Active Minds Blog » Alfred Delena Changing the conversation about mental health Wed, 25 May 2016 12:46:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Emerging Scholars Fellowship: A (Heroic) Journey of Struggle, Strength and Human Flourishing (Pt. I) Mon, 16 May 2016 18:54:33 +0000 Alfred is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Alfred and his fellow scholars here.

Hey everyone, I hope all is well. It’s been a while and a lot has happened since my last post. Currently, I am wrapping up this project!

Yeah, I know. It’s exciting but also very overwhelming. Next week, I submit this project, which is also m undergraduate honors thesis for the Education department and the week following, I defend my thesis. Thus, in the midst of all this craziness, this post will be split up into several parts, all of which will be looking at the findings, importance, implications, and conclusions of this research.

In reflecting back on the entire journey and also, in thinking about how to present this research, I am reminded of this question: What is the goal of this research? It was and still is, in essence, to highlight a different story of mental health.

In 1999, the U.S. Surgeon General defined mental health as:

“A state of successful performance of mental function, resulting in productive activities, fulfilling relationships with other people, and the ability to adapt to change and to cope with adversity.”

However, after doing this research, I have gained a strong sense that we, as a society, have a dominant story of mental health as illness, and not mental health as flourishing.

mental health word art

It’s what Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie calls “the danger of a single story.”

In her TED talk, Adichie discusses how reading only British and American books influenced her to create characters that reflected the people in those books. She never imagined a person like her could exist in those stories. It wasn’t until she came across books written by African writers that her perception of who can be represented in stories changed. She has this to say:

“The single story creates stereotypes and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story… The consequence of the single story is this: It robs people of dignity. It makes our recognition of our equal humanity difficult. It emphasizes how we are different rather than how we are similar.”

While Adichie emphasizes the power that a single story can have on our perceptions about communities, cultures, countries, and continents, she makes it clear that this “danger” can exist anywhere.

The interesting thing about this revelation that I, too, had a single story about my own life. One that I didn’t fully acknowledge until I came to university. In a nutshell, I viewed my life through a negative lens. In my mind, I thought I was coming to university at a disadvantaged and didn’t see the strength nor the beauty in the experiences that I had within me.

And that narrative is extremely toxic. The heroes of this research are breaking that dominant story of disadvantage and paving way on doing and being. Stay tuned.

In reflecting on this journey, (as seen in my last post), this has not been the easiest. In fact, I equate this to what Joseph Campbell called “the Hero’s Journey”.

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Emerging Scholars Fellowship: The Journey Thus Far Tue, 05 Apr 2016 15:47:59 +0000 Alfred is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Alfred and his fellow scholars here.

Today, I am going to show you a sneak peak of my journey up to this point. And let me just say that it has been filled with many highs and lows. (Note: This piece is more personal than academic.)

The following is a compilation of my emotional states and reactions since the start of research process.

  1. Getting into the Education Honors Program (& realizing that a thesis will be written!!). #WHAT

  1. Summer (trying to focus on developing a research project while doing a summer internship and getting nowhere with it). #ShakingMyHead

  1. Jumping right into Bing Honors College, a three week-long program that gives honors students a head start on developing/continuing their thesis projects before the quarter begins. #ReadySetGo

  1. Hesitantly diving into the literature because I’m still uncertain about the direction of my research and feeling overwhelmed. #SOS

  1. Fall Quarter: Facing and overcoming obstacles that were ready to pounce – (a) challenges with IRB, (b) finding and solidifying an on-campus advisor, (c) writing and submitting a 50+ page draft of the first three chapters (introduction, literature review, and methodology), and (d) participant recruitment. #PowerThrough

  1. Winter Break. #Relaxation&Rejuvenation

  1. When selected as an Active Minds Emerging Scholar… #Yay

… And when matched with Professor Corey Keyes! #StillInShock

  1. Solidifying population sample: reducing and deliberating based on a series of variables (e.g., gender, race/ethnicity, first-generation status, socioeconomic background, year, measures of well-being). #DecisionsDecisions

  1. Interviews! Interviews! Interviews! #Incoming #SoManyInterviews

  1. End of Winter Quarter: finals week + lack of sleep + unhealthy eating + stress overload = defeat response #SoMuchWork #Overwhelmed #Breakdown

  1. The Beginning of the End… #CountdownInitiated

In highlighting some of the major points in my journey, I do want to emphasize the wide range of emotions that come with these experiences. I was motivated to do this because based on my experience, the personal process of doing research isn’t something that people talk about. Reflecting on this process plays an important role because there have been times when I have felt defeated and unmotivated to keep moving forward.

However, when I reflect on the process, I feel grounded and reconnected to the purpose of why I am doing this research. It enables me to pause and look back at how far I have come.

