Often, we credit universities for being an area for students to succeed. We see it every day: students being recognized for their accomplishments, faculty being given plaudits for achieving great success in their field, etc.
But we forget that universities, and the educational system itself, are based on the idea of failing safely. Unlike any other job or community, a university allows both students and faculty to take chances and risks boldly. At their best, universities are experimental powerhouses that promote innovation and new ventures. At their worst, they are simply an institution focused on regurgitating old information that has long been obsolete.
At Gannon, students are given broad opportunities for leadership, scholarship and athletics. As an institution, we pride ourselves on “believing in the possibilities,” and that phrase also includes the possibility of failure.
That’s a good thing. Without failure, we would not be who we are today. For example, I’m keenly aware of the island of Sardinia off the coast of Italy because I once failed a test on it. We learn more from our failures than from our successes, and that translates to a more complete educational experience.
If students don’t fail at something during their time at Gannon, that likely means that they have not risked enough. Luckily, Gannon provides substantive opportunities for creative and academic exploration in a safe environment.
Students interested in policy can work with our Student Government Association without fear of compromising an entire community. Students interested in writing can work for Edge Magazine or The Gannon Knight and test their journalistic sensibilities. Students interested in being on the stage can fail boldly in auditions and finally find their voice in a character or show. Students interested in medicine can work with our local partners to get the connections that they need.
Regardless of what a student wants to do, it’s up to them to risk it all and push their own limits. Without that sense of urgency, innovation and commitment to avoid mediocrity, Gannon University risks becoming yet another line on an ever-growing list of failing higher-education institutions.
Yet, I don’t believe that this mediocrity is in the future of Gannon, or the Erie community. By focusing on creating strong partnerships within the region and by giving students the opportunity to “sin boldly” and innovate, Gannon is clearly focused on promoting the ideals of a liberal arts education.
I want to see students pushing the boundaries of their respective majors. I want to see journalism communication majors writing articles that make the administration uncomfortable. I want to see chemistry majors working on the next breakthrough. I want to see business students working with the Small Business Development Center to create the next big Erie industry.
We can do this. We can innovate. We can continue the tradition of excellence at Gannon University, by failing boldly and then trying and trying again until success comes to us.