Academic Minute Podcast

John Lefebvre, Wofford College – Fostering Resilience Among College Students

Leaving people to suffer alone has negative effects.

John Lefebvre, professor of psychology at Wofford College, explores how bringing students together to talk, helps them heal.

John Lefebvre is a professor of psychology at Wofford College in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Trained as a clinical psychologist, his teaching and research focus on topics related to physical and mental health. Lefebvre teaches courses in abnormal psychology, personality, health psychology and clinical psychology. In 2010, he was awarded Wofford’s Roger Milliken Award for Excellence in Teaching Science. Lefebvre’s research has concentrated on the experience of pain, especially the influence of personality, worry, catastrophizing and memory. Recently, his research has focused on improving student well-being through a variety of approaches. Lefebvre also has served as a leader on campus, directing the college’s implementation of its strategic plan. He’s also a past chair of the Wofford Department of Psychology. Lefebvre has been published numerous times and has presented his research in the United States and Europe.

Fostering Resilience Among College Students


The mental well-being of college students has been a long-standing concern, especially in how they deal with loneliness, adversity, and failure. The traditional approach on campuses has been to either ignore the problem under the guise that students will become tougher from the trials or to invest in professional services.

Another approach is to use the combined wisdom of the campus community. The belief is that others who have experienced similar setbacks can provide resources to our students. The Resilience Project began in 2018 to collect stories from students, faculty, staff, and alumni who faced adversity and responded with resilience. These narratives are included in a book that also features artwork from students focused on resilience. This peer-to-peer approach has been used as a textbook in a required course for all of our first-year students. We like to say that we are crowd-sourcing well-being.

The Resilience Project continues to add new approaches as well. A coping toolkit consisting of exercises based on scientific research offers help with journaling, meditation, kindness, and relationships. The project also has evolved to include gatherings like “Hey Wofford, I F*#%^d Up,” where community members share their mistakes with no need to include a solution. Another event involves students writing their stress and concerns on a piece of paper before casting them into a bonfire to burn their burdens. In all of these, the emphasis is on highlighting that we all have imperfections.

Finally, I’m working with Dr. Cecile Nowatka and students in the department of psychology to develop an intervention looking at pairing some of the exercises in The Resilience Project’s toolkit with peer accountability to enhance student wellbeing. Preliminary results are very promising.

In all of these experiences, we aim to show students it’s OK to fall down, there are always people reaching to help you back up.


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