Fostering Resilience and Engagement in Law Students


We have created a dynamic program of research and practice that promotes adaptive mindsets—a mindset where students regard difficulties as challenges they can overcome rather than as fixed and discouraging statements of their worth—in law students and addresses their changing social and academic needs. As a collaboration between students, law faculty, and learning scientists, our goal is to create meaningful cultural change. Through a rigorous assessment process that places the students’ subjective experience at the center of the design process, we utilized data from surveys and student-focus groups to inform the development of a playbook of evidence-based intervention strategies for law students. We began by asking our students at Pitt Law questions through surveys in order to understand their experiences through their own perspectives. Using this understanding, we are designing, implementing, and evaluating targeted, tailored, well-timed interventions to foster greater psychological resilience and engagement among our students. 

Team Members 

This project is unique in that it pairs a psychology researcher—Dr. Omid Fotuhi, who specializes in performance and motivation—with legal educators—Dr. Sinsheimer, Professor St. Val and Dr. Lipton—who are putting these ideas into practice. This process offers a model for combining research and practical applications to support student advancement and success. Dr. Fotuhi draws on his expertise in psychology to design targeted interventions to facilitate learning and promote resilience and optimal performance in our law students. Dr. Lipton, Professor St. Val, and Dr. Sinsheimer, all of whom teach legal writing, lead discussions with students and implement interventions. 

Dr. Fotuhi
(650) 669-7550
Dr. Sinsheimer
(412) 648-1281
Dr. Lipton
(412) 383-3207
Prof. St. Val
(412) 648-1490 

Anticipated Outcome 

One of our objectives is to help build a culture at the law school of reflecting on all students’ experience as expressed directly by the students through ongoing student surveys, more small focus groups, and dedicated lines of communication with the administration. At this point, we have intervened primarily with the first-year class. To meaningfully influence the students’ experience and promote positive change, we are expanding our work to include upper-level students. We will continue working with the administration and the faculty to determine institutional barriers that are impacting student performance. To better support incoming first-year students and prospective Pitt Law students, we will create a video/interactive tool, based on responses from members of the current first-year class, to provide information and strategies for promoting adaptive mindsets. 

We want to hear from you!

What are you doing to promote resilience at your institution?  What are your thoughts on facilitating an in-class discussion?  Also, if you would like more information, let us know.  Please contact Ann Sinsheimer at with your comments or requests.