PhD student Gretchen Buchanan will be presenting at the 2018 Integrated Behavioral Healthcare Conference, April 27, at the Minneapolis Marriott Southwest in Minnetonka.
She will present, “Challenging Patients, Compassion Fatigue, Burnout, and Self-Care: A Workshop for Everyone in Integrated Behavioral Healthcare.”
The presentation is based on a series of staff trainings Buchanan conducted when she was a behavioral health clinician at a Twin Cities integrated health care clinic.
The clinic was unique in that it was a referral-based clinic for specifically patients with severe, chronic mental health and medical issues, a population that could be challenging. Buchanan assisted staff with strategies and techniques to manage stressful situations and difficult conversations as well as strategies for self-care and self-management.
Susan Walker, associate professor, and Seonghee Hong, a Ph.D. student in Family Social Science, will receive the Family & Consumer Sciences Research Journal Best Paper Award in Family and Consumer Sciences Education for 2017.
The award will be presented at the 109th Annual Conference of the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) in Atlanta in June. Dr. Sharon DeVaney, editor of FCSRJ, will present the award.
The paper, “Workplace Predictors of Parenting Educators’ Technology Acceptance Attitudes,” was published in the June 2017 issue of FCSRJ.
The AAFCS Best Paper award recognizes work for the importance and originality of the topic; strength of the methodology and results; and the potential for a lasting contribution to family and consumer science.
In their article, Walker and Hong investigated the technology adoption of non-formal parenting educators in Minnesota. They found that attitudes toward technology use was directly related to the perceived ease of use and perceived usefulness of the technology. They recommended that organizations that employ parenting educators foster a climate that encourages technology use and provide ongoing and effective training.
The Family and Consumer Sciences ResearchJournal publishes original research in all areas of family and consumer sciences. AAFCS, the sponsoring organization of the journal, is the only national not-for-profit 501(c) (3) organization that provides leadership and support to family and consumer science professionals in education, research, business, and not-for-profit organizations.
Family Social Science Professor Steven M. Harris assumed a new role as editor of the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy for a four year term.
Published by the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT), the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy is dedicated to both reflect and foster the best scholarship in the MFP field that makes a difference, moves our field forward, crosses borders, is sensitive to diversity and social justice, and is relevant to both researchers and clinicians.
Dr. Harris received his master’s and doctoral degrees in marriage and family therapy from Syracuse University. Prior to Minnesota, he was an MFT faculty member at Texas Tech University for 13 years. He has been practicing as an MFT for over 27 years. His history with JMFT includes serving as the reviews editor from 2000-2005, and he has been on the Editorial Board since 2000. Dr. Harris is the author of over 65 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters, has written four books, and has contributed a variety of other publications to the field throughout his career. He also serves as the associate director of the Minnesota Couples on the Brink Project. He and his co-author, Dr. William J. Doherty, also a professor in the FSoS Department, released the first textbook on discernment counseling last year.
JMFT, published quarterly, is the flagship scholarly journal of AAMFT and the field of family therapy. The goal of the journal is to ensure the continued development of the science, theory, and practice of marriage and family therapy. JMFT disseminates relevant, current scholarship and research that moves the field forward.
An article co-written by Family Social Science Ph.D. student Emily Jordan Jensen and Associate Professor Tai Mendenhall has been accepted and published in Contemporary Family Therapy.
“Call to Action: Family Therapy and Rural Mental Health,” is a review of every article published over the past 20 years in family journals related to mental health in rural communities. The team found 18 articles.
Jensen and Mendenhall discovered that the research points to three primary barriers that prevent rural communities from accessing high quality mental health care: availability, accessibility and acceptability. In their article, they issue a “call to action” to family clinicians and researchers and provide recommendations for further contributions.
“Family social science is uniquely positioned to really make a difference in this area,” says Jensen. “I hope this article helps to build a bigger research agenda around the needs of rural communities.”
The course, “Prevention Science: Principles and Practices,” (FSoS 5701, class number 88756) is open to graduate-level students. Undergraduate and nontraditional students may take the course with the instructor’s permission. Registration opens March 1 and ends May 25, the Friday following the first day of class.
