Over 50 students gathered in United By Blue Wednesday evening to hear student reflections on a topic that is often stigmatized at Penn — failure.
"Wharton Story Slam: Failures" featured six current Wharton students who shared their encounters with failure of all sorts — in their classes, their career prospects, and even their personal relationships. They touched on topics ranging from breakups to family tensions to difficulty finding jobs and summer internships.
The event was hosted by Wharton Wellness and Wharton Council. Wharton junior and Wharton Wellness co-chair Lauren Kim said the groups organized the event to combat the shameful stigmatization of failure that encompasses Penn’s academic environment.
“We hope it will shed light on the fact that often the people that are most successful have had the biggest failures as well,” Kim said.
At the event, Wharton junior Cristina Pogorevici spoke about her "bumpy" transition to college as an international student and her struggle to secure the perfect job or internship that Penn students are working to achieve. Pogorevici said she eventually secured a fellowship with Wharton’s Social Impact Research Experience program, which allowed her to intern with female entrepreneurs abroad.
“Failure has the power to transform your entire experience," Pogorevici said of her time at Penn. "We fail, we act, and we keep trying until we succeed.”
Wharton and Engineering senior Jordan Lei described a difficult day he had when he failed to hand out resumes at an on-campus job fair and later struggled on a computer science midterm. With a laugh, he told the group he went home to take an IQ test to remind himself that he was “intelligent enough to be here.”
Lei said while this experience was daunting in the moment, he came to realize that he was not defined by academic and professional achievements. At the end of his speech, he reintroduced himself to the audience as an artist, a poetry buff, and a friend to many — rather than describing his class year and major.
“Though I am a student here, that doesn’t define me," he said. "And I am better off for knowing that.”
Kim noted that while Wharton Wellness has often brought in speakers relevant to students’ prospective fields, the Story Slam was meant to highlight the voices of current students.
The Story Slam is just one initiative working to combat the stigma surrounding failure, stress, and mental health at Penn. Last March, the student publication The Signal launched the Anti-Resume Project, which profiled the lives of recent Penn graduates and emphasized the importance of their struggles on their paths to eventual success.
“Many people say that everything’s fine. 'I do well in all my classes, all my clubs, and recruiting is going great,'" Kim said. "But the reality is that there are many different touchpoints in which we do fail, and so we’re working to change that conversation from hiding those things to learning from them and being able to share with the larger Penn community.”