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WGU Webinars WGU Academy: Adaptive Mindset Series

Developing Adaptive Mindsets in Students for the New World of Learning

This multi-part webinar series is designed to educate student affairs leaders on identifying pedagogic opportunities to prepare students for long-term academic and professional success. Today's rapidly evolving learning climate requires colleges and universities to implement holistic programming that develops student social-emotional learning with academic curriculums. Our evidence-based approach relies on principles of cognitive, non-cognitive, and metacognitive psychology to help develop resilient learners. As student enrollment continues to diversify, ensuring student success from day one guarantees consistent academic performances, higher retention rates, and a more transparent evaluation of student experiences. Informative and thought-provoking, this series will be led by today's leading education researchers offering insights on increasing student success in all its forms.

Omid Fotuhi
Reshma Gouravajhala
Chelsea Barnett


Dr. Omid Fotuhi is a Director of Learning and Innovation at WGU Labs. Dr. Fotuhi’s work focuses on the psychology of performance and motivation in the domains of academics, athletics, and workplace achievement. Dr. Fotuhi earned his PhD in psychology from the University of Waterloo, after which he worked at Stanford University where he co-founded the College Transition Collaborative—one of the largest multi-institution collaborations to deliver proven psychological interventions to over 40,000 students—as well as the Stanford Interventions Lab—a collaborative research group committed to sharing and scaling proven insights from psychology to promote better performance and well-being. Dr. Fotuhi is a skilled trainer, having led 45 professional development workshops across the United States to help students, faculty, leaders, athletes, and corporations better understand the psychology of success, and equip those groups with the tools they need to perform at their full potential.

Dr. Reshma Gouravajhala (she/hers) is the Research Scientist at WGU Academy, where she designs, implements, and evaluates interventions to better understand and improve student learning.

She earned her Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, where her work focused on applying key cognitive psychology research concepts to education. Dr. Gouravajhala’s area of expertise is on identifying and mitigating individual differences in memory and complex learning (in and out of the classroom) using both quantitative and qualitative research methodology. Her research has helped to identify scalable strategies for individuals across the lifespan to improve their learning outcomes on typical educational measures and routine life tasks.

Chelsea Barnett is WGU Academy's Director, Program and Product Innovation. Prior to joining WGU Academy, she spent more than a decade at Western Governors University (WGU) using data and focused course design to better the lives of students. As such, she designed, implemented, and scaled the first non-cognitive based course for the University, which has now been taken by over 60,000 students and has proven to increase student achievement, particularly for underserved populations.

Barnett championed the use of Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) resources and research across the university and is seen as a resident expert in the field of experiential learning and research design. She holds a Master of Science in Instructional Design, and a Master of Science in Data Analytics. Barnett continues to publish in peer-reviewed journals and has been recognized with multiple awards for her innovative projects in higher education.

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Use the form below to register for this series of four webinars.

October 28 at 12 PM MT: Session 1 – Intro to the Unwritten Curriculum: Improving Student Success Outcomes During the First Year

How can higher ed institutions ensure higher academic performance while retaining a diverse student population that is readily prepared for post-secondary career opportunities? Identifying indicators of student success requires understanding not just what students learn but how they learn as such habits/practices are internalized before their first day of class. Academic performance is a combination of staying engaged, focused, and motivated. As such, there is an "unwritten curriculum" that relies on cognitive, non-cognitive, and metacognitive psychology principles to help develop resilient learners.

This core set of non-cognitive skills is now available more broadly. Learn how to assess curriculum opportunities to implement essential skills development into academic programs to support college readiness and adapt to new academic environments.

Learning Outcomes

Participants will:

  • Interpret key core competencies of college readiness in order to cultivate a thriving mindset among students
  • Understand the difference between cognitive, non-cognitive, and metacognitive psychology principles
  • Learn how to increase successful academic performance among diverse student populations, including first-generation, students of color, and low-income
  • Learn to assess current curriculum and academic programming opportunities to integrate 21st-century skills development

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November 15 at 12 PM MT: Session 2 – Understanding Performance States: Stress, Threat, and Rest

Adjusting to typical academic pressures can be challenging for most students. Although these experiences are normal, college is not without many high-stress moments that can affect students' motivation, self-esteem, and academic performance. Therefore, for higher ed institutions to apply the right strategy, it is critical to know what learning experience challenge to target. For example, when it comes to motivation and performance, most people often think about the relatively rare situations of high-stakes testing, where the pressure is on, adrenaline is pumping, and the task is to calm the body in order to be able to focus. While a critical part of optimal performance, it is also essential to recognize and adjust performance strategies for other motivation states, such as the more common low-stress rest states, that fill up most of the student learning experience.

Learning Outcomes

Participants will:

  • Identify motivation states and their impact on academic performance and inform strategies for optimal student performance.
  • Recognize high-stress moments along the student journey that threaten one's confidence.

View Recording

December 16 at 12 PM MT: Session 3 – The War Against Distraction: Mastering Your Myopia & the Myth of Will-Power

It is human nature to address more immediate needs at the cost of neglecting long-term goals. While adaptive for our survival as a species, favoring short-term rewards and emergencies do not serve one well in academic environments. Leveraging one's myopia towards progress on long-term goals can result in consistent success. 

Students must recognize what is achievable at higher efficient levels when faced with a perceived deadline. This myopic reaction to time management, when understood, can be leveraged to increase one's overall productivity.

Learning Outcomes

Participants will: 

  • Identify best practices to achieve long and short-term academic goals
  • Understand the relationship between effective time management and increasing productivity

View Recording

January 20 at 12 PM MT: Session 4 – Principles in Practice Session: Creating Your Own Personal Philosophy

Creating a clear, compelling philosophy can guide students successfully through their academic journey. Like any journey, one needs two critical pieces of information: where one would like to go and where one starts. 

In this final session, we explore the process of self-discovery. Academic journeys can connect to one's core sense of meaning and life's work. This process will help students develop greater conviction in their academic and personal goals and invest in opportunities throughout their journey.

Learning Outcomes

Participants will:

  • Learn how to create a personal academic philosophy
  • Apply previous session knowledge towards academic goal development

View Recording

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