This course is an excellent introduction to prevention science concepts and methods and will cover foundations for strategic interventions to prevent behavioral problems and promote healthy development, as well as trends and best practices in the discipline.
Prevention Science is a multi-disciplinary comprehensive approach to identify how best to promote the well-being of diverse families and communities by bridging research and practice. Learn more about Prevention Science.
Current prevention science research being conducted at the U of M includes preventing antisocial behavior and drug abuse, developing evidence-based parenting programs and education, supporting healthy development in at-risk populations, and exploring the value of mentor-based interventions.
Professor Emeritus David Olson will deliver the 2018 Cornerstone Symposium lecture Thursday, April 5, at 4 p.m. in the McNamara Alumni Center. The event is free and open to the public. RSVP online at: z.umn.edu/cornerstone2018.
One of the pioneers in couple and marriage therapy, Olson will discuss how he bridged research, theory, and practice to create the pioneering Circumplex Model, a systemic model based on three major relationship dimensions: cohesion, flexibility, and communication. Used in a variety of settings with couples and families, the assessment provides diagnostic information that is useful for treatment planning, clinical intervention, and assessing the clinical outcome. The model has been used as the foundation for more than 1,000 research studies worldwide.
He joined the University’s Department of Family Social Science faculty in 1973, and served as Director of Graduate Programs from 1973-1987. He also served as acting head of the Department in 1989. He conducted research studies of health family systems, marital and family conflict, premarital preparation and marriage enrichment programs, mediation approaches to child custody, and family treatment of alcoholism and drug abuse. He has written or edited over 20 books and published more than 100 articles. He currently serves on the editorial boards of six family journals.
Founder and president of Prepare/Enrich (Life Innovations), Olson created a simplified version of his assessment that has been used with over 4 million premarital and married couples around the globe to improve the health and resilience of their relationships.
He is a fellow of the American Association for Marital and Family Therapy (AAMFT) and the American Psychological Association. He has served as president of the National Council on Family Relations and the Upper Midwest Association for Marriage and Family Therapists. He was honored by both AAMFT and the American Family Therapy Association with Distinguished Contributions to Family Therapy Research Awards, as well as the University of Minnesota’s Legacy and Research Excellence Awards.
Olson was honored with Professor Emeritus status in 2001. He received his bachelor’s degree in psychology from St. Olaf College, a master’s in psychology from Wichita State University, and his doctoral degree from Penn State.
More about Family Social Science
The Department of Family Social Science is in the College of Education + Human Development. Formed in 1970, the Department of Family Social Science features academic programs that are future-focused, comprehensive, and transdisciplinary. FSoS scholars not only discover new knowledge, they are committed to collaborating with families, communities, and agencies to identify challenges and create evidence-based solutions. Its multi-disciplinary focus in a research-intensive institution makes it distinctive and unique.
Family Social Science doctoral candidate Corey Yeager successfully defended his Ph.D. dissertation in a mid-December session attended by a supportive crowd of faculty, friends and family. But the most unique facet of Yeager’s doctoral candidacy is the distinction of being Professor Bill Doherty’s last advisee.
Doherty, who joined the Department of Family Social Science in 1986, says he will continue to serve on graduate student committees, but he feels he’s at an age where taking on new students for the doctoral degree process (normally around five-years) would not be a good idea for the student.
“I couldn’t be more delighted that Corey was my final student,” said Doherty. “He learned and grew tremendously, and is already making wonderful contributions to the practice and theory of family social science.”
Doherty says Yeager is a prime example of the Department of Family Social Science’s focus on developing community partnerships. That’s a big change he’s noticed over his 30 years of advising doctoral candidates. They enter the program seeking to understand the bigger picture of issues affecting families across the lifespan, and finding their unique research path to make an impact.
He has also observed that some candidates often must cope with the anxiety of their family and community about their doctoral ambitions. “Especially in communities of color, there’s apprehension that if someone gets their doctoral degree, they’ll abandon their community,” said Doherty. “That’s not true with Corey—he’s thoroughly engaged.”
