Averett Students Asked to Learn to Increase Their Intelligence Through the Power of “Yet”

Posted on August 24th, 2017 by Danielle Staub

It was standing room only in Pritchett Auditorium when Averett University President Dr. Tiffany Franks asked new and returning students at the University’s Opening Convocation if they believed they could increase their intelligence. And then Franks asked who in the crowd thought intelligence was a given for some, while others would never have it. Correcting the latter, Franks encouraged the crowd with the fact that scientific evidence now shows our intelligence is like a muscle, “the more effort we put in, the smarter we become.” And during their time here at Averett, she encouraged the students to use their resources, including the faculty and staff here with them, to grow their intelligence by using the word, “yet.”

“The key to getting smarter is resilience. Anytime you fail at something, embrace that experience as a chance to learn from what you did wrong and then hit it again. Work at it harder until you can develop that habit, seeking the difficult, tackling challenges and learning from failures,” said Franks. “Here is one three-letter word that can guide your life, drive your success and make you smarter. Literally smarter. The word is ‘yet.’ Instead of saying or thinking ‘I can’t do that,’ change it to ‘I can’t do that … yet,’ or ‘I haven’t been able to figure that out … yet.’”

Over the last two years, Averett has developed and put into place the resources necessary for students to use a growth mindset – when students believe they can get smarter. Growth Mindset is Averett’s Quality Enhancement Plan, or QEP. A QEP Development Committee was formed in 2015, and the team looked at what Averett’s topic should be. They spent the year researching and discovered that the concept of student resiliency has been explored in recent research and literature quite a bit. With much evidence and research on which to base a plan, the team selected this topic and developed Averett’s QEP around the enhancement of student resiliency. Outcomes from this QEP are often associated with observed increases in student engagement, use of support facilities, academic performance and retention.

“Then go back to the challenge with your new attitude: ‘Yes, this will be hard; Yes, I want to try it again and again because my brain will get stronger, and I shall be more intelligent as I progress,’” Franks told the crowd. “Averett students have always left us knowing more than when they got here. Now you also can leave smarter than when you enrolled!”

The University is welcoming more than 380 new students, the largest freshmen class in its history. After the faculty procession into the auditorium, Dr. Timothy Fulop, vice president for academic affairs and student success, opened the ceremony giving a formal invitation to the new students to “join in this Averett community.”

Students were told to “embrace and explore the rich opportunities presented to you” by Averett’s dean of students, Lesley Villarose. And that was explained to the students through a speech from one of their peers, Aquayla Swann, a senior at Averett.

“I never thought I’d have the courage to speak in front of students and parents until I gave tours almost every day of the summer,” Swann said, reflecting on her work with the Admissions team. “Learn something different about yourself.”

“We are one academic family, one spirit, one community linked together, committed to each other. In other words, we are one Averett,” Franks said. “Develop the habits of mind and heart that Averett stands for. Seek new challenges. Give great effort consistently. Learn from setbacks to build your resiliency and be smarter than ever. Don’t just hear those words. Go out and live them.”

The ceremony concluded when Dr. Franks and the Averett Family surprised Ginger Henderson, associate professor of equestrian and coach of Averett’s Intercollegiate Dressage Association (IDA) team, with a national championship banner. Averett’s IDA team won the national championship in the spring of 2017. Four members of the team competed for team points and two members competed individually for Averett during the two-day event hosted by Centenary University in May. Although Averett has had an individual national champion before, the program has never produced a team title until now.