Date of Submission


Document Type



Doctor of Education




mental health, graduate students, STEM, social justice, transformational leadership, distributed leadership


An emerging problem with graduate education is the unprecedented rise in mental health and wellbeing concerns across higher education institutions in Canada. Graduate education is widely associated with emotional, physical, and psychological stress. Graduate students are at risk of the onset of mental health illnesses due to a culture of acceptance that graduate studies is synonymous with stress and anxiety. This Organizational Improvement Plan (OIP) explores approaches to improve the mental health and wellness of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) graduate students to promote their personal wellbeing and academic success. The goal of my Problem of Practice (PoP) is to increase awareness of the complex factors and address the systemic barriers that contribute to STEM graduate student mental health illnesses at University Z, and to develop strategies to mitigate their onset. Transformational and distributed leadership practices underpinned by a social justice lens are the chosen leadership approaches. Nadler and Tushman’s Congruence Model (1980) is used as a thought map to conduct a comprehensive organizational analysis which includes a partial PESTE analysis. Kotter’s Eight-Stage Model (1996) is integrated with the Change Path Model (2016) to create a hybrid CDI x K Model to lead the change process. A resulting policy-based solution to empower STEM graduate students is pursued through the OIP. A thorough implementation plan that details objectives, actions, personnel, and timelines is presented. The plan is monitored and evaluated through the application of Deming’s (1993) PDSA cycle. The OIP presents next steps, future considerations, and a reflective conclusion.