Addressing community challenges
Yeager has worked since 2013 in Minneapolis Public Schools’ Office of Black Male Student Achievement (OBMSA) that addresses the achievement gap in the district’s black male students – the largest demographic group in the district.
He steps into a new role as Educational Equity Director that will focus on professional development for administrators, teachers, and support staff to address the gap. According to OBMSA, black male students lag behind their white male counterparts in every achievement indicator, and have a 39 percent high school graduation rate, compared to white male students’ 65 percent.
“My graduate work and the ability to access, understand, and use meaningful research to support OMBSA’s work has been very helpful,” said Yeager.
As part of his doctoral work, Yeager and Doherty collaborated with black male students at South High School to create the “Relationship Project.” Using the framework Doherty has developed with his Families and Democracy Project, the two researchers listened and learned from the young men, who chose to work on improving their relationships with teachers and their female peers as a way to address their achievement gap.
The two helped the young men improve their communication skills to interview teachers and learn more about them, while the students organized a peer panel of young women to understand the behaviors they display that create discomfort, and what they could do better. Yeager says the work has been powerful for all involved and achieved positive results for the students.
Communities as co-producers
Doherty says this democratic approach builds credibility and trust with individuals, families and partnering organizations. He has spent his career honing this framework that recognizes a community as a base of both knowledge and action.
The temptation of academia he says, is to go into a partnership with a top down mindset as the “expert deliverer of new knowledge.”
“But when you access both the academic knowledge and the knowledge that resides in those communities – that’s dynamite,” he says. Being able to implement that kind of approach requires developing communication and facilitation skills that foster open community engagement.
“Never start with a powerpoint,” says Doherty. Doherty advises dialogue – ask those in the room to share what they know, what they’ve observed, and how they feel about the issue at hand.
“I call it ‘being on tap’ rather than ‘being on top,’” he says. “The dialogue builds trust and appreciation for listening and we – the academics – become resources.”
Yeager expressed his own appreciation for Doherty’s mentorship in attaining his doctoral degree.
“Dr. Doherty was a guide, trainer, motivator, therapist and confidant for me through this doctoral journey,” he said. “I am ever indebted to him and will work diligently to repay him for all he has become to me…”
Family Social Science Associate Professor Tai Mendenhall’s project to help first responders, called “Preventing Compassion Fatigue in Disaster-Responders: Advancing and Evaluating the Effectiveness of a Mobile Self Care App,” has been selected for MN-Reach funding.
The University of Minnesota launched MN-REACH in 2015 to help researchers with new health-related discoveries navigate the complex path(s) from laboratory to market. MN-REACH is also one of three sites in the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) Research Evaluation and Commercialization Hubs.
Mendenhall is principal investigator (PI) on a team that created a self-care app for trauma-responders, the UMN Responder Self-Care App. In 2012, providers and researchers from the University of Minnesota’s School of Public Health, Academic Health Center (Office of Emergency Preparedness), and Department of Family Social Science collaborated with colleagues at the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH) to develop the innovative self-care app for emergency responders in-the-field. They pilot-tested an early version of the app with volunteer members of the UMN’s Medical Reserve Corps (Behavioral-, Biomedical-, Veterinary-, and other teams) and MDH.
“These volunteers assisted us with understanding their use-cases, so that we can refine and revise this early version across both content and organization,” said Mendenhall, who earned his Ph.D. in Family Social Science at the U of M in 2003. “We are now working toward widespread use and rigorous (randomized) empirical testing. This is very timely and important work!”
Mendenhall’s co-investigators include Andrew Morrow, in the U of M’s Office for Technology Commercialization, and two professionals from the MDH’s Center for Emergency Preparedness and Response: Nancy Carlson, a doctoral student who also works as a behavioral health and community resilience program coordinator, and Tom Garcia, a medical countermeasures planner.
The interactive smartphone app (available for iOS and Android) engages responders in a variety of ways before, during, and after deployments. The personally-customizable tool serves to promote and aid responders’ attention to their own physical, emotional, and social well-being.
