In the opening episode to Season 2, Peter and Lilly offer a new way to think about the brain and preview the next five episodes.
This episode includes interviews with Faith Danglo ‘19, Seanna Viechweg ‘19, Alejandro Wences ‘19, and snippets from our full interviews with Natalie Zaparzynski, Cory Walts, Shu-Wen Wang, Kelly Wilcox, and Adam Edmunds. The episode features the track “Old Roots New Trees” by Made in M.
PG: Let’s start with a question. What does thriving in college look like for you?
FD: Thriving looks like when you have your social life, your personal life, and your academic life balanced. It’s when you’re putting equal effort into both and you’re spending enough time, paying attention to both of those aspects of your life. I’ve definitely had experience with not thriving, and so I know what happens when you’re not putting enough effort into either one of those aspects or both of them. So I’d say that’s what thriving overall looks like.
SV: Thriving in college looks like, just like finding your place on this campus, of finding your happiness. I think when people think of thriving they think of succeeding academically when that isn’t necessarily always the case. I think that that has to go hand-in-hand with how you’re feeling personally, how you’re doing personally, taking care of yourself, tending to your mental health, and yeah, that’s what it looks like to me.
AW: For me it means being able to pursue my passions, while also balancing my own needs, like my own needs for my health. So in the past – or right now – that means eating well, exercising, sleeping, which is a very big one right now, while still also doing my extracurricular activities and still doing it well, I feel like. For me, that’s kind of what thriving here today means for me.
PG: Great. And what does that feel like?
AW: It feels fulfilling. I think for me, like, I think there have been times when I’ve kind of leaned too much into my extracurriculars, my academics, and then my own self-needs aren’t being prioritized. So finding that healthy balance is really good for me because then I’m able to – one – take care of my community, but also take care of myself too, which are both important.
FD: It feels super relieving, not stressful. It definitely makes a difference when you’re organized, when you’re spending time with friends, when you’re getting enough sleep, when you’re putting enough time into your academics and not procrastinating – when all those factors come together, it, you know, you just feel great.
SV: I think as a senior it feels amazing because it’s kind of a boost of confidence knowing that you’re generally taking care of yourself and that these acts of self-care are impacting you as a student and just as an overall person on this campus, like navigating all the different spaces.
PG: What does it mean to thrive in college? What do you need to do to thrive?
LA: This season on the Compass, we’re exploring underlying factors to success in college: those lifestyle habits that define our college experience but which we so rarely analyze.
PG: We’re talking about how we sleep, how we eat, how we handle our stress, how we motivate ourselves, and more.
LA: Today, we start with an important question: “What exactly is the brain, and what does it need?”
PG: My name is Peter Granville.
LA: And I’m Lilly Alonzo.
PG: Welcome to Season Two of the Haverford Compass.
LA: We think of the mind as this limitless universe inside our heads: a wonderland where anything is possible.
PG: The mind can envision new realities, explain the world around us, and relive the past. In fact, scientists believe that, on any given day, your mind has 50,000 thoughts.
LA: Some of them may even be useful.
PG: But at the same time, this limitlessness can be deceiving. The mind may seem abstract and even otherworldly, but our brains are not.
LA: Our brains are organs, just like kidneys, lungs, and the heart. Because the brain is an organ, it has the same limits as the rest of your body. It needs to be well cared for if it’s going to perform at its best.
PG: Now, this isn’t some big revelation: we all know that, if you have a test in the afternoon, it’s better to eat eggs and oatmeal for breakfast than a Belgian waffle. But when you get to college, no one gives you a handbook saying what your brain needs and what habits will provide that.
LA: There are biological reasons why the right approach makes a difference.
PG: Think about it this way: the story of how we perform as students, thinkers, and scholars starts three hundred thousand years ago, when the first homo sapiens emerged. Since then, our brains haven’t changed much at all. Our brains are ancient.
LA: So it’s a shame that there’s no handbook for how to care for your brain in college considering our brains weren’t designed for college. We’re just a bunch of hunter-gatherers trying to do calculus!
PG: So college is – almost by definition – about adaptation. You need to adapt your lifestyle to college.
LA: And one of the best ways to adapt is to understand both yourself and your new environment.
PG: That’s our goal this season: to help you understand yourself as a student, pulling from research in psychology and health sciences, and to show how it all relates to the unique challenges of college life.
LA: This season is like a roadmap to your brain. The next six episodes will explore some of the things your brain needs the most to thrive and how to get them at Haverford.
PG: And we’re going to have some great guests to share their insights.
NZ: I am Natalie Zaparzynski, the Bi-Co Dietician for Bryn Mawr and Haverford Colleges.
CW: My name is Cory Walts. I am the Director of the Fitness Center here at Haverford College.
DH: My name is Derek Hopkins, and I am one of the owners here at Prana Das Yoga.
SW: My name is Shu-Wen Wang and I am Assistant Professor of Psychology at Haverford.
AE: I’m Adam Edmunds. I’m a psychological counselor at Counseling and Psychological Services, CAPS. I’m also the outreach coordinator.
KW: My name is Kelly Wilcox. I am the Dean for Student Health and Learning Resources.
NB: My name is Nat Ballenberg. I am the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach and Fitness Center Director and pitching coach of the baseball team.
ME: Hi, my name is Mike Elias. I’m one of the advising Deans. I have letters W through Z. And I’m also the director of student engagement and leadership.
LA: In our next episode, we’ll talk about food. What essential nutrients does your brain rely on?
PG: We’ll talk to Natalie Zaparzynski, the Bi-Co Nutritionist. Natalie helps students get food that meets their needs and that they actually enjoy.
