From accidentally inappropriate posters to burning a hole in a desk at a college interview, students, faculty, and alumni celebrated their failures at the first-ever Screw Up Nights this past Tuesday.

“We call it fail forward. Once you fail, if you learn from it and move on, you fail forward so it takes you to the next step,” said first-year Deniz Cengiz, an organizer of the event. “We think it’s important to cultivate an environment where failing is not something to be ashamed of, but something to celebrate and learn from.”

The event took place in the Welles-Brown Room and  was hosted by Barbara J. Burger iZone.

According to Cengiz, the turnout was more than anticipated — 70 compared to the expected 30 or 40 people.

“At iZone, we love to embrace our failures,” iZone Director Julia Maddox said. “We believe it is an essential step in the innovation process, or at least a byproduct. When you are coming up with cool and creative stuff, you are going to come up with some duds along the way, and we should embrace it and learn from it wherever we can.”

Screw Up Nights featured six speakers and then moved to an open-mic portion — where anyone in the crowd could share their stories.

Maddox started the event with her story about an initial design she had for a poster advertising Screw Up Nights. Her poster featured the Hindenburg disaster. Out of context, though, she said, it could have had poor connotations.

She was followed by Anna Rosensweig, assistant professor and undergraduate advisor of French, who talked about a botched interview Rosensweig danced and mimed her dissertation in French after misinterpreting a question by her interviewers.

Other speakers included Maurini Strub, director of assessment for River Campus Libraries, and Nicholas Hammond, assistant director for CETL. Strub discussed her failure during her last assessment project while Hammond discussed procrastinating his thesis for years and a  mistake he made on his father’s farm that could have killed all of his cattle.

“When you make a mistake, you have to make it right,” Hammond said. “If you can’t make it whole, at least make it right […] it’s never too late to go back.”

Cengiz drew lots of laughs with her own screw-up.

Cengiz was gifted a pair of red fuzzy handcuffs as a joke for her birthday. Later on, she had to pass through an X-Ray machine to get into a mall and had forgotten about the handcuffs. This led to a bit of embarrassment with the guards.

“I think it’s important to make mistakes,” first-year Ashley Sibanda said. “I think [Screw Up Nights] helps my self-esteem, so they should have more of these. It was really funny.”

The guest speakers finished with sophomore Ara Gonzales. She discussed how she became too in love with her non-profit organization to the point where she had forgotten to share her passion with the other members. This led to the organization falling apart.  

“I forgot to enjoy the process,” Gonzales said. “I called it ‘my’ project. Not ‘ours.’ Not ‘us.’ No teamwork there. I am so thankful that that happened because from now on, I am totally convinced that we should all just enjoy the process then.”

For the open-mic forum, undergraduate students shared stories that ranged from a failed attempt to grow 120 radishes, interview troubles,a misinterpreted private showing at the Gleason theater, and buying diapers instead of pads for a roommate.

By far, the funniest story was about a college interview gone wrong with the CTO of an Indian technology corporation. A homemade 3-D printer ended up burning a hole in the interviewer’s desk and almost caused a fire.

The iZone hopes to make Screw Up Nights a monthly event. In the near future, it plans to have a few of the deans share their screw-ups.

“I learned about how diverse the experiences are of the students at the U of R,” first-year Mike Arinarkin said. “We had stories about Germany, stories about India, stories about farmlands. I will probably speak myself next time.”

Tagged: Failures

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