The greatest learning happens when you push yourself to the edge of what you are capable of doing.
On that edge, you will experience setback, struggle, and failures—all of which provide an opportunity for growth. Learn how to take risks, face challenges in and out of the classroom, and ultimately—fail forward.
For bios on our panelists, check out the Fail Forward panelist section below.
The UW Resilience Lab represents cross campus collaborations between students, faculty and staff who want to develop resilience in ourselves and our community.
We embrace failure as a necessary step in learning, but we also acknowledge the emotional impact failure has on all of us. Learning how to engage with the hurt and fear that can accompany failure is a fundamental piece of developing and growing into compassionate global citizens who are ready and able to step into the challenges that lie within and beyond the University. The Resilience Lab encourages you to see failure not as something to be avoided at all costs, rather as a necessary step toward growing and learning in your life.
The Resilience Lab promotes resilience development while normalizing failure and acknowledging the wide range of hardships our community members have faced and continue to face. As a laboratory space, we are willing to try new and creative methods for rethinking the UW experience in and out of the classroom.
The Resilience Lab's efforts
Failure is a stepping stone. Every day is a lesson.
Since spring of 2015 the UW Resilience Lab has been infusing messages of resilience into existing programs on campus as well as launching new programs. Here is more information on several of our initiatives and activities.
UW faculty members share their experiences with failure and resilience.
I took 2nd year Japanese and failed the series. Then I got put on academic probation—now I try and help students in a similar situation to get back on track!
Hired a flutist to play to an audience of 500+ before a program. Flutists...no matter their talent...are more exciting in a small venue.
Started a coding interview without a laptop charger
Got less than 50% on the final for Accounting 215 that I'd spent two weeks non-stop studying for---still managed to pass the class though.
Took STAT 311 last quarter. What an epic fail. Barely passed that class and have now changed my major because of it (and the Math 120 series).
I poured my HEART and SOUL into my UW grad school application--I thought I had a chance at a PhD...
My professor pretty much demanded that I drop her graduate class on the 2nd week because my work was "unacceptable." (!!!) I got a 4.0 in that class. Yeah, I don't get it either.
I walked in the Husky grad this summer even tho I didn't actually graduate yet because I've fallen behind!! My family insisted. It was SO awkward. Lots of photos of me at my fake grad. Ugh. Talk about jinxing it.
Allowing myself to become shut out of a school community that I had been a vital contributor to for 34 years by a new male head. The school claimed "inclusion" but he worked to isolate and exclude who he could not dominate. His phrase upon meeting me was " I respect your history with the school." It really translated to "I respect YOU'RE history with the school."
Was ranked top 10 in my high school, 3.8 GPA- then almost failed every class Autumn quarter of freshman year. Life goes on folks, and it's beautiful!!
Just as I started to think math was "my thing" I got a 2.8 in Math 126... I don't want to give up, but I'm not so confident anymore.
Have taken SAT for 5 times, still not able to earn a satisfied reading score, ended up with 630. I am not able to make the right right choices of answers even though I understand the meaning of texts in the readings. This makes me question my ability a lot during my senior year at high school. Now I am a freshman here and get 4.0s in all my classes. I enjoy the calculus classes and regain my confidence. You can find your own success in any academic area. Do not let the failure in one area defeat you.
Resilience in the world
The science of resilience
You are only able to get better if you can be vulnerable. If you cannot accept criticism, you cannot improve.
Discussions of resilience, grit, and Mindset are frequent in the media and in deeper discussions about how people live and learn. As members of the Resilience Lab have gathered and learned from each other and our community, we have developed a more nuanced understanding of resilience in higher education. Here we invite you to explore some of the resources that have helped to shape our work.
Rather than an innate characteristic, resilience is:
We can all learn to exhibit more resilience through having a sense of purpose, cultivating positive emotions, and developing healthy connections.
No matter where you come from or who you are becoming, you can develop your resilience
While some students enter relatively "failure deprived," as our friends at the Stanford Resilience Project put it, others enter college having battled through many hardships and failures along the way. For some students, taking academic risks seems like a privilege that they have not been afforded. We acknowledge the differences in life experiences we all bring to the UW and we feel that our collective diversity of experience is a strength at our institution.
Dweck explains why it’s not just our abilities and talent that bring us success—but whether we approach them with a fixed or growth mindset. She makes clear why praising intelligence and ability doesn’t foster self-esteem and lead to accomplishment, but may actually jeopardize success. With the right mindset, we can motivate our kids and help them to raise their grades, as well as reach our own goals—personal and professional. Dweck reveals what all great parents, teachers, CEOs, and athletes already know: how a simple idea about the brain can create a love of learning and a resilience that is the basis of great accomplishment in every area.
Social scientist Brené Brown has ignited a global conversation on courage, vulnerability, shame, and worthiness. Her pioneering work uncovered a profound truth: Vulnerability—the willingness to show up and be seen with no guarantee of outcome—is the only path to more love, belonging, creativity, and joy. But living a brave life is not always easy: We are, inevitably, going to stumble and fall.
Drawing on important new research in the field of interpersonal neurobiology, Siegel explores exciting ways in which understanding how the brain functions can improve the lives of adolescents, making their relationships more fulfilling and less lonely and distressing on both sides of the generational divide.
Resilience in action at the University of Washington
Talking about [failure] is a little bit freeing.
