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

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.

Emotional Intelligence

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



Sandra Sessoms-Penny's picture Sandra Sessoms-Penny | September 28, 2021 3:23 am MST

The topic of Emotional Intelligience Enhances Academic Resilience is a vibrant concern many doctoral students currently face in light the events taking place throughout the world today. Mental health issues are being addressed around the globe. We encounter students in the academic setting who are expressing themselves and the challenges they encounter daily. There are interventions and strategies educational leaders and universities may use to help students achieve success and stay emotionally aligned as they participate in the dissertation joourney. This blog illuminates these opportunities.

Joy Taylor's picture Joy Taylor | October 7, 2021 8:31 pm MST



I particularly appreciate the list of Strategies to Enhance Emotional Intelligence!  Once we recognize and bring to the forefront our values, beliefs, strengths and weaknesses it is less likely that others can cause us to feel defeated.  Likewise, intentional self-care is so important for our sense of well being. I am learning more each year that I must protect my peace of mind because no one else will. We are all busy with our own "issues" and it can be difficult to focus on others when we are stressed out and living a life that is out of balance. When we practice intentional self-care, we are then better equipped to support others.

Sandra Sessoms-Penny's picture Sandra Sessoms-Penny | November 1, 2021 7:14 pm MST

Dr. Taylor

Thank you for your feedback. You are correct. These strategies help to empower students to complete their doctoral journey and other life goals and challenges. Managing stress is a lifelong skill set. I look forward to sharing in a full discussion on self-care and its importance for our total well-being.

Kimberly Underwood's picture Kimberly Underwood | October 14, 2021 1:42 pm MST

Thank you so much for this blog, Dr. Sessoms-Penny!  Emotional Intelligence (EI) is a necessary skill as we think about effective communication within DEIB and the workplace.

Sandra Sessoms-Penny's picture Sandra Sessoms-Penny | November 1, 2021 7:24 pm MST

Thank you Dr. Underwood,

I appreciate sharing an understanding of the connection between Emotional Intelligence (EI) and nearly every facet of our life. The research is ongoing on this topic especially in the areas of DEIB and the workplace. Thank you for the opportunity to increase our awareness and actions to effectively communicate how EI impacts each of us.

Lisa Langford's picture Lisa Langford | October 23, 2021 9:11 pm MST

Dr. Sessoms-Penny,

This was a great read and it has me thinking about my students that are on the doctoral journey. With everthing that is going on in the world, I know that some of them may be struggling with the loss of loved ones, jobs, relationships, to name a few. I have always added an extra dose of patience in each class because everyone is dealing with something whether they voice it or not. Thank you!

Sandra Sessoms-Penny's picture Sandra Sessoms-Penny | November 1, 2021 7:32 pm MST

Greetings Dr. Langford,

Thank you for your feedback on the blog. You are right, many students struggle with a variety of concerns. Sometimes they may even share a few comments with us that trigger or invite us to be compassionate. Many of us may have had similar experiences. I am sure your students, their family, and those they work with appreciate the patience you have shown them. Be sure to invite your students to visit and read the blog. By every means available, we want them to succeed.

Janice Cardwell's picture Janice Cardwell | October 24, 2021 2:32 pm MST

Thank you, Dr. Penny, for this insightful information and confirmation of how emotional intelligence is critical for academic resilience which leads to success. Your strategies to enhance emotional intelligence can be used across all areas of life as we emerge from the pandemic impacts and restrictions. I can appreciate how the strategies start with  positive habits/developing a growth mindset, then conclude with using all the resources provided by the university. Great Information!


Sandra Sessoms-Penny's picture Sandra Sessoms-Penny | November 1, 2021 10:37 pm MST

Greetings Dr. Cardwell

Thank you for sharing your feedback. The pandemic continues to open our eyes to the many challenges surrounding us and our students. I do not recall, in my years in higher education, hearing the number of concerns students share in their responses and conversations. We offer any number of "lifelines" promoting emotional intelligence as a university to encourage academic resilience. I am hopeful we will continue to share the wealth of strategies to achieve success. Thanks greatly.


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