Thriving in university: Global perspectives on undergraduate student success

Year: 2012

Author: Schreiner, Laurie A., Longman, Karen A., Rude, Wally

Type of paper: Abstract refereed


The purpose of this study was to determine to what extent thriving provides additional insight into college students' academic success and retention. Because thriving is a state that is changeable and is influenced by the surrounding environment, each of the psychosocial processes that comprise thriving can be improved with relatively short-term intervention strategies. By identifying the psychosocial processes that are malleable within students, institutions can design programs and services to impact these processes. Through such interventions, institutions can provide entering students with a road map to success and can communicate to students that such success is within their reach.

Missing from the current approaches to university student success is an understanding of motivation and the psychological processes that lead students to engage and fully benefit from the opportunities presented in the university environment (Bean, 2005). Such processes are malleable, meaning that targeted interventions at the individual and classroom levels could change these processes so that a greater percentage of students persist to graduation. Attention to malleable processes within students and exploring the differential effects such processes have on student success outcomes across types of student populations in different nations offer opportunities for new insights into student success.

The university students who participated in this study represent 72 universities from the US, Canada, Australia, and Thailand.  The country where the university is located is included in the structural equation model as a predictor variable; thus, differences in thriving or in pathways to thriving and success can be discerned across national borders.

The construct of thriving was developed as a perspective of student success that transcends graduation rates and academic performance (Schreiner, 2010).  Derived from the psychological factors most predictive of college student persistence (Bean & Eaton, 2000; Berger & Milem, 1999) and the elements of flourishing in adults that researchers in the field of positive psychology have determined are predictive of vital engagement and optimal functioning in life (Keyes & Haidt, 2003), thriving is defined as being "fully engaged intellectually, socially, and emotionally in the college experience" (Schreiner, p. 4).