Resilience issues—like hardship, setbacks and failures—affect all of us. We work to embed our stories of success with the honesty of the struggles we have faced along the way. We envision a UW where we take care of one another and support each other as we teach, learn and grow. The Resilience Lab challenges you to get out of your comfort zone and to take risks in the supportive environment of the University of Washington campus.
Our collaborators are interested in improving the experiences of our community members and students through sharing our whole stories—in addition to the clean, curated versions we share on resumes and post on social media. We work with our collaborators as University departments or organizations, or as working groups consisting of people from many different places in the University, gathered around important challenges and focus areas. Amazing work with resilience is taking place all across our campus.
Resilience is one of four components that make up what we have called one's Psychological Capital (Psycap). Over the last 15 years, we have been examining how levels of Psycap relate to motivation and performance in cultures and countries around the globe at all levels from students to CEOs. What we have found it that Psycap, a state-based construct, which can be developed more easily than say traits, can add significantly to individual, team and organizational performance.
It is important to incorporate discussions of resilience into teaching leadership because many of our students assume that leadership is equal to success; some believe that a leaders are people who never fail and don’t allow failure in those around them. After thought and discussion, they come to realize that failure, and how one responds to failure, is a key attribute to leadership. At its most powerful, it can shift a student from thinking “I’ll never be a leader because I might fail or have failed” to embracing their leadership identity because we’ve changed the way they think about failure and given them the skills to see failure as a leadership development opportunity.
Resilience is such an important aspect of exploring and creating a career path. Students may fail an interview, they may lose their direction, and they may need to step outside their comfort zone in order to succeed. Resilience says it’s okay to feel that discomfort and vulnerability, because it means you are trying.
Working with the Mindful Project, the Pipeline Project is currently offering the following seminar for UW undergraduates. Each of the participating students has been placed in a Seattle Schools elementary classroom as an academic mentor. By Weeks 7 – 8 of the quarter, UW students will begin to introduce beginning mindful exercises to encourage the elementary students to use these exercises in times when they help them slow down and relax.
The Center for Teaching and Learning promotes student learning by supporting and strengthening the UW teaching community. Our work with departments, faculty members & T.A.s support an evidence-based culture of innovation, collaboration, and peer instruction.
First Year Programs (FYP) supports resiliency in students by providing support with the transition to UW for all new students. Through intentional and inclusive programs such as Orientation, Dawg Daze, and First Year Interest groups, we promote students connecting with campus resources, finding a community on campus, and becoming aware of resources available to support their Husky Experience.
Residence Halls and On-Campus Apartments bring together all elements of the student experience – it is where students study, unwind, build relationships, engage in conversations, and further develop independent life skills. Resilience is a critical component of successfully navigating the university experience. We aim to provide residents opportunities to step outside of their comfort zones, explore personal responsibility, and engage with a variety of viewpoints and experiences in a supportive environment.
Projects include weaving in concepts of resilience practice and skill-building more explicitly into Resident Adviser classes and training; seeking opportunities to share with parents our goals for resilience, particularly around roommate dynamics, student conduct, and RA interactions with residents; increasing opportunities for life-skills programming appropriate to different student experiences (from laundry to taxes; course registration to healthcare).
Resilience and the willingness to make mistakes and learn from those mistakes is a best practice of language learning and navigating life in a different culture. While studying at the UW, students of International & English Language Programs (IELP) have endless opportunities to try new things and strengthen their resilience. If not actually making mistakes, they may often be anxious about making linguistic or cultural errors on a daily basis. IELP encourages students to go beyond their comfort zone and to embrace every day mistakes, both in and outside of the classroom, as opportunities for learning and growth. It is through trying, making mistakes, and moving forward that many of our students develop greater English language fluency and cross-cultural competence, and thereby advance toward their personal, academic, and professional goals.
The UW Mindfulness Project’s mission is to build holistic wellness, self-inquiry, compassion, and grounded leadership within the UW community. Our classes and programs encourage students to ask tough questions, to look at themselves honestly and lovingly, and to embrace themselves entirely for both their successes and failures.
For student veterans, and, indeed, many students, resilience is critical to successfully negotiating the academic environment. Often, students find classes here demanding and must work hard to balance the various aspects of their lives. The UW has many competitive majors, and very accomplished students are denied admission on a regular basis. Students who are able to avoid taking these rejections personally, and trying again, taking a different direction, etc. are more likely to find success and fulfilment in college and beyond. Students veterans tend to be quite resilient, but sometimes take a while to develop resilience in higher education. I speak with students often about resilience, sometimes directly, sometimes without using the term, but always about challenging themselves, dealing head-on with setbacks, struggles and failure, and looking at these events as opportunities for growth.
In introductory biology, we teach students with a history of extraordinarily high achievement, who perceive the courses as high-stakes, and who are unfamiliar with the cognitive and time-management demands involved. We've found that in addition to supporting cognitive skill development in analysis and synthesis, we need to support maturation of emotional and psychological resources.
International students bring rich experiences to the University of Washington. They also experience unique challenges in their transition to higher education in the U.S. We are interested in resilience work as a resource to enhance support to help international students navigate such challenges.
Anne Browning, Ph.D.
Special Assistant to the Dean
Undergraduate Academic Affairs
Mary Gates Hall 180 F (Box 352800)