Resource Spotlight: REFS

December 10, 2013

Feeling stressed? Sensing conflict between you and your fellow students, a professor, your advisor, a lab partner, or someone else in your life? Your department’s REFS Program may be able to help. REFS (Resources for Easing Friction and Stress) is a graduate student run peer support system that provides guidance, mentorship, and mediation in a confidential, informal setting. Your department’s REFS can advise you directly, put you in touch with other MIT support providers, or make thoughtful referrals.


In addition to helping students who approach them, REFS are also an assuring presence in each department’s community. “We try to be proactive in helping the students in our program deal with stressful events,” explains Kris Johnson, an REFS and PhD candidate in the Operations Research Center. “For example, each year we host a panel discussion for students who are about to take their qualifying exams, where senior students on the panel share their experience and advice taking the exams and answer any questions.

“We also hold one-on-one meetings with first-year students around the time of their first midterms at MIT to check in and see how they’re doing with classes, research, transitioning to life in Boston, and other areas. Oftentimes, students will have some questions at this point in the semester but aren’t sure who to approach to get them answered. As REFS, we’re trained to help our peers approach challenges and can also direct people to the best resources on campus.”

You can read more about the REFS role in graduate student life in this article from MIT News. For a complete list of departments participating in the REFS Program, and additional information about services provided, visit the REFS website.

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