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Landmark College Awarded Grant for Wellbeing Curriculum

by Solvegi Shmulsky

Two students sit outside on bleachers by colonnade on Landmark College campus. One student is smiling the other student.PUTNEY, Vt.--Acceptance, compassion, and gratitude have been shown to decrease stress and increase well-being. These elements are the core of SMART training developed at the Mayo Clinic. SMART is an acronym for Stress Management and Resiliency Training, which teaches participants skills to nurture “peace, happiness and emotional strength.” Students in First Year courses at Landmark College will benefit from this program, supported in part by a grant from Bringing Theory to Practice (BTtoP), a foundation that sponsors innovation in education. Landmark College has been awarded $10,000 to study the effects of resiliency training on campus.

Rick Bryck, Ph.D., senior academic researcher at Landmark College, is the primary investigator for the grant-funded study. "The negative effects of stress and anxiety on students’ well-being, and in turn, their academic performance, cannot be overstated,” said Bryck. “The team is very excited to test empirically what we’ve already seen anecdotally--that the innovative SMART program has a resounding impact on student life.”

The project team includes Debbie Gassaway-Hayward, M.A.T.; Patrick Connelly, M.S.; Jackie Mills, M.A.; and Lynne Feal-Staub, M.S.S.W. “This grant is possible because of the effort and dedication of Education department faculty who will deliver the curriculum,” said Gassaway-Hayward, department chair and project manager.

Does the SMART curriculum really work? That’s the question researchers will ask in the study. Students in First Year courses will learn the SMART curriculum, and their well-being and academic performance will be tracked. Researchers hope to understand the impact of SMART on perceived stress, self-esteem, persistence in college and other key variables. If SMART works, it could be a valuable element of education in the first year of college, the year of greatest attrition.      

Located in Washington, DC, BTtoP is an independent organization, partnered with the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U). Over thirty BTtoP grants have been awarded for 2015-2017. Funded projects include:

  • Stress management and resiliency training (SMART) for first-year students with learning disabilities (Landmark College)
  • The hope intervention (California State University-Fresno)
  • Learning about ourselves: Faculty wellbeing and its connection to teaching (Cornell University)
  • Disabilities in the classroom: Advancing Fairfield University’s commitment to the well-being of students with disabilities and to professors to foster engaged learning (Fairfield University)
  • Promoting success and well-being among low-income, first-generation college students (Michigan State University)
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