Stanford may be home to brilliant scholars, top athletes and renowned faculty, but according to Associate Director of Academic Support Adina Glickman, Stanford also houses high-achieving, “failure-deprived” students who may have never dealt with disappointment before arriving on the Farm.
After hearing students’ stories of struggle, Glickman has set out to show them that adversity is a part of the road to success. She calls it the Resilience Project.
Launched during Mid-year Freshman Convocation, the project is a new initiative to display stories of failure that today’s successful have undergone. So far, stories Glickman has collected include those of Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Harry Elam Jr., former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor ’50 L.L.B. ’52 and English professor Tobias Wolff M.A. ’78.
She hopes to start collecting stories from students, too.
“It’s an effort to address the ‘duck syndrome’ and put the periscope under the surface to show that we’re all flapping our feet very hard,” Glickman said.
“As an academic coach, I often hear students telling me, ‘I feel so alone,’” Glickman added. “The project will connect students to let them know that it’s OK to be disappointed. They learn that no one gets it right the first time.”
Dean of Freshmen and Undergraduate Advising Julie Lythcott-Haims ’89 shared the story of her first D in a communication class, shattering her original dreams of becoming a broadcast journalist. She admitted to feeling ashamed and embarrassed, ultimately deciding to change academic tracks.
“I felt like an admissions mistake,” said. “I felt, in particular as a woman of color from the Midwest, that I had been admitted to fill a quota as opposed to being admitted for my ability to thrive here.”
According to Lythcott-Haims, many students are not only “failure-deprived” but also need to “toughen their emotional skin.”
“The number of students who regard B+ as a failing grades makes me laugh but also makes me sad,” she said. “We need to combat that inaccurate sense of failure.”
The mission resonates with some students. With one quarter under her belt, Aya Yagi ’14 admitted her struggles with time management and study skills and felt it was hard to balance her academic life and social life.
“College grades already are not looking like the ones I had in high school, but I am not the least bit irked about not having the 4.0,” Yagi said. “Doing your best and trying to improve are the only things I can ask of myself, and hearing stories of successful people who had bumps along the road reinforce that idea for me.”
Lythcott-Haims’ own story currently appears on the Resilience Project website. Though it was “nerve-wracking” to share, she emphasized that sharing stories of struggles would help us “feel healthier.”
“It’s clear students feel pressure to say ‘It’s all good, I’m doing great, and everything’s fine,’” she said. “It’s a very positive over-generalization as to what life is really like. We should get real, stop feeling that we have to put up the façade and show the true us.”