High stress – high risk
Disaster-responders are already a high-risk group for compassion fatigue and – paired with the high-risk nature of fieldwork, itself – they are also at high-risk to become impaired. This puts both providers and the families they serve at risk. A 2016 Survey conducted by the National EMS Management Association (NEMA) described in detail the current needs of the responder community, including a call to action: “There is a significant mental health and wellness problem among the EMS workforce in the United States. Insufficient data exists to fully describe the extent and impact of this problem across the 800,000+ professionals that serve around the clock each day.”
Currently organizations address compassion fatigue during after-action processing and/or debriefing sequences, which do not sufficiently address the personal health and well-being of responders. This gap is partly connected to the cultures of medical education, law-enforcement, and emergency services institutions (e.g., rigid hierarchies between classes and specializations, long working hours, and an ethos that does not support or encourage asking for help or appearing vulnerable).
The risks associated with compassion fatigue have personal consequences for emergency responders, including physical and mental illnesses, relationship stress, and professional consequences for the individuals and families that disaster response personnel serve (ranging from missing important cues, to ineffective teamwork and/or straightforward medical errors).
“The opportunity to use the UMN Responder Self-Care App in real-time – privately or in coordination with assigned team-members – will help responders with self-care during times when doing so is most needed, while also capturing much needed data to support long-term research so crucial in this field,” said Mendenhall.
Early development of the UMN Responder Self-Care App was supported by University of Minnesota: Simulations, Exercises, and Effective Education (U-SEE) funding to investigate the effectiveness of public health preparedness training methods with the goal of developing training models that build system capacity.
The hashtag #UMNProud was a presence at the National Council on Family Relations’ annual conference in Orlando in November.
Current students (26), faculty and research associates (13) and alumni (25, including a professor emerita) from the Department of Family Social Science and the University of Minnesota made presentations, moderated panels, and led special sections dialogues, as well as discussed their research in poster sessions across the four days of the national meeting.
Their topics spanned the growing range of family social science research – from transgender youth and young adults in context, to familial and neighborhood influences on obesity, to military service and its impact on families. The Department of Family Social Science is among the national leaders advancing theory and practice to improve the well-being of diverse families.
In addition, grad student Samantha LeBouef was publicly recognized for her national Student Proposal Award in the Education and Enrichment Section for a paper she presented at the conference.
The University of Minnesota was also among 18 institutions promoting their family social science departments to potential grad students during University Receptions Thursday evening.
Here’s a selection of graduate student presentations, posters and papers:
Molly White Bailey, Anti-racists Identity Development – poster;
Natasha Bell, Children and Finances in Divorce Decision-making – poster;
Gretchen Buchanan, Conceptualization of What Constitutes a Strong Family – poster;
Sarah Burcher, Work or Family? A hermeneutic phenomenology qualitative meaning and value of employment from the perspective of low-income women – presentation;
Daniel Cooper, Examining Strength and Resilience with Resettled Liberian Refugee Families, presentation; and Examining biracial identity development: Key concepts and assumptions – poster;
Lekie Dwanyen, Examining Strength and Resilience with Resettled Liberian Refugee Families – presentation;
Renada Goldberg, Using CPBR in Policy Analysis: Assessing Paid Sick Leave and African Americans – poster;
Heather Hessel, Different Paths: Comparing College-Going and Non-college Youth – poster;
Emily Jordan, Barriers to Rural Mental Health Care: Clinicians’ Perspectives – presentation;
Samantha LeBouef, Near, Far, Wherever you are: Siblings and Social Media Communication – paper;
Sun-Kyung Lee, Well-Being of Emerging Adults: How Family and Friends Matter – poster;
Na Zhang, Relationships between mindfulness facets and observed anger expression: An actor partner interdependence analysis with post-deployed military families – poster;
Jingchen Zhang, Effects of a military parenting program: Inhibitory control as a moderator – poster.
About the conference
The NCFR’s annual conference attracts more than 1,000 scholars and practitioners from across the globe with the goal to highlight research, feature evidence-based best practices and critically examine policies that impact families and communities.
