News & Media

Learning From Failure in Student-Success Programs

Administrators are almost always happy to lead conference sessions about their institutions’ successes, but sessions centered on their failures are rare. You learn a lot from mistakes, sure, but standing up in a hotel ballroom to talk about how you and your colleagues screwed up — even with the best intentions — may not be a popular move back on campus. Setbacks are common nonetheless, as is benefiting from them. “Many of the things we do in higher education seem like good ideas at the time with the information we have, but there are certain things you can only see as do-overs,” says Tiffany Mfume, director of Morgan State University’s Office of Student Success and Retention. “What we don’t do usually is admit that.”