When Celia McKee, a doctoral student studying neuroscience, revealed on Twitter that her grant had been rejected, she wasn’t looking for pity, but asking for honesty. Her message struck a chord: more than 225,500 users liked the viral post and 15,000 shared the message.
Develop an open-source nuclear detection system. That was the charge from the U.S. Department of Defense to members of its new internship program, the X-Force Fellowship. Washington University in St. Louis sophomore Andrew Bass had been selected to serve in the pilot cohort and arrived at Cape Canaveral in Florida convinced he would fail.
Getting a job requires more than hard work, said Mark Smith, dean of career services. It also takes a little luck. Olin Business School alumna Melanie Berkowitz learned that lesson the hard way after applying for 40 jobs.
Listening to his voicemail, Robert Mark Morgan wondered if someone had died. Friends had left messages offering condolences and support. Turns out, everyone was fine, but his career as a set designer had been seriously wounded. In the latest edition of “Fail Better,” Morgan, of the Performing Arts Department in Arts & Sciences, shares how he refused to let a devastating review sideline his career in theater.
Facebook tells its team to “move fast and break things.” Washington University computer science student Grace Egbo did just that, crashing the company’s internal site during her summer internship.
With a PhD in neuroscience, Thi Nguyen aspired to earn a tenure-track position and run her own lab. But events both good and bad led her to a new career path. Today, she is associate dean for graduate career and professional development at the Graduate School at Washington University in St. Louis, where she helps students prepare for a job market where tenure-track jobs are few but demand for highly educated workers is high.
Washington University in St. Louis senior Kenneth Sng is president of Student Union, a gifted student in mathematics and economics in Arts & Sciences and a residential advisor. But he also knows failure. He failed his driver’s test six times before passing on the seventh try. “My father always says, ‘Pick yourself up where you fall.’ That’s what I did.”
As a PhD student, Tim Bono submitted article after article to leading psychology journals and was rejected every single time. “No one thought I was making a substantive contribution,” he said. But that failure led Bono, now an assistant dean, to discover positive psychology, a field he loves to research and teach.
Civic Scholar Kierstan Carter wanted to change St. Louis by connecting high school students with community leaders. But when that idea flopped, Carter moved on to Plan B: changing herself.
Meet Mark Smith, JD, director of the Career Center and failed candidate for Congress. Smith’s story is the first in a new video series called “Fail Better,” which showcases Washington University in St. Louis faculty, staff and students who have failed big, sometimes in very public, humiliating ways.
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