How universities can nurture students’ emotional intelligence and personal growth

By adopting a holistic approach and prioritising self-care and mental health, universities can empower students to thrive academically and personally

May 04, 2024 04:30 pm | Updated 05:54 pm IST

By instilling values of integrity and compassion, universities equip students to become responsible citizens and ethical leaders in their fields.

By instilling values of integrity and compassion, universities equip students to become responsible citizens and ethical leaders in their fields. | Photo Credit: Freepik

In today’s rapidly evolving world, the demand for technical expertise is undeniable. Industries are constantly looking for individuals proficient in STEM fields to build an ecosystem around innovative ideation and practices. While the traditional academic curriculum focusses solely on technical expertise, knowledge acquisition and innovation, there is a growing recognition among educators worldwide that academic success alone is not enough to prepare students for the complexities of the modern world. This has led to increasing concern about the well-being and emotional health of students in higher education.

Reports of stress, anxiety, depression, and burnout among college students have become increasingly common, raising questions about the underlying factors contributing to these mental health challenges. The pressure to excel academically, coupled with the demands of social and extracurricular activities, can take a toll on mental health.

A holistic educational approach that nurtures mind, body, and spirit and empowers students to succeed not only in academics but also in their personal and professional lives is essential. Emotional intelligence (EI) encompasses a range of skills such as self-regulation, self-awareness, empathy, communication, and resilience.

A simple literature review would show several study models and frameworks to understand and assess EI. Two of the most well-known are the Four-Branch Model proposed by Peter Salovey and John Mayer (with four key components of Perceiving, Using, Understanding, and Managing Emotions) and the Mixed Model proposed by Daniel Goleman (with five key components of Self-Awareness, Self-Regulation, Motivation, Empathy, and Social Skills). Apart from providing frameworks to understand EI, they delve into how these components contribute to overall emotional and social functioning. Academicians with social welfare units can use these models to develop assessments, specific interventions, and training programmes to enhance EI in the education landscape.

Action points

One intervention mechanism would be to identify, support and foster comprehensive student support services that provide access to peer support and counselling, mental health resources, and wellness programmes.

Another step that can bring about a significant change is incorporating EI training into curricula. Courses on topics such as leadership, teamwork, and conflict resolution help students develop essential interpersonal skills. Through experiential learning opportunities, such as group projects and internships, students learn to navigate complex social dynamics and communicate effectively with others. By instilling values of integrity and compassion, universities equip students to become responsible citizens and ethical leaders in their fields.

Student Support Centres that offer group therapy, workshops, and outreach programmes will help raise awareness about mental health issues and promote emotional well-being. Universities should focus on integrating mindfulness and wellness practices into campus life to help students manage academic pressures and cultivate resilience.

Beyond academic coursework, extracurricular activities play a vital role. Participation in clubs, sports teams, and community service initiatives provides students with opportunities to collaborate, lead, and develop empathy. These experiences foster a sense of belonging and connectedness and enhance feeling of well-being.

Promotion of cultural diversity and inclusivity is another aspect to make students from diverse backgrounds feel valued and respected, cultivate empathy and global awareness. This enriches students’ learning experiences and prepares them to navigate an increasingly interconnected world.

Ultimately, universities play a crucial role in shaping not only students’ academic knowledge but also their emotional intelligence and personal growth. A holistic approach that addresses the multifaceted needs of students will prepare them to succeed in a diverse and dynamic world.

The writer is Associate Director - Student Welfare, and Associate Professor, Department of Data Science and Computer Applications, Manipal Institute of Technology, MAHE, Manipal.

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