Trauma and Academia, approaches to graduate study CFP

deadline for submissions: 
September 30, 2020
full name / name of organization: 
NeMLA/Northeast Modern Language Association
contact email: 


Trauma-Informed Approaches to Academia- NeMLA 2021 Philadelphia March 13-15 2021 Deadline for submission September 30, 2020



Trauma Informed Care is a term initiated within mental health practices and especially prevalent within work that aims to support vulnerable populations like LGBTQIAP,  sexual harassments and domestic violence survivors, indigenous peoples, people of color and more. Here, the idea is to approach the support of these precarious  lives with the assumption that  they are possibly have endured or enduring diverse forms of trauma “irrespective of the service provided and whether trauma history is known” and to treat them with sensibilities and knowledge that trauma in general would inform (Isobel 589) So, why do we want to talk about trauma informed care in the Graduate School? After all, graduate studies, and especially Ph.D. study, is aimed at a pleasurable learning experience: learning how to research, to produce valuable epistemological knowledges, to teach, to become the intellectual that the university necessitates. Ideally, a graduate student is a researcher, a professor, a teacher in the making; an apprentice that will become a colleague soon with a unique perspective that contribute to their selected topics. However, the real experience of the graduate students is far from a quest of epistemological and vocational becoming. Based on a 2018 study titled “Evidence for a mental health crisis in graduate education” where a large amount graduate students, most of them Ph.D are surveyed, we learn that “graduate students are more than six times as likely to experience depression and anxiety as compared to the general population” and this number increases of course when they are LGBTQIAP or identify as women.(Evans et al.) Other studies underline the sexual harassment and its negative effects on graduate students (Rosenthal and al.)


So, it turns out, graduate students are in fact living in trauma. This may look like an unresponsive advisor, lack of funding resulting in living in constant precarity with some bare minimum, a normalization of exploitation of graduate student labour, bullying from peers, sexist, ageist, homophobic/ transphobic faculty, peers and staff, unadmitted racist attitudes, gaslighting and more….Moreover, on the horizon is a somber job market in crisis where career advisors constantly blame graduate students for not being professional enough and advising to “act other than themselves” rather than admitting that the system itself is clogged, unfair and privileging the already powerful and mighty. Hence, graduate experience becomes a challenge for survival which the survivors are encouraged to forget the minute they land a paying job.


How, then, in the wake of immense collective and personal trauma, can graduate students, especially in humanities, arts and literature navigate a space that, more often than not, is not structured to engage with, support, or heal students with trauma? How can and do graduate students navigate spaces that are notorious for enacting their own forms of trauma? This roundtable seeks to engage with the question of what do trauma-informed approaches to graduate school look like? We are open to multidisciplinary approaches to this question, including theorizing from lived experience, eclectic archives, and close readings of popular texts. Ultimately, the goal of this roundtable is not only to share techniques of survival in the wake of (re)traumatization, but to push for new possibilities for graduate education—ones that, rather than mitigating or dealing with trauma, work towards processes of healing, however that may look.  


Some of the suggested topics are:


  • The structure of the university and the job market and the role of the graduate students within
  • Power in graduate education
  • Disability, body and powerin academia
  • Unionization and recognition of graduate student’s labour
  • Countering discrimination in the graduate school
  • Trauma informed a advisor- student relationship or what would that look like
  • Best practices and approaches of survival
  • Race, gender, immigration, ability and graduate studies
  • Gender based violence in graduate studies and academia
  • Job Market and its discontents
  • Communal responses to graduate struggles
  • Decolonizing academic studies
  • New possibilities for graduate education



Please submit up to a 300 words proposal  along with a brief bio to NeMLA submission portal no: 18684: We welcome personal experiences (if it is safe for you), data studies, utopian plans amidst current academic and worldly crisis. NeMLA will take place in Philadelphia between March 11 and 14. For questions and inquiries, please send us an e-mail: Elif Sendur: and Isabel Felix Gonzales




Evans, Teresa M et al. “Evidence for a Mental Health Crisis in Graduate Education.” Nature Biotechnology, vol. 36, no. 3, Nature Publishing Group, Mar. 2018, pp. 282–84


Isobel, Sophie. “Trauma Informed Care: A Radical Shift or Basic Good Practice?” Australasian Psychiatry, vol. 24, no. 6, SAGE Publications, Dec. 2016, pp. 589–91.


Rosenthal, Marina N., et al. “Still Second Class: Sexual Harassment of Graduate Students.” Psychology of Women Quarterly, vol. 40, no. 3, Sept. 2016, pp. 364–377.