PHOENIX--Kimberly Underwood, Ph.D., MBA, chair, Center for Workplace Diversity and Inclusion Research (CWDIR) with the University of Phoenix College of Doctoral Studies, joined the proceedings of the JFF Horizons conference on June 7-8, 2022, in New Orleans, LA. Jobs for the Future (JFF), a national nonprofit driving transformation in the American workforce and education systems, earlier this year announced a partnership with University of Phoenix Career Institute® to support Black learners and workers in building professional social capital to advance their careers.
Emotional Intelligence Enhances Academic Resilience
Emotional Intelligence Enhances Academic Resilience
A New Beginning
Autumn has arrived and what better time to reflect upon aspects of personal, professional and academic growth. Each season inspires new beginnings. Doctoral students experience substantial challenges within a broad spectrum of events and activities in the life cycle of the dissertation journey. Emotionally, we all have experienced similar challenges coupled with highs and lows within our daily environments to include our work-life balance, societal events, relationships, worldwide pandemics, academic pursuits, social well-being, emotional wellness, student debt, political challenges, systemic racism, and financial stability. Within academic resilience there are contextual and individual variables. Nearly everyone experiences some form of stress and stress impacts each of us in different ways. Students are speaking up about their experiences and we notice different behaviors in their participation in the academic setting. We are aware of many of the challenges they face and some of those challenges may appear insurmountable when basic needs are not met, or they experience loss of family, friends, jobs, careers, homes, financial resources and academic stabilities. Some students are grieving in each of these areas. There are also inequities in the academic resources they may need to experience more successes.
One important question we should ask as students pursue academic goals is, “How are you managing emotionally while pursuing your doctorate?” We have seen and experienced during the pandemic and periods of social challenges the massive surge in the need to care for ourselves mentally and being able to express the need for aligning our emotions and mental health with daily life experiences. One of our aims should be to discover how to manage our lives in a world that is constantly changing the rules and the way we do business, connect, educate and live. We live during unprecedented times and consistently must learn ways to manage daily interruptions that have become the norm within our society. We have a responsibility to encourage students to build up their resilience in the face of inevitable change as we also do in helping them to adjust to new procedures, infrastructures and opportunities. Building resilience becomes a lifelong process and skill set.
Academic resilience ensures ability to persist, think creatively, embrace our emotional intelligence, enhance our cognitive flexibility, build determination, address social justice and equity, learn from our failures and success, and overcome adversity to reach our core objectives and goals (Academic Resilience Consortium (ARC), 2020; Martin & Marsh, 2006). While Fallon (2010) reported there is a positive relationship between academic achievement and academic resilience, students and supportive intervention actions must be purposeful and intentional so that students experience more success as they navigate throughout the changing environment. Studies have determined the number of students who complete their doctoral program and earn their degree is 57% (National Science Foundation, 2019). Some students also experience depression and metal health challenges along the way while earning their doctorate.
Academic resilience can be learned through interventions and academic support (Martin & Marsh, 2009).There are assessments such as the Academic Resilience Scale (ARS-30) and The Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale to determine the level of academic resilience in students; subsequently, this information may be utilized to create and employ interventions and share effective strategies to build academic resilience (Cassidy, 2016).Once learned, resilience skills extend beyond the academic setting and applies throughout the life of the student into all major life areas. We offer hope and opportunities to help students see their way forward. Students must feel supported throughout the university to advance and complete their doctoral journey.
Mayer and Salovey (1997) broadly defined Emotional intelligence “as the ability to perceive, value, and express emotions accurately; to access and/or generate feelings that facilitate thinking; to understand emotions and emotional knowledge; and to regulate emotions by promoting emotional and intellectual growth.” Academic self-advocacy, empathy for others, awareness, active listening, and daily reflections are preludes to understanding and managing our emotional intelligence. Goleman (1997) suggested the key to emotional intelligence was presented in five key characteristics: self-awareness; self-regulation; motivation; empathy and social skills.
Responding to these key characteristics with focused activities help you to build your emotional skills. Additionally, supportive programs and interventions are presented within the academic community to enhance emotional intelligence to help students understand their feelings, respond to mental health challenges and build their resilience. With a topic this extensive, it opens the door to making discovers through research and directing attention to strategies that work and how they work. Not all interventions and strategies are appropriate for all people. Individually, there are strategies doctoral students may consider to enhance their emotional intelligence.
Strategies to Enhance Emotional Intelligence
- Use positive self-talk, create effective positive habits and develop a growth mindset.
- Journal your progress, challenges, failures, successes and the way forward.
- Be aware of your values, beliefs, strengths and weaknesses.
- Participate in mindful meditation to help think through the circumstances at hand and create strategies for success (short term and long term). Mindful meditations may include reflections, prayer, practicing being calm and other transforming actions.
- Work with your chair, a mentor, counselor, or coach as they serve as accountability partners and may help you see the “big picture.”
- Manage your life, balance your time and eliminate or reduce distractions. Know where you spend your time and most productive and nonproductive moments. Adjust and continue to strive for balance. Be fully present and focused.
- Actively engage in intentional self-care of the mind, body and spirit during the dissertation journey. Exercise self-control.
- Exercise, manage your diet and learn how to breathe, laugh, relax and enjoy your life.
- Set goals – written and achievable, often review and follow-through. For doctoral students creating a viable dissertation completion plan helps you to see the journey and use your energy most effectively. Prioritize your activities and command your day.
- Expect to be successful and achieve your goals.
- Learn to delegate and say “No!” This means recognizing your capacity to be and do.
- Expand your network and connect with others who share your journey experiences such as a support group, social media group and other resources.
- Recognize that academic resilience is strengthened within community, sharing a sense belonging and connectedness. This may enhance communication and conflict resolution skills.
- Use all the resources provided by the university to support your emotional intelligence and mental health.
This is just the beginning. There is more to learn and do to enhance academic resistance. Emotional Intelligence is one area in which doctoral students and those who serve them may support their dissertation journey and maintain mental acuity. As the autumn begins, capitalize on this time to revive your life, clear your head, start fresh and get back on track to finish what you have started.
Academic Resilience Consortium. (2020). Academic resilience definition. https://academicresilience.org/
Cassidy, S. (2016). The Academic Resilience Scale (ARS-30): A new multidimensional Construct Measure. Frontiers in Psychology, Volume 7. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2016.01787
Fallon, C. M. (2010). School Factors that Promote Academic Resilience in Urban Latino High School Students. Doctoral Dissertation paper 122, Loyola University, Chicago. https://ecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1121&context=luc_diss
Goleman, D. (1997). Emotional Intelligence. New York: Bantam Books.
Martin, A. J., & Marsh, H. (2006). Academic resilience and its psychological and educational correlates: a construct validity approach. Psychol. Sch. 43, 267–281.
Martin, A. J., & Marsh, H. W. (2009). Academic resilience and academic buoyancy: multidimensional and hierarchical conceptual framing of causes, correlates and cognate constructs. Oxf. Rev. Educ. 35, 353–370. doi:10.1080/03054980902934639
Mayer, J. D., & Salovey P. (1990). Emotional Development and Emotional Intelligence. Harper Collins; New York, NY. What is emotional intelligence; pp. 3–31.
National Science Foundation. (2019). Doctorate recipients from U.S. universities. https://ncses.nsf.gov/pubs/nsf21308/report/data-source