Family Social Science Professor/ITR Director Abi Gewirtz has collaborated with current and former grad students on a new article for “Family Relations: Interdisciplinary Journal of applied Family Studies,” published by the National Council on Family Relations.
Gewirtz, current FSOS grad student, Na Zhang, and Osnat Zamir, Ph.D., an associate professor at Hebrew University of Jerusalem, have written “Actor-Partner Associations of Mindfulness and Marital Quality After Military Deployment.” It is currently available pre-publication at NCFR’s online library.
Zhang, a fourth-year doctoral student in Family Social Science, is a native of China and began examining the effects of mindfulness as a master’s degree student at Tsinghua University in Beijing, where she stood out to Gewirtz, who was there teaching a graduate course in prevention science.
Dr. Gewirtz supervised Zamir’s post-doctoral appointment (2011-2016) in FSoS and ITR where she joined Gewirtz’s ADAPT research project. Zamir had been recommend by Dr. Yoav Lavee, a FSoS alum and CEHD Distinguished International Alumnus Awardee. He is currently is on faculty at the University of Haifa, Israel, where Zamir received her Ph.D. degree. Gewirtz served on the CEHD award committee that honored Dr. Lavee.
Grad student Samantha LeBouef has won a national award from the National Council on Family Relations. She won a Student Proposal Award in the Education and Enrichment Section for her paper, “Near, Far, Wherever You Are: Siblings and Social Media Communication” that she’ll be presenting at the NCFR annual conference later this month. The award recognizes students’ quality proposals and comes with a cash travel award to the annual conference. LeBouef will also present at the annual conference for the Society for the Study of Emerging Adulthood in Washington, D.C.
LeBouef, is co-president of the graduate student organization, SHARK, and her advisor is Jodi Dworkin, professor and associate department head of Family Social Science.
Family Social Science faculty members Catherine Solheim and Elizabeth Wieling have collaborated with FSOS Ph.D. candidate Jaime Ballard on the book, “Immigrant and Refugee Families: Global Perspectives on Displacement and Resettlement Experiences,” that gives readers an interdisciplinary perspective on the challenges and resilience of immigrant and refugee families in the U.S. They address topics such as immigration policy, traumatic stress, domestic violence, and more. It is free and available to download at the U of M Library.
In addition, Solheim is among the contributors to “Teaching Interculturally: A Framework for Integrating Disciplinary Knowledge and Intercultural Development.” Published by Stylus Publishing, the book provides educators a theoretical foundation, practical tools, and process for designing and implementing an intercultural pedagogy. The book is available online.
University of Minnesota Alum Ashley Landers Lace won the best dissertation award at the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy’s 2017 annual conference. This award is given by the AAMFT Research & Education Foundation to recognize scholarly achievement by recent graduates whose research study related to couples and family therapy or family therapy training.
Lace, an assistant professor at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State College (Virginia Tech or VPI), graduated with a Ph.D. in Family Social Science in 2016. During her U of M academic career, she was honored with a President’s Student Leadership and Service Award, a M. Janice Hogan Fellowship, a Family Process Institute’s New Writers Fellowship, and a Waller Summer Fellowship (twice), as well as a AAMFT Graduate Student Research Award from American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Her peer-reviewed presentations included national and regional conferences on child welfare, the impact of trauma on relationships, and diversity. Following graduation she served a post doc at the University of Calgary.
According to the blog, parents who participated in Project ADAPT reported feeling better about their parenting, which in turn leads to improvements in the child’s adjustment. The project has also reduced depression, PTSD symptoms, and thoughts of suicide for the parents involved.
The Department of Family Social Science will host the Fall Semester Undergraduate Showcase Monday, Dec. 4, 5:15 – 6:45 p.m. The event will begin in McNeal Hall room 33 and then move upstairs to McNeal rooms 274 and 278 on the University’s St. Paul campus. Refreshments will be served.
Family Social Science Undergraduate Showcase gives undergrads the opportunity to showcase their scholarly work related to their field experiences for family, friends and the FSOS community. The FSOS Field Study requirement is generally completed by senior students close to graduation. Students are asked to complete 180 hours of work in local or global communities. During the Showcase students display their ability to synthesize theoretical classroom learning with practical real-world experiences. These experiences also allow students to explore potential employment opportunities.