With less than two months to go, the end is coming to a close. Will I be able to get there? What lies around the corner? While I don’t have the answers right now, stay tuned! More on this in weeks to come!

Until then.

Take Care and Go Well,


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Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Meet Alfred Delena’s Mentor Tue, 01 Mar 2016 18:21:55 +0000 Alfred is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Alfred and his fellow scholars here.

Hello… It’s me.

In honor of Leap Day…

I wanted to LEAP forward and tell you about two members of an incredible team of mentors and advisors that I am so grateful to be working with.

It is a true honor to have Corey Keyes as my national mentor. Dr. Keyes is a Professor of Sociology and holds the Winship Distinguished Research Professorship at Emory University. He is a pioneering researcher in the field of positive psychology or the scientific study of CKEYEShuman strength, potential, and flourishing. Stemming from the time of the ancient Greeks, Dr. Keyes’ research has focused on this concept of flourishing—the presence and symptomatology of psychological, social, and emotional well-being. Furthermore, his work highlights the “two continua model” of mental health and mental illness.

I first came across Dr. Keyes’ research when I saw his TED talk. Since then, it has enhanced my perspective and provided me a new way of thinking about mental health. His work has been very influential in shaping this project. And so, it blows my mind to be mentored by Dr. Keyes! I am filled with so much gratitude and I look forward to further developing this mentor-mentee relationship.

Here at Stanford University, I, too, am grateful to have many wonderful advisors and mentors helping guide this thesis and project, one of whom is my on-campus mentor, John Willinsky. He is the Khosla Family Professor in the Graduate School of Education. He directs both the undergraduate Education Honors program and the Science, Technology, and Society program in the School JWILLINSKYof Humanities and Sciences.

Originally from Toronto, Canada, Dr. Willinsky taught both elementary and university students before coming to Stanford in 2007. While his research centers on providing public and open access to research and academic scholarship though his work on the Public Knowledge Project, Dr. Willinsky has contributed greatly to the evolution and development of this thesis.

In addition to advising fellow education honors students, Dr. Willinsky has provided meaningful feedback on various aspects of the project and has continued to serve as a wise sage and advocate for my research. He, along with other advisors and mentors here at Stanford, have been pivotal in helping me craft and carry out my research.

I am very blessed to have the support and guidance from these phenomenal people!

Until next time.

Go Well,


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Emerging Scholars Fellowship: Meet Alfred Delena Tue, 02 Feb 2016 14:38:45 +0000 Alfred is a researcher in the 2016 class of the Emerging Scholars Fellowship. Read blog updates from Alfred and his fellow scholars here.


Keshshi! ​Ho’ Alfred Delena le’shina. Hom annodi: K’yak’yali:kwe deyan Dowa:kwe a:wan ch’ale. Hom a:łashshina: a:chi Vanessa dap Larry Delena le’shina. Ho’ Shiwi.

Translation: Hello! My name is Alfred Delena. My clans are Eagle and Child of the Corn. My parents are Vanessa and Larry Delena. I am Zuni. 

As a sign of respect in my culture, this is the proper way of introducing myself (formally) to you in my Native language, Zuni.

I am currently a 5th year undergraduate student, majoring in Human Biology and minoring in Education at Stanford University. This academic year, I have also been writing an honors thesis through the Graduate School of Education’s interdisciplinary program.

My thesis, which is also my project for the Emerging Scholars Fellowship, focuses on exploring the social, emotional, and mental well-being of university undergraduates. More specifically, my research seeks to understand what students of color at a highly selective university believe are the factors that affect their general sense of well-being.

My interest in this topic stems a lot from my own experience of being a student of color, who also happens to come from a first-generation and low-income background. The journey for me, much like this project, has gone through an evolution of its own. From humble beginnings to blessed opportunities, I have been so grateful to forge a path that couples my experiences and passions together with my vision for helping create a world that reflects and reconnects back to its humanity.

From being caught between a battle of two worlds—a world that I had come from, a world that I had only known my entire life until I had to enter this new world, a world that I thought was reserved only for the rich and elite, a world that I thought didn’t have a place for someone like me—to maintaining peace and balance between both worlds. From wandering through deserts of depression and desolation, feeling lost and alone, to stumbling upon oases of light and hope.

This journey continues to inspire me to help create a positive change with regard to promoting the value of well-being and positive mental health on the college campus for diverse students.

It is through these experiences that I am humbled and honored to be doing this work. For I see this endeavor as a big undertaking and as something bigger than myself. In doing this project and writing this thesis, I hope to listen and to understand to order to better serve as a contribution to help start a campus-wide conversation about positive mental health.

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