The Belonging Project at Stanford University
A sense of belonging is deeply important to emotional health and personal wellbeing. Individuals develop a sense of belonging when they feel that they are part of a larger community that they believe in - a community that welcomes them, a community that respects and represents their values, and a community that helps them to fulfill their aspirations. Individuals develop a sense of belonging when they feel connected to other people, especially those who share their distinct life experiences, interests, or goals. University activities that foster a sense of belonging promote mental and physical health and help individuals to flourish in all aspects of their lives.
The importance of the feeling of belonging has been demonstrated through empirical work on human resilience and identity formation and on factors that protect emotional health and personal wellbeing, even in the context of adversity and trauma. Studies focused on risk factors giving rise to poor health outcomes have also shown how crucial the experience of belonging can be. Individuals who feel marginalized are more likely to experience significant health problems over the course of their lives. Moreover, clear evidence has shown that individuals in distress who feel that they are disconnected and are not part of a larger community ("thwarted belongingness") are especially vulnerable to poor outcomes, including impulsive or self-harmful behavior.
For all of these reasons, we are launching "The Belonging Project at Stanford" - a broadly-engaged, multidimensional effort to promote emotional health and personal wellbeing through connection with the communities of our campus.