Like the statues that ring the Kester International Promenade, growth mindset is HPU.
It’s in the class and residential hall discussions, the tutor sessions in the Smith Library, a Wednesday night video testimonial at Hayworth Chapel slated to be shown next week and a recent exhibit of 10 pictures, 10 stories for everyone to see.
Every picture-story tandem details how one graduating senior discovered who they are and what they wanted to be. The exhibit’s name: “Portraits of Growth.”
Unveiled last spring inside Wanek Center, the exhibit was poignant. But what HPU is doing with growth mindset is groundbreaking.
High Point University wants to become the country’s center of growth-mindset expertise in higher education and teach students the importance of perseverance, optimism and grit by showing them how to stretch themselves in every life challenge they face.
No other colleges or universities nationwide are believed to have infused this growth-mindset paradigm into everything it does. But HPU has.
It’s part of the school’s Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP for short, a comprehensive report that shows how faculty and staff can turn education into a transformative journey and help students grow with everything from academics to relationships.
The 29-sentence introduction to “Portraits of Growth” tells the why behind it all. Take the last sentence.
“That’s what it means to do college right.”
Growth Mindset In Real Life
Dr. Jim Trammell teaches media production at HPU. But he’s also HPU’s QEP director.
Through presentations and growth-mindset projects as well as an active Twitter account, many Internet memes and exhibits like “Portraits of Growth,” Trammell breaks down a concept popularized by Stanford professor Dr. Carol Dweck into real-life terms.
He wants to show students how having a growth mindset can improve every aspect of their lives – from becoming a better student, a better roommate and a better human being.
So, Trammell understands the importance of story, particularly from students who persevere. He knows the more students see that perseverance among their peers, the less alone they feel.
Take Hailey Parry from Stamford, Connecticut. She graduated May 16 with degrees in exercise science and chemistry major, and she was part of the “Portraits of Growth” exhibit. For three years, she also tutored students in some of the hardest subjects on campus.
A year ago at a tutor conference in Portland, Oregon, she gave a presentation on how the growth-mindset techniques she learned in tutor training helps the students she sees.
She saw it in the students she tutored. Their eyes widened; their body relaxed; their anxiety disappeared.
“It’s the coolest thing in the world when you see they get it,” says Parry, who will attend Auburn University this fall in its master’s and doctoral program in exercise physiology. “It’s like ‘Oh my gosh!’ All of a sudden, they know it.”
Like Jackson Kicklighter.
He’s a pharmacy student from Waynesboro, Georgia, and he knew how to diagnose. But he didn’t know how to present himself to a patient – at least not at first.
He watched himself on a video, and after seeing himself look at everything except the patient, he thought, “I wouldn’t listen to this guy either!”
So, he talked to one of his professors in the Fred Wilson School of Pharmacy and studied the video. The next time he watched himself he saw a more confident student looking at nothing except the patient.
“I can’t wait to see what the next three years have in store,” Kicklighter says.
The Importance of One Conversation
Ashley Hogan can’t wait to see what the future has in store for her, too.
She graduated May 6 with a degree in exercise science and a minor in psychology. But there was a time she never thought she’d graduate. She simply saw herself as a C student struggling to get by.
Then in the fall of her junior year, while standing outside a classroom at Millis Center waiting for another class to end, her professor, Dan Tarara, started a conversation.
“I want you to use your voice more,” he told her.
“Why?” Hogan asked surprised.
“You have a lot of special things to say, and you should share them,” he told her.
That’s all it took.
She began speaking out more in class. Her confidence grew, her grades improved and she went after an internship at HPU where she coordinated healthy activities for the university’s Wellness program and worked with employees and its director Melissa Marion.
A year or two before, she wouldn’t have even considered going after that internship. She made dean’s list her last semester – a first for her – and a few weeks ago, she headed home to start her career.
Hogan lives in Smithfield, Rhode Island. She’s working as a medical scribe at Brown University, attending lectures at Brown’s Warren Alpert Medical School and shadowing doctors in local emergency rooms.
She’s also attending the New England Technical Institute. She wants to earn a master’s degree in occupational therapy and work with the most vulnerable – the young and disabled; the old and infirm.
She feels like a new Ashley Hogan. All because of one conversation that lasted less than a minute.
“That was the first time anyone ever noticed me,” she says today. “Dr. Tarara saw something special in me, and I saw something special in myself.”
One Story, One Transformation
So far this past year, faculty and campus staff have worked on 42 growth-mindset projects. All of them involve students. One of those students is Christine Watt, a sophomore from Austin, Texas.
She is the face of the first Grow Project, a video testimonial produced by HPU’s Chapel and Religious Life. It’ll be shown next week during Wednesday night’s service and demonstrate how one person’s faith can shape, teach and heal.
Afterward, Watt will speak and talk about what happened to her three years ago in her hometown of Austin.
She lost her longtime choir director she called “Miss Kathy.”
Kathy Blair was killed in her home on a Saturday night in December 2014 during a robbery. As two men were arrested in connection with her death, Watt grappled with her faith.
She already was the choir’s chaplain. She became the choir’s assistant director. She had been with the choir since she was 3, and at the time of Blair’s death, she was 17. She knew she had to keep going.
She talks about that in the video, one that’ll be shown to dozens of students next week inside the Hayworth Chapel and seen by many more on YouTube.
It’s growth mindset in action, something Dr. Trammell and many others on campus want it to be.
It happened with Watt. No doubt.
“I grew from that experience,” says Watt, a theater major. “I owed it to Miss Kathy. Who was I to run away when it got hard?”