Learning to Thrive: The Invisible Skills That Foster Student Success

January 22, 2020
Washington, DC

About the Symposium

Ask just about anyone on a college campus today and they will tell you the needs of students are changing. But is that because students have changed or because the environment around them has?

Evidence is clear that today’s students are riding a perilous continuum of anxiety, depression, fatigue, and stress more than any other preceding generation. At the same time, the economic and social worlds that students are (and will be) navigating demand ever greater levels of social-emotional intelligence, resilience, coping skills, and connectedness. At no other time has it been more important for higher education to take seriously what it means to “educate the whole student.” To do so, we must illuminate what might be considered the “invisible skills” of intrapersonal and social development that make all the difference—in learning, in work, and in life. 

This Symposium recognizes that all campus stakeholders contribute to student success—from faculty and student affairs professionals to administrators, advisors, and operations staff. Campus educators and practitioners play integral roles in helping students thrive by supporting the skills that lead students to flourish, find purpose, have a sense of belonging, and persist through failure.

Sessions will focus on the latest research and promising practices that can nudge campuses toward holistic goals for student learning and development, programmatic approaches that span the curriculum and co-curriculum, comprehensive assessment, and much-needed conversations about equity. Participants will emerge with new strategies and rationale for equipping students with the skills they need to thrive, and make the invisible visible, in today’s world.


JANUARY 22, 2020


8:15 – 8:45 a.m.


Light Breakfast and Informal Networking

8:45 – 9:00 a.m.


Opening Remarks

Ashley Finley, Senior Advisor to the President and Vice President for Strategic Planning and Partnerships, AAC&U

9:00 – 10:15 a.m.


Opening Panel: Why Thrive: Making the Case for Intrapersonal and Social Development in Higher Education


Panelists: Adina Glickman, Steering Committee, Academic Resilience Consortium
Daniel Pascoe Aguilar, Associate Provost for Immersive Learning & Career Design, Drew University
Martin Van der Werf, Associate Director of Editorial and Postsecondary Policy, Center on Education and the Workforce, Georgetown University
Niesha Ziehmke, Associate Dean of Academic Programs and Planning, Stella and Charles Guttman Community College

10:30 – 11:45 p.m.


Concurrent Sessions: Gathering the Evidence

Sessions are focused on engaging participants in research-oriented and evidence-based discussions led by campus-based and national experts who have investigated outcomes and topics related to students’ intrapersonal and social development.





Measuring Students’ Social-Emotional Learning and Flourishing Using Rubrics


Michael Ben-Avie, Senior Director of Learning Assessment and Research, Quinnipiac University


Using Mindfulness to Reduce Math Anxiety


Wanda McCoy, Assistant Professor, Math and Computer Science, Coppin State University


Measuring Flourishing within Campus Climates


Robert Reason, Professor of Higher Education and Student Affairs, Iowa State University; Joshua Mitchell, Director of Institutional Research, Carroll University


Data for Understanding and Enhancing Student Mental Health


Sara Abelson, Co-Investigator and Lead for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Projects, Healthy Minds Network, University of Michigan


Social Emotional Learning and Civic Engagement


Deborah Donahue-Keegan, Professor of Education and Associate Director, Tisch College Initiative on Social-Emotional Learning, Tufts University

12:00 – 1:00 p.m.


Lunch Discussion: Table Topics

Participants will have the opportunity to choose an area of interest for informal conversation over lunch.

1:00 – 2:15 p.m.


Student Panel: In Our Own Words: What It Means to Thrive

Current college students will provide their perspectives on what it means to thrive on campus, why it matters to them, and what would help them succeed.


Panelists: Neha Basti, Student, Northwestern University
Clinton Carlson, Student, George Mason University
Fikir Ejihineh, Student, University of Maryland Baltimore County
Ahjoni Wilson, Student, Rutgers University-Newark
Alma Clayton-Pedersen, Emeritus Consulting, Moderator

2:30 – 3:45 p.m.


Afternoon Concurrent Sessions: Putting Ideas into Practice

Sessions are intended to engage participants in practice-based discussions focused on innovative campus programs and models that, for example, span the curriculum and co-curriculum, promote holistic advising, and connect intrapersonal and social development skills with equity endeavors and high-impact practices.





Mentoring by Design


Christina Mayes, Digital Portfolio Specialist and Integrative Coach, Dominican University of California; Barika Barboza, Director of Learning and Program Evaluation, Miami Dade College


How Student Development is Enhanced through Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation: Perspectives from TRHT Campus Centers


Eric Ford, Director of the Choice Program, University of Maryland-Baltimore County; Tia McNair, Vice President for Equity and Student Success, AAC&U; Hannah Schmitz, Assistant Director of Applied Learning and Community Engagement, University of Maryland-Baltimore County; Sharon Stroye, Director of Public Engagement, Rutgers University-Newark; Ahjoni Wilson, Student, Rutgers University-Newark


Learning Communities and Students’ Intrapersonal and Interpersonal Development


Karen Inkelas, Associate Professor of Education, University of Virginia


Taking Institutional Commitments to Student Well-Being to Scale


Nance Lucas, Executive Director and Chief Well-Being Officer, Center for the Advancement of Well-Being, George Mason University; Joselyn Schultz Lewis, Senior Associate Director for Inclusive Teaching and Learning Initiatives, Georgetown University


Why Students Cheat: Social and Psychological Factors and Institutional Responses


Richard DeCapua, Director, OneClass; Brian T. McCoy, Professor of Psychology, Nichols College

4:00 – 4:30 p.m.


Wrap-Up Discussion and Closing Remarks

Ashley Finley and Lynn Pasquerella, President, AAC&U