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Mindset talk aims to inspire Grinnellians

Trevor and Eric Ragan were inspired by the work of Dr. Carol Dweck, a researcher at Stanford. Photo by Jeff Li.

On Tuesday, Feb. 17, Wellness Director Jen Jacobsen and a number of campus departments and organizations hosted a “Mindset and Academics” talk given by alum Eric Ragan ’12 and his brother, Trevor.

 Trevor and Eric Ragan were inspired by the work of Dr. Carol Dweck, a researcher at Stanford.  Photo by Jeff Li.
Trevor and Eric Ragan were inspired by the work of Dr. Carol Dweck, a researcher at Stanford.
Photo by Jeff Li.

The talk was inspired by the research of Stanford psychology professor Carol Dweck on the benefits for individuals who utilize a growth mindset. It was given to a number of faculty, students and community members and focused on the key to success. Specifically, the talk focused on the differences between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset and how developing the latter can help in becoming successful.

The talk was co-sponsored by the Wellness Lounge, the Athletics Department, Academic Affairs and Dean of the College, Division of Student Affairs and Student Athlete Mentors.

According to Dweck’s research, a key difference between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset is that the former focuses on the belief in skills while the latter focuses on growing or developing skills.

Trevor Ragan said that he began to believe in the growth mindset after reading Dweck’s book, “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success,” and interviewing her over Skype, and that since then his own life has changed and he wants others to see the value of the growth mindset. 

“It’s important that everyone knows about this so that they can do that better and be a better learner. This is bigger than sports. It can change your life,” he said.

Eric Ragan, Bucknell University’s assistant volleyball coach, explained that he has applied the theory to his own team at Bucknell University and that he saw a difference in the team’s attitudes after the application of growth mindset.

“I work with my brother over the summer as volleyball coaches. But he’s an assistant coach at Bucknell and [the team] saw the effects of having a growth mindset,” Trevor Ragan said.

Eric Ragan also discussed the experiences of the USA Women’s Volleyball team, recalling that before learning and applying the growth mindset theory to their training, the volleyball team had not won a single gold medal. It was only after learning about growth mindset theory that they snapped their losing streak and landed several key victories.

“For those with a growth mindset, they believe that skills can be developed—their main concern is getting better. Effort is key to growing, and perseverance helps when presented with challenges,” Eric Ragan said.

Attendee Mikayla Findlay ’16 felt the general idea of the talk was great, but was not fully convinced by the theory.

“I thought the overall idea [was] good—motivation is key to progress—however, it ignores the realistic obstacles of access, know-how and ability,” Findlay said. “In reality, you need more than just belief and effort to reach an outcome. It plays into the bootstrap myth, which ignores systematic oppression, which discourages individual growth/progress. I do see merit in the values and approach in general.”

A similar talk, called “Mindset and Athletics” was held at 8 p.m., also on Tuesday.

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