What can we do to help our students manage interpersonal conflicts and family crises, cope with academic stress, budget their time and take ownership of their circumstances? What changes can we pursue to ease the institutional barriers that may slow a student’s progress or ability to bounce back from difficulties?
In the course of the Student Resilience and Well-Being Project, Furman identified counselors and case managers/student success coordinators as key advocates for students, ensuring they had the tools and resources to assist students in developing their resilience and ability to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. Similarly, we created the freshman-sophomore Pathways advising course to build a strong foundation of academic, social and coping skills to strengthen student resilience. The Pathways course assists the student’s development of self-efficacy and confidence in overcoming the inevitable barriers that arise in a collegiate experience. Early data has signaled that this two-year advising course enhances students’ ability to rebound in the face of uncertainty, particularly students who struggle academically in their first year. The course aims to help power students’ trajectory into their majors and their high impact experiences.
Furman faculty and student-experience staff members have embraced Nevitt Sanford’s “challenge and support” model of student development theory as a key ingredient in helping students strengthen their resilience skills. In practice for decades, Sanford’s theory is now being embraced throughout the academy as a way to manage both the academic and social rigor of the university experience, preparing students for life beyond Furman’s campus.
The project identified four key foundations for resiliency – engagement with academics, the ability to set goals and follow through with them even in the face of challenge, self-compassion (treating oneself with kindness, even in the face of failure), and relationships with peers, faculty and staff. These findings guide the way we train advisors and have highlighted the importance of not only challenging our students, but supporting them.