The Face of GradCare: Christopher Walker

Assistant Director Christopher Walker heads the UF Graduate School’s newest student support service.

The Face of GradCare: Christopher Walker

Posted: September 1, 2023

GradCare is a new graduate student well-being initiative set into motion by the University of Florida Graduate School with the start of the 2023-2024 academic year.

On a campus as large as UF’s, finding solutions to academic, administrative, health-related, or other problems might seem daunting for Grad Gators. GradCare is now in place to cut through the confusion and point graduate students toward available sources of help.

And it does so with empathetic ears, experienced counsel, and a human touch, thanks to the addition of Christopher Walker, Assistant Director in charge of GradCare, to the Graduate School’s staff this fall semester.

Join the Graduate School in finding out more in a Q&A session with him.

Graduate School (GS): Chris, what do you do as head of GradCare?

Christopher Walker (CW): In short, I speak with graduate students who are dealing with any number of barriers to their education, from mental health to food and housing insecurity to medical leaves of absence. Once I better understand their needs, I will then refer them to local or campus-based resources that best fit their current needs. I will also follow up with students for several meetings as necessary to encourage them as they persist or resolve their original concern.

GS: When and where are you available to meet with graduate students seeking GradCare help? Do they need to make an appointment?

CW: I am located in Peabody Hall on Mondays and Tuesdays. I am at the Graduate School, in Grinter Hall, on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. I can take walk-ins if necessary, but the preferred way of seeking me out would be to fill out a self-care concern referral, which students can find online at this link: CARE Case Management Self-Referral. Once the form has been filled out, I will reach out to the student to set up an initial meeting. We can meet in person, over the phone, or through Zoom, if needed. 

GS: Please tell us something about your background and interests that drew you into this line of work.

CW: I previously worked in community mental health, where I helped distressed individuals develop plans to manage or neutralize their distress. I found that I enjoy assisting people through difficult times to see brighter days. At UF, I began in the role of non-clinical case management for the Dean of Students Office, working with both undergraduate and graduate students. After helping a few graduate students and building a rapport with the Graduate School, I transitioned to my current position where I focus on Campus Assistance and Resources with Empowerment (CARE) work for the Graduate School.

GS: What challenges do you find most impact graduate students these days?

CW: I am new to the role, so it is difficult to make statements of broad impact at this point. Generally, I am noticing that there is difficulty with acknowledging the importance of balancing school and personal life. If you’re working hard, it’s okay to play hard, too.

GS: What is the best thing that graduate students can do when they encounter such challenges in their educational, social, family, or professional lives?

CW: Number one, I would say, is that communication is key. Always communicate with your friends and family if you are facing barriers. Social support cannot be overstated. A close second would be life in balance. You cannot burn a candle at both ends. 

GS: On a personal note, what sort of self-care strategies and activities help you decompress when life stresses you out?

CW: Personally, I love group fitness. I’ve been doing CrossFit for about four years now. I also read comics and build Lego and models to decompress.

GS: Thanks much, Chris!

CW: Thank you.