help the Stanford community improve graduate student well-being.