Veritas forum addresses motivation, achievement and success

George Zhou | Contributing Reporter

The 2016 Veritas Forum addressed topics such as elevated stress levels, coping mechanisms and positive psychology in the context of the Washington University community on Thursday night.

The Veritas Forum is an organization that works with universities to engage students in the discussion of important issues through a Christian lens. Thursday’s lecture centered on the importance of motivation in achievement and success, especially for college students.

Tim Bono, a lecturer in the psychological and brain sciences department, and Francis Su, a math professor at Harvey Mudd College, led the forum that drew approximately 60 visitors to Hillman Hall.

Bono, a four-year undergraduate advisor and assistant dean in the College of Arts & Sciences, conducts research on positive psychology and college student development and began the event by sharing his perspectives on motivation and achievement.

“The beliefs that I hold and the worldview that I adopt…encourage psychological health and well-being,” Bono said in the beginning of his presentation.

He emphasized the difference between deriving success from the achievement itself and deriving success from the process through the topic of “fixed” and “growth” mindsets, with the former being results-driven and the latter process-focused.

“A growth mindset is something where you’re focused on the process and the learning and the discovery, and that’s where you derive satisfaction and the hard work that comes from the process, versus a fixed mindset which is all about ‘am I getting an A on a test,’” he said.

Su, who studies the social science applications of geometric and topological combinatorics, offered a religious perspective on the ultimate goal of struggling to achieve.

“I’ve noticed that the stress level on college campuses is actually a lot higher than it was even just ten years ago. We have this intense need to perform, and, in some sense, it comes from a worship of the need to achieve, and the question I’m asking is, what is it all for?” Su said. “This is where, for me, God comes in. It points me to a source of ultimate significance.”

Students in attendance thought the topics were especially important for college students to apply to their daily lives. Freshman Alex Rutherford commented on the importance of putting the ideas discussed in the forum into practice.

“I think when we talk about psychology, we can just come into these terms of very broad topics that seem great in theory, but don’t happen in practice, so maybe finding more practical steps would be a next thing,” Rutherford said.

Amber Mohrmann, a master’s student in the Brown School of Social Work, said she appreciated the chance to hear a discussion on religious faith and psychology, two topics that are important to her.

“Thinking about positive psychology, I certainly want the best of the clients that I’ll be serving as a therapist and that I have worked with in the past,” Mohrmann said. “Also, I’m a Christian, and my faith is very central to my life and a big part of why I do what I do. Getting a chance to listen to a thoughtful exchange that involved both of those topics was just great to be able to listen to.”

Meghana Bhimasani, a junior, said that the discussion helped her see her schoolwork from a different perspective closer to the fixed mindset.

“As a pre-med student, everything you do, like your GPA, your resume, your activities, is all toward your goal of getting into med school. This forum kind of opened my eyes a little more,” Bhimasani said. “Your grades don’t actually define who you are. I think a lot of people do need to realize that.”

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