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2023’s Casey Fellow offers insights and inspiration

Dr. Nick Holton’s specialty is antifragility and teaching tips and tricks to remain buoyant through life’s ups and downs.
Dr. Holton recently engaged with a variety of UCC audiences with great success.

“In the aftermath of the pandemic, we thought it was timely and relevant to bring in someone who regularly talks about resilience and buoyancy,” says Dr. Alejandro Adler, the College’s dean of student life and wellbeing. “We’ve had tremendously positive feedback.”

The Casey Fellows Program for Mental Health and Student Wellbeing was established in 2018 through the generosity of Matthew Casey ’83, and has brought world-renowned experts in the field of wellbeing to Upper Canada College each year since, including Dr. Greg Wells, a performance psychologist, and Dr. Shimi Kang, an expert in the neuroscience of adaptability, leadership and self-motivation. Holton is an international consultant, coach and speaker whose work focuses on human flourishing and the scientific research that supports optimal functioning, a synergistic development of both optimal performance towards meaningful pursuits and overall wellbeing and satisfaction. 

During his visit to campus, Holton held two workshops, attended several informal meetings and delivered an evening keynote address to the broader UCC community. His first workshop was for Year 6 and 7 students, focused on the benefits of having a growth mindset. The second was designed for teachers and students at the Upper School and explored resilience skills, discussing ways to handle unpleasantness. Holton’s keynote address, Antifragility: Fostering Mental Health and Wellbeing in Children and Adolescents, addressed ways to help students remain buoyant, despite life’s travails. 

“You can break antifragility down into three parts,” Holton says. “It’s the ability to build wellbeing as a foundation and buffer for life’s disappointments; developing resilience so you can ride life’s peaks and valleys; and using a performance lens to tap into habits, attitudes, motivations and behaviours that allow you to perform optimally when needed.

“There are ways to start to naturally embed those attitudes and messages into education, with formal instruction and skill building coming later.”

Holton notes that these attitudes and behaviours don’t exist in a vacuum; students will be affected by their environments and interactions. However, knowledgeable educators and parents can help embed the appropriate principles and attitudes that promote good habits and lead to life success. In fact, he says that many parents, faculty, staff and students approached him after their sessions to mention concepts or words that resonated with them.

“What’s so interesting about UCC is that the team there already understands these inherent challenges,” Holton says. “I’ll be circling back to see about additional ways we can connect and collaborate.”
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