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Kopp's Weekly - Struggling Is Part of Science

Kopp's Weekly - Struggling Is Part of Science

Struggle is an essential part of the learning process.

Dear Students,


This week I want to share two conversations with you. In one, a student seemed glum and worried about next steps. A bright person, he'd worked hard to get to UT. Now here, one senses his hesitation to take risks, to try something new, or to explore, because of a pressure to succeed. In another conversation, a student and I discussed whether he should drop a class. After a less than successful first midterm, he started doing the homework in his class more regularly, and had really picked up his score on the second midterm. Though not everything was perfect, he'd tried several new studying methods and one of them was working. He decided to stick it out to the end of the course.

At the Texas Parents' Association Celebration of Leadership Dinner honoring student leaders and leadership, keynote speaker and architect Rick Archer spoke of similar themes. He drew a picture of a building rising visibly high in the air which he labeled leadership, and then pointed to the invisible foundation below ground which he labeled character. Quoting Henry David Thoreau, "You cannot dream yourself in to a character, you must hammer and forge one." Character, in other words, comes from struggling with challenges. That's important for us to value, since research shows that struggle is part of the learning process itself. It is trying and trying again, like Edison with the light bulb. Any scientist can tell you that is how progress is made

Focusing only on a narrow checklist of successes or being overly protective, as author Pamela Paul recently wrote in The New York Times, will only shield us from the meaningful rewards. You all are undertaking great challenges that probably would seem unimaginable to the high school senior that once was you. With any luck, you will continue to take those on and grow so as to keep pace with the innate curiosity that first brought you here.

Best wishes for the coming week,
Sacha Kopp
Associate Dean for Undergraduate Education,
College of Natural Sciences
Telephone: (512) 232-0677

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Monday, 10 May 2021

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