Date of Award

Winter 1-15-2023

Document Type


Degree Name

PHD - Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Grace Enriquez

Second Advisor

Summer Clark

Third Advisor

Nance Roy


Students’ academic success and wellbeing are interconnected, yet university classrooms rarely promote mental health. To bridge the divide between academic and social-emotional learning, I introduced a classroom intervention titled the Care Bear Connection, during which students were required to post a message in Slack offering support to their classmates. In this mixed methods study, quantitative data were collected from first-year undergraduates (N = 36) in two team-based engineering courses (intervention group n = 24; comparison group n = 12). A pre- and post-intervention survey assessed students’ beliefs and experiences in their respective course concerning six compassion-related variables: social connectedness, compassion toward classmates, compassion from classmates, seeking support, offering support, and classroom climate. The qualitative data collected included students’ Slack posts and individual interviews with participants from the intervention group (N = 6). Pre-post survey changes showed no significant differences in the comparison group, while significant pre-post changes were found in the intervention group across all six variables (p < .05). A majority of students reported increases in their sense of social connectedness, competence in seeking and offering support, a supportive classroom climate, compassion toward and from classmates, as well as a dramatic reduction in perceived stigma. The majority of interviews supported these findings, and students also shared how the intervention strengthened team communication and collaboration during their technical projects. Analyses of the Slack posts revealed trends in students’ compassionate communication, including: acknowledging academic stressors, making laudatory and motivational statements, and promoting self-care to their classmates. These findings indicate the potential for compassion-based interventions to enrich academic learning and wellbeing within STEM courses.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

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