The Thriving at Brescia program offers students the tools to be successful in their university life and beyond. Photo courtesy Brescia University College

Brescia program offers tools for student success

By 
  • October 21, 2021

A holistic program at Brescia University College is giving students struggling with academic and social pressures the tools for success in school and in life.

Launched in 2020, the Thriving at Brescia (TAB) program is showing students at the London, Ont., university that there are strategies, tools and supports available to transform their academic outcomes and gear them towards becoming a better version of themselves.

The eight-week program, running virtually due to the pandemic, builds motivation, optimism and resilience along with learning strategy essentials such as time management and effective studying. 

Leanne Ford, TAB student wellness educator and case manager, has been involved with the program since its inception. Built on Ryerson University’s Thriving in Action program developed by Dr. Diana Brecher and Dr. Deena Kara Shaffer, TAB uses those foundations and conforms them to fit the needs of Brescia students.

Focused on a wide range of personal development topics, it covers building new habits, sleep, mindful time management, grit and developing personal models of resilience. With students spending hours a week in lectures, through the program they learn active listening, holistic note taking and cultivating concentration in the classroom. Students develop the tools to identify and target their signature character strengths, effective studying, developing the muscle of optimism, gratitude and self-compassion.

The main goal is helping students who are often, consciously or subconsciously, caught in the cycle of negative thinking to cultivate a more positive mindset.

“We always start with what went well, and this is a strategy to help them essentially change (any negative) mindset or ways of thinking,” said Ford. “Then we review our thriving strategies and skills.”

TAB is focused on evidence-based techniques from positive psychology, the scientific study of what makes life most worth living, focusing on both individual and societal well-being. Way points into essay writing, collaborative group work and independent study are also essential skills covered throughout the eight weeks. This gives students the tools to cultivate a growth mindset, self-advocacy and effective communication with their professors.

Students are reporting higher grades, improved confidence and deeper connection to the campus community.

“Thriving means that I believe in myself, that I am capable and qualified to excel at any task I set as a priority,” said Joanne Richardson, program alumnae. “Using skills TAB has taught me, mindfulness, emotional regulation, character strengths and authentic happiness, I enhance the person I am to a goal moving forward to the person I want to be.”

A small affiliate college of Western University, Brescia saw the need for a resource that combined both thriving skills and learning strategies, says Ford. They are currently undergoing further quantitative assessments of TAB to gain more data on how the program is positively impacting participants. Anecdotal feedback is also being collected from students.

“In our qualitative assessments we’re hearing more from the student’s perspective,” said Ford. “They submit a one-minute video at the end of the program to explain its impact. We learned from lots of students just how special this program was and what their takeaways were and how they felt just so much a part of a community.”

Based on research done by the original program at Ryerson, the program is found to be most effective for students in the “messy middle” in their second and third year says Ford. Though TAB is open to anyone interested in enrolling, recruitment campaigns target struggling students, athletes who are required to uphold a high GPA, mature and international students. For undergraduates on academic probation who have been required to withdraw but allowed to return to school on a dean’s waiver, enrolment in TAB is mandatory.

Richardson says with the growth mindset and tools for emotional regulation she’s gained through the program, she knows she can set her mind to be successful in everything she does.

“Everyday is a learning experience, I truly believe that,” said Richardson. “(I’m) keeping my impulses and emotions in check to reflect who I am and who I want to be. The best take away is everyone is a star. You need to learn how to shine.”

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