Rams Fail Forward encourages students to accept failure

Laura Studley

Colorado State University’s Health Network is asking students to accept failure instead of fearing it with their initiative Rams Fail Forward.

“Rams Fail Forward is our failure normalization and failure recovery public messaging,” said Viviane Ephraimson-Abt, manager of resiliency and well-being. “CSU really wanted to do something to break the common myth that failure means that we’re not succeeding. Often what happens on the path to success is that we have many mishaps that happen, failure that happens, learning experiences that happen and those are actually really useful for us.”

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Through the program, students can take a pledge that promises to embrace and work through their failure while engaging in self-care, trying new things without apprehension and discussing life’s hardships when they arise. 

Ephraimson-Abt said she hopes that people will not take the pledge just to take it, but that it creates a conversation about failure normalization.

“(Failure) is kind of inevitable sometimes,” said Gracie Adler, an undeclared freshman. “Everyone goes through it and goes through ups and downs but I feel like when you fail you really realize how much harder you have to work. It gives you a different perspective.”

CSU is not the only University to decide that failure should be normalized. Bentley University, Stanford University and many others are supporting a variety of different programs to help students across the country, according to The Coloradoan. 

Students believe failure is something to be ashamed of, said Juan Rivas, a collegiate success coach for the Collaborative for Student Achievement. Conversations about failure are difficult to have with students because they don’t want to let their family down and don’t understand why they aren’t doing as well in a class or program as they want to be, he said.

“Students tend to think they’re not good enough to take that class or they’re not good enough for the program,” Rivas said. “I think it’s helpful to have someone to talk to about failure with. It really helps to understand what a setback stands for and that it’s not the end all be all for the student, it’s not the finale, it’s not the end.”

Rams Fail Forward is an initiative to promote healing from failure, Ephraimson-Abt said. It is an attempt to allow students to not be as hard on themselves when they fail.

“I think in academia we tend to have a lot of discords on how to be successful,” Ephraimson-Abt said. “We don’t have a lot of conversation around when things aren’t going well, how do you actually recover from that, how do you deal with it, how do you face it and how can you learn from it, so it’s our attempt to balance that out.”

Along with many other resources for academic concerns, financial needs and job resources, Rams Fail Forward encourages students to reach out to various mental health services if needed. The Jed Foundation, a non-profit organization that exists to protect emotional health and prevent suicide for teens and young adults, is one resource listed by CSU for college students struggling with the emotional distress that may be caused by failure. 

“Everyone experiences failure at some point- it’s a normal part of life,” said Nance Roy, chief clinical officer working alongside JED in an email to The Collegian. “The key is to develop healthy ways of coping with failure and tolerating the sometimes uncomfortable feelings that come with it. We often learn more from our failures than we do from our successes.  Allowing oneself to fail, getting through it, and coming out in the other side makes us stronger and more resilient in the long run.”

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Laura Studley can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @laurastudley_.