Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Profiling the Personality Traits of University Undergraduate and Postgraduate Students at a Research University in Malaysia

Academic journal article The Professional Counselor

Profiling the Personality Traits of University Undergraduate and Postgraduate Students at a Research University in Malaysia

Article excerpt

Malaysia is advancing toward a knowledge-based economy and relies heavily on its universities to educate and train the much-needed human capital for the country (Fernandez, 2010). Research universities have the capacity to attract the best students and have the autonomy to select students who excel in education and research. Various measures are being implemented to transform universities into world-class institutions (Wan, 2008). The institutional transformation at Malaysian universities focuses on critical areas such as governance, leadership, academia, teaching and learning, as well as research and development (Ministry of Higher Education, 2011). Educational institutions must monitor the psychological profile and well-being of their students, especially those who are potentially at risk of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression, as well as substance abuse, in order to promote optimum human capital development (Wynaden, Wichmann, & Murray, 2013). Moreover, during the institutional transformation process, all levels of the university community, including students, may experience changes driven by higher standards and demands in teaching and learning as well as research performance (Schraeder, Swamidass, & Morrison, 2006) that might result in stress (Becker et al., 2004; Gladstone & Reynolds, 1997; Smollan & Sayers, 2009). Certain personality traits may build the community's resilience in coping with psychological stress (Lievens, Ones, & Dilchert, 2009; Nelson, Cooper, & Jackson, 1995). A detailed personality profile of university students can help research institutions put in place necessary support systems to strengthen students' well-being during institutional transformation.

The Impact of Institutional Transformation

Institutional transformation at research universities in Malaysia can result in stress, anxiety and uncertainty for students at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels. Successful coping with new demands is integral to the process of transformation. Failure to cope with stressors may lead to fatigue and depressive mood. Such physical and psychological symptoms may impair daily living, work and school performance, and learning ability (Goretti, Portaccio, Zipoli, Razzolini, & Amato, 2010; See, Abdullah, Teoh, & Yaacob, 2011). Organizational change may affect personality changes in students and impact academic performance (Homg, Hu, Hong, & Lin, 2011; Nelson et al., 1995; Oreg & Sverdlik, 2011; See et al., 2011). Ongoing research including profiling and monitoring the personality traits and psychosocial behavior of students can assist students in adapting successfully (Marshall, 2010). Counselors and psychologists at the university can help students develop positive coping strategies during stressful transitional periods.

Personality Characteristics

Connor-Smith and Flachsbart (2007) have defined personality as characteristic patterns of thoughts, feelings and behaviors over time and across situations. Some theorists have described coping as a process of the personality responding to stress (Connor-Smith & Flachsbart, 2007). For example, individuals with the personality trait of extraversión may seek social support during life crisis, while someone with the trait of neuroticism may respond with avoidance or denial. Thus, personality traits may influence university students' responses and coping skills in stressful situations. Individuals with an extraverted personality tend toward optimistic assessment of accessible coping resources and react less intensely to stress, while those with a neurotic personality often experience high rates of stress and intense emotional and physiological reactivity to stress (Connor-Smith & Flachsbart, 2007). Personality predispositions can predict an individual's ability to adapt to change. Resilient traits enable stress management in reaction to institutional transformation (Nelson et al, 1995; Oreg, Vakola, & Armenakis, 2011; See et al. …

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