NZ: For the most part I try to teach students how to create sustainable goals that focus on healthy eating that can be throughout their lifetime, not just a quick two-week fix. So we tackle things like balance. A lot of times we focus on reducing sugars. And we just try to really think about how foods make them feel and what foods can improve their nutrition and their quality of life while still enjoying some of their favorite foods.
PG: In the following episode, we talk about the science of sleep. What exactly determines when we get tired?
LA: Cory Walts from the Haverford Fitness Center will offer some tips for improving sleep.
CW: Some things that will make sleep better for you include consistency. So consistently going to bed at the same time and waking up at the same time, you know, with a short window of variability in there, I understand that that happens. But just think of little babies, and I have a 14-month-old baby, and if he doesn’t go to bed at the same time every night, he’s crying all night. That’s him expressing his feelings. We will express our feelings by being drowsy, or being irritable. So if you’re not going to bed at the same time every night, then your body’s going to respond in a faulty manner.
LA: Building on nutrition and sleep, we will next talk about stress. How exactly does stress operate?
PG: Assistant Professor of Psychology Shu-Wen Wang joins us to offer some strategies to reduce stress.
SW: Sometimes I tell people, you know, “What would you tell a friend?” Let’s say a friend just told you about what happened and how they’re thinking about it, and “Oh I’m such a terrible person” and “How am I going to get through this?” What would you tell a friend? And sometimes it’s really astounding that someone who is telling themselves really pessimistic – or really criticizing and blaming – kinds of things, if you now making this situation about a friend or someone that they care about, all of the sudden they see these great depths of compassion, and more flexibility about how they think about it. And sometimes you have to reorient that kind of thinking, like “What would you tell a friend who is telling you this? Would you be saying the same things to them as you’re saying to yourself?” And so I really think that checking your thinking about it – because that’s where everything starts. One thing I’ll point out is with the HPA Axis that releases cortisol at the end, it all starts with the brain. It starts with how your brain is perceiving a situation, whether it’s detecting something as a threat. So if your thinking reorients itself and you’re realizing “This really isn’t that bad,” or “Even if this does happen, I have ways to cope, it’s not the end of the world, I can actually adjust and do things differently or I can access help of some kind,” then that changes overall your stress response to it.
LA: Then, we will discuss motivation: the thoughts, habits, and exercises that fuel hard work.
PG: Kelly Wilcox, Dean of Student Health and Learning Resources, shares why students need to develop good habits of motivation and not just rely on motivation to come to them.
KW: I really have students say “Well, when it’s pinwheel day, then it’s spring and it’s beautiful weather here, then I’ll be motivated to write, because I need serotonin, I need sunlight to write. And really, once you put so much locus of control on an external source of motivation, then you’re taking away ownership of the process. And while that can be freeing, it really can detract from the writing process or from the work process in the long term. And so, the research shows that students who actually develop a consistent either writing practice, for ten to fifteen minutes a day, or work practices that includes a ten-minute takeoff – just ten minutes, set your timer, reduce distractions, and see where it goes from there – I’ve seen students really succeed with that. And also, not expecting that ten- or fifteen-minute takeoff to come out of nowhere, so attaching it to something else that’s already happening in their day, whether it’s their morning run on the nature trail, or breakfast, or they have an intentional hour block between classes each day of the week. Attaching it to something that’s already happening allows it to – you don’t need those thirty days to create a new habit, it’s already there. So it’s kind of sticking to something that’s a part of your day and a part of your life. The research shows that the students who develop those habits and those strategies – for either writing or studying – actually produce more than those who wait for the very brilliant, exciting, enticing flashes of inspiration or motivation.
PG: We then turn our attention to social life. How do you form healthy networks of support and friendship in college?
LA: CAPS counselor Adam Edmunds will share some insight into what he considers a healthy mindset for making friends in college.
AE: It’s understandable that there’s this pressure to know people, but as I’ve said before, friendships that you’re comparing – you’re comparing your friendships you just left high school, friendships that took years to make, to these beginnings of friendships now, and you’re saying that they should be the same. And that’s not a fair comparison. It’s like comparing a bowl of ingredients next to a cake. One can become that with time and effort and become quite beautiful and tasty, but it’s not the same at the same time. So you’ve got to give friendships in college time to develop. And so, you’ll know people who you live with, but as you learn more about the college and as you learn about yourself, you’ll probably want to meet people who reflect your values and your interests. So clubs, organizations, hobbies, locations, classes, those are places where you’ll meet people who you have more in common with you than otherwise.
PG: That wraps up our season preview. The Haverford Compass is a product of the Haverford College Office of Academic Resources. All episodes are available through Apple Podcasts and thehaverfordcompass.com. Keep listening to the Compass as you chart your path through Haverford.
LA: I feel like this season could be called “a guide to adulting.”
PG: Speaking of adulting, I got auto insurance last week, and I’m amazed how auto insurance salesman have this incredible ability to talk, forever, about anything. It’s really interesting.
LA: I thought they said you can get it in 15 minutes.
PG: No. It takes an hour and fifteen minutes, and you get a parking ticket, because you thought it would take sixty.
PG: That reminds me, I gotta pay that ticket.
PG: Talking about adulting. It is in the glove compartment of my car.
LA: Please don’t forget it after today.
PG: You know, sometimes I hope my parents listen to this, and other times I’m like …
LA: … like, “slide me a twenty so I can pay that parking ticket.”
PG: Oh no, it’s not about being able to pay for it, it’s more… the fact that I forgot. Oh well.
LA: It’ll be okay.