Failure and Success in the Academy

By Susan Sterett, Jennifer Diascro, and Judith Grant

The Western Political Science Association’s Status on Women in the Profession Committee is pleased to introduce a new feature here at The New West blog, geared toward discussions of professional development and reflections on the academy, for seasoned, aspiring, and new political scientists. Our own experiences at different institutions and with different job searches, position us to reflect on the field honestly and openly.

For this series’ inaugural post we aim to contribute to the renewed discussion on success and failure in higher education. In this context, there are several important themes that we touch on below, and we encourage contributions from the WPSA membership on these issues by emailing your ideas to Meredith Conroy ( As we’ve been thinking about current discussions of success and failure, we find room for four different dimensions that are easy to forget in thinking about success and failure as attributes of individuals. These include pressures: (1) on higher education to deliver more while diversifying funding; (2) on individual faculty to produce, and teach students in more complex ways; (3) on institutions to support the health and success off students, and address multiple needs; (4) on faculty to integrate our work with our responsibilities to our families and communities. Below we think more about all of these, and invite stories from members of WPSA in an effort to continue this conversation.

And in this spirit, we would like to encourage you to register for our short course at the APSA conference in Philadelphia in September on Unlocking Success with Failure.  This half-day short course will focus on unlocking our success – as individuals and institutions – by exploring the failures in our personal and institutional stories. We will do so in the context of the many interdisciplinary intellectual frameworks that illuminate failure as inevitable and necessary for achievement.

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