Returning from Thanksgiving break, students were welcomed by the first All-School Meeting (ASM) of Winter Term. Linda Carter Griffith, Assistant Head of School for Equity, Inclusion and Wellness, and Jennifer Elliott ’94, Dean of Students and Residential Life, emphasized gratitude and meaningful connections during the gathering.
Elliott highlighted gratitude as a significant factor in reducing stress and earning support.
“In their texts in 2006, psychology professor and researcher Christopher Peterson found that out of 24 strengths of children examined, gratitude has the strongest relationship with life satisfaction. One study lined gratitude to greater social support, both perceived and actual, and protection from stress and depression over time,” Elliott said during ASM.
Additionally, Elliott emphasized the idea of meaningful relationships and the harmful effect of social media on connections. She explained the ways that social media can negatively affect deeper friendships.
Elliott quoted author Simon Sinek during ASM: “Many of their [adolescent] relationships are superficial. They will admit that they don’t count on their friends, they don’t rely on their friends. They have fun with their friends, but they also know their friends will cancel on them when something better comes along.”
According to Sinek, lack of experience in dealing with deep meaningful relationships results in students coping with a device rather than a person. They turn to social media for temporary relief.
Keely Aouga ’19, Student Body Co-President, stood on stage after Griffith’s talk and spoke about her own thoughts and mindset when it came to Winter Term.
“As we go through these two weeks of Winter Term, it’s important that we all take time to breathe. I’ve never liked Winter Term, and [I] realize that projecting my dread for the winter onto myself affects me more than I know. I say this all to remind you all to be aware of the way you go about this term. Wake up each morning and find something to look forward to. Be proactive for you, and find those things that’ll help you not only get to break, but to the end of another term,” Aouga said.
Elliott finished her address by encouraging the community to spend more time with their friends and to positively change their mindset throughout their day.
“Switch your language. [Don’t say I] have to write a paper for History-300, I get to write a paper for History-300. It’s a simple one. Make the shift,” said Elliott.
Many students found the ASM aptly timed, as they considered Winter Term to be the longest and most difficult. The days are shorter and colder, and the weather causes thick snow to build up in front of dorms and on pathways which results in difficult transportation.
“Winter at Andover can be rough especially with the long weeks that we have ahead of us after break. It can be rough because Winter Term never seems to end. I always enter Winter Term with the mindset to just keep on going. The snow isn’t going to stop falling, nor will the cold go away. The best you can do is persevere,” said Luke Napolitano ’20.
On the topic of depression, however, Chi Igbokwe ’21 said she thought Elliott’s talk during ASM wrongly minimized depression and other mental illnesses.
“During and after the ASM, I was just kind of shocked at the way in which [Elliott] talked about issues that students go through. I feel like the things that she said trivialized the issues that students go through… It just made it sound like she didn’t actually know what students have to face every day,” said Igbokwe.
On the other hand, Nathan Wang ’19 said he thought Elliott’s emphasis on gratitude was significant, especially when applied to Andover.
“Over my time at Andover, I definitely became more grateful of certain things. I bounced around a lot of friend groups before but now I’ve found a group of people who I’m comfortable around and grateful for. I think gratitude allows you to appreciate opportunities a lot more and take advantage of them,” said Wang.
Editor’s Note: Keely Aouga is a Commentary Editor for The Phillipian.