Through excellence in academics, contributions to research projects, and immersion in work, internship, and volunteer experiences in communities both domestic and abroad, FSOS undergraduates are dedicated to enhancing the well being of diverse families in a changing world.
The event is held both in fall and spring semesters and helps students develop their presentation and communication skills in discussing their academic projects.
Nine students in the Department of Family Social Science’s Ph.D. specialization in Couple and Family Therapy are presenting their research at the annual meeting of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy held in Atlanta, GA.
In addition, four FSOS faculty members – Steven Harris, Tai Mendenhall, Lindsey Weiler and Elizabeth Wieling – will also be presenting and leading workshops and research discussions during the four-day conference.
Students attending include Kadie Ausherbauer, Jackie Braughton, Sarah Crabtree, Daniel Cooper, Lekie Dwanyen, Eugene Hall, Heather Hensel, Aimee Hubbard and Damir Utzran.
Their research represents the breadth of key topics affecting families nationally and internationally including: investigations with Syrian refugees resettled to the United States, local needs assessments conducted with resettled Liberian families, parenting dynamics in a Mexican context, sexual satisfaction and dysfunction and marital separation research.
“Our students are conducting research on critical issues impacting families, especially those affected by social disparities,” said Elizabeth Wieling, associate professor and program director of the Couple and Family Therapy doctoral specialization in Family Social Science. “Each of their studies represent cutting edge work advancing the clinical and implementation fields of research.”
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT) represents more than 50,000 marriage and family therapists. The Department of Family Social Science Ph.D. program’s Couple and Family Therapy specialization is among the 20 academic programs accredited by AAMFT in the country.
More about this program
Tai Mendenhall, associate professor in Family Social Science, addressed the National Institutes of Health’s Collaborative Research Center for American Indian Health in August.
Lindsey Weiler, assistant professor in Family Social Science, led a research team gathering data at the Minnesota State Fair.
Professor Marlene Stum was honored by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities Board on Human Sciences, Inc. (BoHS) Monday. The Board on Human Sciences Awards are annually presented to honor national leaders working to advance human sciences in higher education.
A professor in the Department of Family Social Science and Extension, Stum was the winner of the BoHS 2017 Outstanding Engagement Award. The award recognizes a campus-based or a state-level faculty member with exceptional creativity and scholarship in the development, application, and evaluation of outreach, extension, and public service programs.
Driven by a social justice perspective, Dr. Stum’s research and extension work focuses on improving financial literacy and decision-making in families facing later-in-life issues, including health care directives, transfer of personal property and inheritance decisions. Her scholarship and outreach also focuses on family dynamics and behaviors around long-term care, and her work has contributed to public and private policies impacting the long-term care risks facing the country’s aging population. Stum is an early innovator in the use of technology to increase access to the consumer information materials for various audiences.
More about the BoHS awards
The awards are part of the broader BoHS mission of advancing the intellectual integrity and stature of the human sciences at APLU-member institutions. The awards are aimed at supporting the development and stewardship of academic excellence in human sciences; advocating for visibility and leveraging resources to support human sciences research, extension and teaching programs; and educating leaders regarding the capacity of the human sciences to solve human problems.
Abigail Gewirtz, Lindahl Leadership professor in the Department of Family Social Science and the Institute for Translational Research, was interviewed by WCCO-TV and KSTP-TV about her research program, ADAPT, that supports military families reintegrating following deployment. The unique program provides tools and resources to support positive parenting. A U.S. Department of Defense grant is underwriting an online version of ADAPT to serve more military families.
Dworkin is among experts from across the country invited to address the Symposium topic, “Families and Technology,” that will explore how technology is rapidly changing and shaping families and family life. She will present on “Parent’s role in children’s screen time,” and discuss her research that includes the Parenting 2.0 project.
