The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has impacted many aspects of education, as well as the lives of those involved in preparing and carrying out teaching and learning amidst the ongoing pandemic. At the collegiate level, while both students and faculty alike have navigated virtual learning spaces, one specific population has experienced stress of being both a student and educator – Graduate students. This study used internet-based photo-elicitation and interview methods to investigate the experiences of graduate students serving as teaching/research assistants during the abrupt transition to virtual teaching and learning at the onset of COVID-19. Study results weave together participant provided images with personal interviews. Data showed graduate students had minimal resources, mental health effects, and that humorous memes served as coping tools. Recommendations include increased resources, flexibility, and understanding of graduate student experiences must be centralized in higher education to benefit graduate students’ wellness through and beyond the pandemic.
Keywords: COVID-19, graduate students, mental health, online education, qualitative