Resilience at Mason


By Lewis Forrest, II, Associate Dean for University Life

Spring is here and the semester is entering its busy season before exams and graduation. How are you holding up? Are you able to attend to your well-being and stay focused during this important time? Are you more resilient than you realize?

In my blog post last year, titled Taking Care of Your Well-Being, I challenged you to be mindful of your well-being during graduate school, given the complex lives and multiple responsibilities graduate students balance. This time, I’d like to focus specifically on resilience.  Whether you have things under control or not, we all should find time to reflect on our resilienceAt Mason, we define resilience as: Enhancing the capacity for successful adaptation in the face of stress, challenge, and adversity.

Another definition is “the capacity to bend or stretch without breaking, to return to original shape of condition.” The American Psychological Association defines resilience as “the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats and even significant sources of stress – such as family and relational problems, serious health problems, or workplace and financial stresses.”

What about your day-to-day life makes you resilient, and what parts of your life make it more difficult to bounce back? The Resilience Project, which is a part of Mason’s Well-Being initiative, lists ways in which the university community is supporting resilience:

  • The Resilience Model
  • Resilience Modules
  • The Resilience Badge Project (cohort now in session; next cohort planned for Fall 2017)

Mason’s Resilience Model represents the components of flourishing that we believe comprise a resilient human being. We believe that with the appropriate resources and support, a person can intentionally enhance each component in their own life to build their resilience; for more information check out Mason’s Well-Being page. The five components below give you some guidance on areas where you can focus to increase and support your resilience during graduate school.

Positive emotions – positive emotions are a person’s brief responses when they interpret their current circumstances as good, pleasurable, or of good fortune. Positive emotions include joy, gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, pride, amusement, inspiration, awe, and love.

Social support – social support is the degree to which a person feels they can rely on or turn to other people for support, advice, or encouragement.

Meaning in life – meaning in life is the extent to which a person feels their life is purposeful and how they make sense of their life and place within the world.

Coping – coping involves a person’s response to something distressing, including their ability to manage their emotions, thoughts, and behaviors.

Physical well-being  physical well-being encompasses a person’s objective health (regular physical exercise, healthy diet, adequate sleep), and subjective health (how healthy they believe they are).

The Resilience Modules are nine active presentations and many pre-selected TED Talks designed to increase different resilience skills. The Resilience Badge Project is a collaboration with Educational Design Lab to pilot how Mason might develop competency-based micro-credentials for “21st century skills” that can be displayed as a digital credential/badge on a student’s resume and are meaningful to employers in their hiring decisions.

Interested in participating in the badge project during Fall 2017? Contact me by email.

As you discover greater resilience, also think about how you can leverage your growth toward becoming more resilient in your school and work environments. Consider how being a more resilient person can make you an asset in the classroom or to a potential employer. Think about the value you can add to a company when you can articulate your purpose, have clear and articulated practices for dealing with stress, and managing your emotions.  Employers evaluate individuals based on factors such as experience, degrees and certifications, and are increasingly seeking employees who can adapt in the face of stress and face challenge and adversity. The National Association of Colleges and Employers identifies Career Readiness Competencies that speak directly to many of the critical thinking/problem solving, oral/written communication, and leadership skills present in a resilient individual.

So back to our initial question, “How are you holding up?” Your well-being and your ability to bounce back are more than just momentary questions to ponder. As you move through this process of investing in yourself, you will uncover the value of resilience throughout your life. I encourage you to use the many resources Mason has to offer. Think about how the five components of the Resilience Model (Positive emotions, Social support, Meaning in life, Coping, and Physical well-being) can help support and sustain you as we close out the semester and beyond!

Stay connected to Mason’s Well-Being work:

Lewis Forrest can be contacted by email and on Twitter (@LewMr).

The proceeding blog has been edited and updated to showcase the most current information about Mason’s resources for graduate and professional students. Changes and edits were made by the editor. Edited 09/21/2020.

Edited by Nikita Thadani, 2/2/2022.