UIW Hosts Resilience and Empowerment for Stressful Times (REST) Conference

November 2, 2021

Man and woman presenting on ZoomUIW hosted the Resilience and Empowerment for Stressful Times (REST) Conference on Oct. 29. More than 100 people registered for the online conference, which emphasized positive ways professionals in academic and medical fields can respond to current challenges.

“The REST conference suits our times in two contrasting ways,” explained Dr. Susan Hall, professor in the Dreeben School of Education and director of UIW's Center for Teaching and Learning. “First, the pandemic is a once-in-a-generation event that prompted higher education to make truly revolutionary changes, and to do so amazingly fast. Second, these times have forcefully reminded us of something that is perennially true. Both students and faculty enter the classroom as whole persons, and ones who often face invisible challenges.”

The conference featured three sessions that addressed today’s traumas from different starting points, sharing a practical approach to dealing with them.

Lisa Gunderson of OneLove Consulting, was the first plenary speaker. She emphasized that students and their needs should be central to everything a university does. She also reminded the audience that students of color, for instance, often bear heavy burdens due to the presence of racial violence in our society or unequal financial challenges.

Todd Zakrajsek, associate professor in the Department of Family Medicine at UNC-Chapel Hill and president of the International Teaching Learning Cooperative, focused on what has been lost and gained in the classroom. While less face-to-face interaction is certainly a loss, faculty have become more skilled with instructional technology. As a result, Zoom sessions may be more accessible to students with learning differences, physical challenges or heavy responsibilities outside of class.

Ben Wortham and Ragan Schriver, from Catholic Charities USA, closed the conference with a session on well-being during stressful times. The duo invited participants to consider ways in which re-entry to "ordinary life" after the pandemic can be surprisingly challenging. Given those challenges, they offered a number of practical suggestions for creating a personal plan to maintain wellness in all its dimensions.

The conference was well-received by participants, which included professionals in education and healthcare. "Friday, was a good day for me," said one attendee. "I could REST, learn, enjoy colleagues and gain wisdom."