#GDTBATH: Rebekah Lim

Rebekah Lim, a Master of Public Health student, is using her time with the Diversity and Student Success program to build a stronger network and community for graduate students who identify as Asian Pacific Islander Desi American.

Rebekah Lim sitting in a hallway.
(Photo by Johnny Andrews/UNC-Chapel Hill)

As a public health researcher, Rebekah Lim is focused on connecting people with the information and tools that can help them live better, healthier lives. Whether that means ensuring medical advances made in a lab get out to the people who need them or getting critical information on maternal health to policymakers and program leaders, she’s always working to help others thrive.

But she doesn’t just utilize that mindset for her research. As a member of The Graduate School’s Diversity and Student Success program, Lim is using that same approach to help graduate students at Carolina find the resources and supports they need to succeed at UNC-Chapel Hill. The program is dedicated to providing student- and campus-centered initiatives to support graduate and professional students.

“DSS works to recognize the need that students have — whether they admit it or not,” she said. “Sometimes it’s like, ‘I didn’t even know I needed help until someone asked me, ‘Can I help you?’ You don’t really think about it. You just come in and just get on with the grind of being in school, and sometimes you forget to ask for help and know that you deserve support.”

Though there are nearly 12,000 graduate students on campus, they can often fly under the radar of typical campus resources. The Diversity and Student Success program works to fill in those crucial gaps.

“Graduate students are expected to know what they’re doing all the time because it’s like, ‘Oh, you went to undergrad. You know how to find the resources that you need. You know how to connect with people and network,’” Lim said. “I think it’s a false assumption to expect that graduate students don’t need help. DSS is recognizing what the needs are and building off of that and creating resources.”

Part of that effort, Lim said, is creating spaces for graduate students to connect with each other and support one another. Lim, a Master of Public Health student in the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health’s maternal and child health department, is using her time with the Diversity and Student Success program to build a stronger network and community for graduate students who identify as Asian Pacific Islander Desi American.

Lim hopes the group will revitalize a community for graduate students with similar experiences, creating a support network as they navigate their studies.

“Oftentimes, the Asian American experience and just being Asian in America is really put in this monolith or lumped into one group, when in reality, there’s a lot of nuances, there’s a lot of uniqueness,” Lim said. “We are really working to create a space where those nuances are recognized, and those experiences can be talked about openly within the Asian American community and recognize the importance of those students on UNC’s campus.”

A subgroup of the Diversity and Student Success’ Initiative for Minority Excellence, the group has been on Carolina’s campus for years, but programming became a struggle during the height of the pandemic, and eventually, the group lost steam. Lim is working to bring it back to full force with monthly events, from a meal together to professional development workshops that fulfill the unique needs of the students.

Though she is only a few weeks away from graduating, Lim hopes the momentum she built this year will propel the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American group forward to serve more graduate students.

“This is a group that people need,” she said. “I definitely hope it continues because the need is there, and the desire for community is there.”

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