Honors News Archive

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Fail for the Win

May 19, 2015

Honors Program director, Vicky Lawson, spoke as one of five courageous faculty members at the May 6 “Reflections on Rejection Panel”, an inspiring event hosted by Undergraduate Academic Affairs in collaboration with the Stanford Resilience Project. Hot on the heels of the previous week’s Honors Hearth conversation with College of Arts & Sciences Dean Bob Stacey, Lawson was ready to tell everyone in the room the stuff we rarely hear: what went wrong and how it was okay.

Reflections on Rejection Panel, May 2015

After enjoying dinner and exploring the beautiful, newly constructed Intellectual House, we took our seats before the five panelists, all accomplished members of the UW community – associate professor of Anthropology and adjunct associate professor of Global Health, Rachel Chapman; professor and chair of Communication, David Domke; professor of Geography and director of the Honors Program, Vicky Lawson; professor of History and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Bob Stacey; and assistant professor of Human Centered Design and Engineering, Kate Starbird. Each panelist was introduced first in the typical manner – a list of achievements, successes, and awards – before reintroducing themselves with their “failure resumes”, the moments often edited out of our narratives. Immediately, this opening drew attention to the fact that, as Starbird stated, “failure and success are intimately connected”, and communicated a message of hope, the need for all of us to be resilient, and the capacity for resilience that lives in each of us.

Throughout the conversation, the audience came to understand that these people, people we respect and view as successful, are in fact…people.  They have experienced failure and hardships -- and were able to come out the other side (and continue to do so, even today!).  The presentation of the self-identified failures ranged from Domke discussing 27 rejection letters he received in response to job applications he submitted, to Lawson and Stacey discussing personal loss, to Chapman reading a poem that brought the audience to tears.  But the message was consistent:  failure is not something you should feel ashamed about and keep hidden. Through honest and open conversation, we can move past challenges and failures and emerge more thoughtful, self-aware, and resilient. And what better time to nurture this mindset than college? As Domke said, “Fear of failure is paralyzing [but] college is a time to try - you have the support”.

We are so proud to have had this panel at the UW and for Vicky to have fearlessly shared her personal stories, inspiring others to do the same, and embodying the support we, in Honors collectively, strive to have for students and their education.


A big thank you goes out to UAA and the Stanford Resilience Project for bringing such an awesome event to campus!

We hope you enjoyed the event as much as we did and, if you missed it, here were some other great, carry-with-you-quotes:

  • “We have this perception that other people are perfect because we write failure out of their stories” – Starbird
  • “Surviving failure is a collective process … that lift us up” – Lawson
  • “Letting down or building up the people we love is the only failure or success that truly matters” – Stacey