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Kopp's Weekly - Failure Is Part of Science and Life

Kopp's Weekly - Failure Is Part of Science and Life

Failure is a part of life and how we deal with it impacts how successful we will be.

Dear Students,

No one likes to fail.  But failure is a part of life and how we deal with it impacts how successful we will be.  I think back to my first physics class. It didn't go well, and after bombing 3 quizzes I (reluctantly) went to see the professor.  He pointed out the study strategies I was using were not well-matched to the problem-solving goals of a physics course.  He asked me to imagine what the final goal would be (passing an exam), and work backwards.  What would I need to do to build up those skills over the weeks leading up to a midterm or final?  In short, he asked me to learn from the process of failure, to not take it personally, and to ask for advice from those who know better.  He emphasized learning the process from those who know better, not the answers.  He even invited me to visit with him again to tell him how I was studying in future weeks.  That conversation has lived with me 26 years later.

In fact, college is about failure.  It is a place for you to try things out and, if failure happens, have a relatively low-stakes environment for you to learn from it.  Didn't like that research lab?  Great, time to try another area or another style of mentor.  Didn't master that midterm?  Great, time to think about strategies that seem to work for other students.  We tend to think of college like we are on a linear path, the yellow brick road to the Wizard, and any deviation from the path will mean disaster.  Instead, consider college as your learning the process of dusting yourself off when failure occurs and figuring out how not to encounter the same kind of failure in the future.  That act of trying, failing, and moving on will teach you how to become who you are really meant to be.  I am reminded of a line from the movie The Philosopher's Stone, in which Dumbledore advises Harry Potter “It is the choices we make, Harry, that show who we truly are, far more than our abilities.”

Best of luck in the coming week,
Sacha Kopp
Associate Dean

PS:  I wanted to alert you to two opportunities to recognize some of the really great teachers, mentors, advisors, and TAs who have made a difference inside or outside the classroom.

The Natural Sciences Council, your student organization formed to promote increased student participation in the College, encourages students to invite professors they feel have made a large impact on their college careers to their annual Props For Profs, a formal dinner event. Additionally, they invite you to nominate a Professor, Adviser, TA, or AI for an award for excellence and dedication in their positions.  The awards are due March 16th by 5pm. If you have questions, please contact nsc.aa.chair@gmail.com.




    • The Friar Society, the University’s oldest honor society, is now accepting nominations for the 2012 Friar Centennial Teaching Fellowship (FCTF) for tenured or tenure-track faculty. The nomination form can be found on their web site, www.friarsociety.org.  Please submit nomination forms to 2012FCTF@gmail.com by Friday, March 9, 2012.  If you have any questions, please contact natalie.e.butler@gmail.com or dforinash@gmail.com.

The College of Natural Sciences certainly has many great faculty, as evidenced by the fact that it has more Regents' Outstanding Teaching Awards than any other unit in UT System.  Such awards come thanks in part from students who take the time to recognize the special people they've worked with in the College.

PPS: I neglected to alert you to UT Entrepreneurship Week (http://uteweek.com/). Student organizations from Engineering, Business, and Natural Sciences are collaborating to bring this event together to inspire and promote student entrepreneurs. Students who attend UT Entrepreneurship Week events will have the opportunity to meet Austin area entrepreneurs, UT student entrepreneurs, and UT entrepreneurship faculty.  Attendees will be exposed to university resources meant to enable the average UT student to start something of their own, including the new 30,000 square foot Longhorn Startup Camp, Bob Metcalfe’s 1 Semester Startup Class, ATI-U and uThinkTank, a student startup that helps other students start companies, organizations, and events by leveraging university connections and resources.

The schedule for the week is available at the link above.  The CNS Entrepreneurial Society will be hosting a Student Startup Showcase (7-9pm) after the “Austinperneur Panel” (6-7pm) in the SAC Black Box Theatre on Tuesday, March, 6th. For more information, see the web link or contact Assoc. Dean Skip Porter (sporter@austin.utexas.edu) or Alex Maingot, president of the CNS Entrepreneurial Society (amaingot@utexas.edu).
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Tuesday, 18 January 2022

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