Goals

Advisement is a time when you speak with students in your office about their academics and their future.  We talk about transcripts, grades, and a schedule for next semester as long as it doesn’t include an 8:00am class.  Beyond discussing grades and planning, you have the opportunity to speak to the hearts of the students.  This requires holistic advisement where topics such as roommates, study habits, determination, partying, and long-term goals are discussed.  Over the years, I have seen some very bright students not be successful, and, on the other hand, I have seen some students be stars who are not at the top of their class and/or have difficult challenges in their lives.  You can think of a number of factors that may allow for success in less than optimal circumstances, but one sticks out above the rest and it is “grit.”

Treat yourself to watching this engaging 6-minute TedTalk by Dr. Duckworth who was a math teacher in New York City and now is a psychologist.

 Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth

What have been the top three things in your life that have taken the most determination, persistence, and grit?  How do we reinforce or help our students develop these qualities?  What would this discussion look like during an advisement/mentoring session?  As Dr. Duckworth said, it may be important to help students understand how the brain works and that learning from success and failure permanently changes neural structure; a process over which they have control.  Yes, there is a deeper nature-nurture discussion here.  Regardless, we have the privilege of being able to focus on the nurturing side of the equation with our students.  I’ve often told students that each semester is an opportunity to discover a new self because they learned so many lessons from the current semester about how to do things better next time; failure and not getting stuck in negative emotions is part of learning how to be successful.  Helping students learn how to push against perceived self limits by learning from successes and mistakes opens the door to unlimited opportunities.  Getting up every day and giving it your best takes more than learning, it takes grit.

Maybe the conversation that leads to discussing grit starts with a few simple questions.  For example, what has been the most challenging aspect of your studies/college?  How have you grown as a person due to this challenge?  If you were not successful, what did you learn that will allow you to be successful next time?  How has this experience changed the way you view yourself?

There are vulnerabilities and tender places of growth that can be addressed during advisement or during the mentoring process.  As professionals in academia, we occasionally have had conversations like this with students over the years, but maybe we need to be more intentional about it.  Your advisees’ success may depend on having this conversation, most likely more than once.

Bonus: What does it look like to have “group grit?”  Even with shared values and a clear mission that focuses on students’ success, the way a group works together when the going gets tough will result ultimately in the group’s success and students’ success.

Shared Value Highlighted: Helping Students Achieve Goals