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picture of runners in a raceMore years ago than I care to remember, in high school, I ran the 880 yard dash and one mile relay leg. Meets opened with those nutty guys running the 2 mile. Only in that race did everyone run together: the varsity and the freshman/sophomore teams. At one race, when I was a senior, a lone freshman from another town ran so slowly he was in danger of being lapped twice by the winning varsity runner. Only a desperate sprint at the end of his sixth lap prevented this ignominy. He struggled to the next curve and fell off the track into the grass, not finishing. Some years later my younger brother, one of those nutty long-distance runners, told me “The Rest of the Story.” That same runner moved to another event, off the track even, onto the field, and he won the conference meet in the high jump his senior year.

Success, Failure, and Resilience

As we think about resilience in this series of posts, why does one succeed and another not? What is resilience? Is it the dogged determination of General Grant, or is it the transition to another endeavor to which a person is better suited? Both seem resilient in different ways. Both moved on to success.

3 Models of Resilience

picture of steps to be climbedResilience study has become an established academic subject, principally among psychologists and psychiatrists and originally focused on childhood development in the face of crises or traumas. In her book Ordinary Magic: Resilience in Development Ann Masten notes that some research has given attention to the variables in situations requiring resilience. At least three models of resilience have arisen out of attention to these variables. One model notes that resilience arises in the direct interplay between a person’s assets and some risk or adversity. As a UAMS student you might spend your assets of organization and detailed recall to prepare a paper or study for an exam.

A second model notes that mediators, indirect influences, are often present. Masten recounts that economic downturn in the late 20th century led to a significant rise in worsening adolescent family relationships among Iowa farm families. In our situation, poor sleep, unhealthy diet and exercise, and other issues can contribute to adverse academic performance. As best you can, eat well (not much, but well), sleep well, keep active. Take care of yourself, and you will more likely thrive. A third model suggests that moderators are often significant. A moderator is an intervention which removes or ameliorates an adversity. They function like airbags, Masten suggests, lying dormant, unused until needed. For instance, someone prevents an attacker or shields a victim. Masten mentions the widespread use of 911 as a moderator which greatly improved outcomes.

I think of our Student Success Center as this kind of moderator. We are here for academic coaching, for peer tutoring, for writing help, for referral to other services. Help us help you be more resilient when you face adversity at UAMS. Face adversity you will; be as prepared as you can to bounce back, a resilient success.