Bouncing Forward: Transforming Bad Breaks into Breakthroughs. (2015). Michaela Haas, PhD. Enliven New York, NY 385 pp. ISBN: 978-1-5011-1512-7

Review by: Kathleen Carpenter, Advising Coordinator, University Advising, Northern Arizona University, [email protected].


Bouncing Forward: Transforming Bad Breaks into Breakthroughs is a collection of true stories written by individuals who have survived traumatic life events along with strategies used to manage trauma beyond the event, with a focus on resilience.  The book is organized in three parts: Beyond Resilience, Embracing Opportunity in Adversity, and Making a Difference. Each part has four stories.

Included in this review, are three compelling stories in which each survivor shared detailed accounts of terror and tragedy that led to a path away from the event, toward a new beginning.  In thinking about advising and students that we serve, the stories are helpful in that they remind us that students that we interact with, are not transparent.  It is only through thoughtful discussions, active listening, and coaching, that advisors can help students find the path of success in their academic journey.  This is especially true with our online students, who interact with advisors through phone or email.  With no facial cues, advisors must learn to be active listeners.  Coaching is more direct and often more intense because of this.  The stories selected, capture the resilient nature of humans, who did not give up, despite traumatic life events.

Brigadier General Rhonda Cornum was a prisoner of war in the first Iraq war. She was captured and tortured and was near death when she humorously thought, “well, at least it was not a bad way to go” (Haas, 2015, 16).  General Cornum survived and went on to lead a rich and full life and designed a resilience curriculum to teach others how to survive when faced with life changes events.  Included in her training are the core factors (values): “realistic optimism, effective problem solving, adaptability, positive coping strategies, and the ability to remain calm, present and engaged when under pressure” (Cornum, 2015, 26). 

As advisors, we often times help our students by using these same core values.  Working with non-traditional students, who often times are attending school, working a full-time job and have family obligations, advisors find themselves being the cheerleader for students. By providing coping strategies, time management tips, and institutional resources, advisors can help students to remain positive and focused during their transitional period entering a higher education institution.

Coco Schumann, a Holocaust survivor, shared his story of survival in the camps of Auschwitz.  A musician by trade, Coco survived because he refused to give up. Even at his darkest hours as he watched others murdered and take their own lives, Coco refused to give up, he wanted to live.  “We need to acknowledge and integrate the events from our past into our personal history, while at the same time to let them define us forever” (Schumann 2015, 93). Coco and other Holocaust survivors have been studied by Dr. William B Helmreich, a sociologist at the City University of New York.  Dr. Helmreich interviewed hundreds of Holocaust survivors and discovered that there were factors that helped people survive. “Traits of resilience (the) survivors have in abundance (are): optimism, intelligence, courage, the ability to distance themselves from the past, awareness of belonging to a particular group, assimilating the knowledge that they survived, and the ability to find meaning in their lives” (Helmreich, 2016, 98).

Many returning college students, begin college already wanting to give up.  It is advisors jobs to help students to feel connected by offering support and optimism toward reaching their goals.  It takes courage for many of our students, to take the step to start the path toward degree completion.  Recognizing this fact, advisors play an integral part in student success. 

Maya Angelou, beloved poet and activist, shared her traumatic childhood story and her phenomenal life beyond her tragedy.  Maya was raped at age eight and did not speak for five years.  It was through the strength of her grandmother, that Maya found her voice.  When asked to share her thoughts about resilience, Maya responded, resilience is “a desire to make change.  A desire to make change in your own life and in the lives of the people around you—to better, improve the life”(Angelou, 2016, 291).

Many of the core values shared with the reader are similar to the NACADA core values that we use to coach and mentor our students:  “respect, inclusivity, empowerment and caring” are critical when working with students who have additional challenges upon entry to our organizations. (https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx)

As academic advisors, we have an opportunity to help others succeed.  By reading these stories, you can learn how to listen deeply and be aware of other people who have found a way to make their life better.  As you think about connecting with your students, wherever they came from, and wherever they are heading, remember this: “If we can recognize, realistically, and on a case-by-case basis, what an individual’s strengths are, we can better determine the future of that individual” (Haas, 2016, 187).



Haas, M. (2015). Bouncing forward: Transforming bad breaks into breakthroughs. Enliven New York: NY. ISBN: 978-1-5011-1512-7

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA core values of academic advising. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreValues.aspx

NACADA: The Global Community for Academic Advising. (2017). NACADA academic advising core competencies model. Retrieved from https://www.nacada.ksu.edu/Resources/Pillars/CoreCompetencies.aspx

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