College academics are hard — especially at a place like Denison, where classes are rigorous and professors challenge you to do your best work. Academics can be especially difficult for students with ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder). People with ADHD are prone to overlook or miss details, make careless mistakes, procrastinate excessively, and have problems organizing tasks.
That’s where the Productivity Circle, a support group for students with ADHD, comes in.
For Adriana Culotta ‘20, an international studies and French double major, the Productivity Circle has completely changed her view of ADHD.
“I used to think of ADHD negatively. I would even deny that I had it,” she says. “But through Productivity Circle I learned that it’s not only OK to have ADHD, but it’s also really influential to who I am.”
“I’m finding that many of my best qualities are based in my ADHD. I can be single-minded and hyper-focused — I once wrote ten pages in a single day. Now I’m proud of my ADHD and the things it gives me,” she adds.
Sanda Gibson, a therapist at Denison, encouraged her to join the Productivity Circle. “I didn’t really want to go,” says Culotta, “But I talked to an alum and other students who I like and respect. Now I think it’s the best thing ever.”
Gibson collaborated with Jennifer Vestal, director of the Academic Resource Center (ARC), to design and market this group. “We bring complementary perspectives to helping students understand and manage ADHD. This collaborative group approach is fairly unique among colleges.”
Each week in the Productivity Circle, Gibson and Vestal offer a theme that’s applicable to students’ concerns in the academic year. “We research best practices to teach skills and strategies to help with particular tasks. But, honestly, some of our best sessions are those times where students use the hour to go around the room and talk about what everyone is going through,” adds Gibson.
For Culotta, this has been a game-changer. “They taught me skills like time management and study strategies. And it’s nice because while they give advice, it’s also peer-led —we bounce ideas about different things we can try.”
“I used to keep comparing myself to other people in my major who always seemed so organized. In the group, I met other really interesting, accomplished people who helped me realize that I could be good at my academics, too. And whenever a vacation comes up, there are strategies that help you think of time in a way that makes your schedule and what you want to accomplish between breaks reasonable.”
The Productivity Circle is one of several groups of students and facilitators that meet regularly. Others topics include LGBTQ support, anxiety support, and grief support.
The Ohio College Personnel Associated presented the “Innovative Program Award” to Gibson and Vestal in 2017, recognizing The Productivity Circle as an effective approach to meeting the changing needs of students.