The picture showed a single leafy sprout surrounded by cracked dirt. Corey Keyes, a sociologist from Emory University, used it to set up a conversation about resilience.
“You might look at the plant,” Keyes said, “and wonder why it survived in such bad circumstances. What can we learn from it to help others weather adversity?”
You might notice that the plant is alive — but stunted. What could help it flourish?
Or you could focus on the environment. How can it be improved to help other sprouts?
The 50 people listening on that summer morning in Charlotte nodded their understanding. As psychologists, deans, health educators and campus activity directors, they had come together to focus on the idea of well-being and what it looks like on a college campus.
Keyes, the keynote speaker, reviewed the research — and the challenges. “On many college campuses, the deception we play with ourselves is that if we just provide more counselors, we’ll deal with the problem,” he said. “But if you only think through the lens of treatment — if you don’t complement treatment with the promotion of resilience and well-being — you’re part of the problem, not the solution.”
‘On All Our Minds’
The Student Resiliency Symposium included participants from Davidson College, Duke University and Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina and Furman University in South Carolina — the four institutions of higher education supported by The Duke Endowment. The Endowment sponsored the gathering as a way to help the schools come together around an important issue.
“The question of what a healthy campus looks like was something a historically black university, two selective private institutions and one research university could have a compelling conversation about,” says Larry Moneta, vice president for student affairs at Duke University. “Finding ways to promote health is on all of our minds.”
When it comes to student well-being, the national picture is often bleak. Campus violence and suicides grab the headlines. Substance abuse and binge drinking remain a concern. Students report extreme levels of stress and anxiety.
“Students come to us tightly wound,” says Georgia Ringle, a health educator at Davidson. “It’s a vulnerable population and college can be messy.”