UConn Honors Program teaches students problem-solving strategies for uncertain times

During the Stay Whelmed event on Wednesday, students conversed about things that make them uncertain and how to deal with those situations. Students left with a greater understanding of their own unique uncertainties, but also a shared understanding of the uncertainties others around them face. Kevin Lindstrom/The Daily Campus

2020 was the most globally chaotic year of many college students’ lives. The dramatic and sudden changes thrust upon us brought with them new challenges, and facing these challenges brought about new anxieties. In order to help students develop the necessary strategies for coping with sudden change, the UConn Honors Program hosted a discussion Wednesday afternoon in the Student Union. “Stay Whelmed: Certainty in Uncertain Times” was led by Dr. Leigh Fine, assistant director for residential communities and programming for honors. 

Although Dr. Fine presented a slide show to guide the event, the focus was on discussion between himself and the students with the idea being that everyone in the group could share their experiences and learn from one another. 

“My hope is that in having our little conversation today, we can live in that mess as is appropriate, but then also develop some strategies for finding some islands of certainty where we can,” Dr. Fine said. 

He began the discussion by asking students to share the uncertainties they have recently dealt with in their lives. The participants shared stories related to academics, jobs, extracurricular activities and the difficulties of adjusting to college life. 

An animated Dr. Leigh Fine leads a dialogue with UConn students about staying whelmed in uncertain times in Student Union Room 304, Wednesday at noon. Kevin Lindstrom/The Daily Campus

The participants also discussed strategies for dealing with uncertainty that have previously worked for them. Many different strategies were discussed including managing expectations, focusing on what you have control over, planning for different outcomes, staying organized and practicing stress—relieving activities, such as exercise or meditation. 

“I definitely think by looking at things in more of a big perspective, and just seeing the big picture –what I can do later on if I get these things done now –gets me that little burst of motivation. That’s a big thing for me,” Derek Mason, a fourth semester pre-teaching major said. 

Dr. Fine built on this by showing a video that discussed coping methods, as well as by sharing what has worked for him personally. These topics were tied together by the central idea that to deal with uncertainty, one must work to change their perspective and consider the most productive way to view their problems. 

“I think that weird paralysis before you make a decision [is overwhelming],” Dr. Fine said. “And then once you make a decision, even if the outcomes aren’t ideal it’s like, ‘Oh, I have a path forward. I have something I can focus on.” 

At the end of the event, the participants discussed the various ways they plan to implement what they learned into their lives. 

“Today I learned that sometimes you just have to be resilient and realize that this bad thing happening isn’t all that bad when you realize that a good thing in the future would have never happened without this bad thing,” Michael Dunn, a second-semester chemical engineering major said. “You have to be able to focus on what you can control and not just worry about the things you can’t control.” 

Dr. Fine reiterated the main points of the event. 

“We all are trying to do the best we can in making progress,” he said. “So, focusing on the things you can control, taking those small successes –those small paths forward –honoring when things aren’t going too well. We’re all trying to do our best to get through this uncertainty.” 

“Stay Whelmed: Certainty in Uncertain Times” provided UConn students with a friendly atmosphere in which to discuss the problems they have faced over the past two semesters. They certainly left the Student Union better equipped to deal with whatever may lie ahead. 

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