Rose Simon, a 2017 family social science graduate, was a keynote speaker at this year’s New Student Convocation, the U o f M’s welcome event for the incoming first-year class. Simon was encouraged to apply for the opportunity by her undergraduate student services adviser, Carole Anne Broad. A transcript of her speech is below, and view the event on YouTube. Simon’s speech begins around the 1 hour mark.
Welcome Class of 2021 and may I be one of many to congratulate you on this huge accomplishment. You are now officially a college student and you have certainly overcome numerous barriers to be here today and you should be very proud of yourselves. I am sure you are thrilled and eager to start classes and most importantly, for the “all you can eat” ice cream in the dining halls. However, before we get too far into your college days, I’m here to share a few of my own experiences and tips to help you along the way: and my first one to you is, don’t eat too much ice cream.
When I look back at my past four years of college, I can’t help but smile. I have done some pretty amazing things, but I was still surprised when I was asked to speak to you today. Surely, there was someone more qualified than I with a more picturesque college experience. What you heard in my bio is fairly impressive and I certainly worked hard these past four years but what you don’t hear about are the many challenges I faced throughout college. You don’t hear about the mental health issues I faced, or the time I was affected by a terrorist attack when I studied abroad, or the classes that I almost failed. These challenges became part of my journey and I realized that I DID have a perfect experience, just in a different manner that can’t be compared to any other college experience. It was perfect because I was challenged academically, mentally, emotionally and physically, and eventually I realized that I walked away with greater insight about myself and my potential.
So, I’m not here to tell you my life story, but I am here to share a few tips from my own journey through college. I have four tips for you that I hope will guide you in overcoming and succeeding when faced with your diverse challenges; whether your challenges are small or mighty.
Tip #1 Find your passion – whatever that is, and follow it, and do NOT let doubt overtake your confidence.
I love French, but boy did I struggle. When I was failing a French course my freshman year, it was difficult to remember how much I loved languages and connecting with other cultures when society was telling me that I should do something more practical, something that makes money. But my heart was telling me otherwise. When I made the wise choice to follow my passion by declaring my French major, I was able to live abroad in France for an entire year learning and challenging myself in a new space and culture. So find your passion, and stick with it, because some things are just meant to be.
# 2; Ask for help. There will be times when you feel overwhelmed and you need to know that the entire U of M community has your back. Asking for help, whether it’s going to your professor’s office hours and asking for homework help, asking your mentor, friend, advisor or coach for advice, or seeing a Boynton therapist – it will be the best way for you to find support when you face tough challenges. I personally have asked for help from all of those resources and I can attest to how much it helped me. So when faced with challenges, small or mighty, ask for help.
#3: Connect with your community on campus, and you will find your home and your second family where you will only receive love, support, and connection. Find your sport team if that’s what you’re into, join a fraternity or sorority, surround yourself with those that share pride in your culture by joining a cultural group, find support through programs like the Multicultural Center of Academic Excellence, TRIO or the President’s Emerging Scholars Program. I found my niche with the University of Minnesota women’s rugby team and my President’s Emerging Scholars family, and those two groups showed me nothing but love and support and as a result, I always felt like coming to campus was coming home.
And my final tip for you…
#4; Seek challenges and step out of your comfort zone. No doubt, this will happen without choice, but there are many ways that you can deliberately step out of your comfort zone and challenge yourself with new experiences. Show up at a club meeting even if you don’t know anyone, study abroad in a different country, volunteer with a community you have never worked with, learn about a new culture. From studying abroad I learned that taking a step beyond what I was used to or comfortable with was an amazing way for me to learn beyond the classroom, and I don’t regret any of the challenges that I placed upon myself.
I know this is not the first time you have faced a challenge, and for many, you have faced bigger challenges then most can even imagine. When your faced with these new challenges, remember you’ve earned your place at the U of M and in four years you will be holding a diploma instead of a tassel and looking back at your challenges and honoring your successes, for teaching you so many life lessons.
I hope that when you look back on your college career four years from now, that you will have found your passion and followed it, found a community and embraced it, asked for guidance and given it, and challenged yourself, but most importantly, I hope you can look back and can’t help but smile. Best of luck on your journey and congratulations!