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Diversities of Resilience

Exploring how successful students are successful.


Alyson E. King, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Social Science and Humanities

Funded by a SSHRC Partnership Development Grant, and in partnership with Mount Saint Vincent University, University of Winnipeg, and the University of the Fraser Valley, this project examines how students from diverse backgrounds, especially those that have been underrepresented in Canadian universities, are successful. Most existing research focusses on how first-year students overcome barriers or how to help first-year students stay in university - this project takes a strengths-based approach to focus on the strategies that students use to make it to their final year, or to graduate.


Through interviews and surveys, researchers were able to gather the following information as part of preliminary data:

  • 60% of successful students say they received support of professors. It is important that students take the time to talk to professors, either during class or during office hours.
  • 70% of successful students say it is important to find a quiet place to study and think.

One of the key things from these findings is that no student said they were successful on their own - students relied on a support network of friends, family, professors, teaching assistants, and other university support staff. Being part of the university community will make a big difference in motiviation levels and knowing how to access university supports.

Next steps in the project is to finish exploring the data, and to develop an electronic resource for students to learn about how other students have been successful.

For more information about this project, please email