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Snatching Success from the Jaws of Failure


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We celebrate our successes in designing programs abroad, but as for our failures – we put them behind us and forget them as soon as possible. And yet, it is the failures that can be most instructive. In this session, we'll bring a critical but cheerful eye to some of our less successful efforts in study abroad, joint trans-border initiatives, and international internship programs. As we map out the factors that contributed to unsuccessful outcomes, we'll identify the most important predictors of success for anyone starting the hard work of launching a new international initiative.

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Snatching Success from the Jaws of Failure

  1. 1. Dear Professor Edwards, My sincerest apologies for the long black out which followed our first exchange of emails. Unfortunately, last Spring, in April, part of the ceiling of our department fell down hitting a colleague and sending her to the hospital with a back injury. As a safety measure, the whole department was then closed off and we all had to be relocated in a makeshift space--three adjoining apartments. The moving took a very long time, with most of our stuff, from furniture to the department library, piled up in the garage, at -2! At that point, the University Administration decided to renovate the whole department spaces, and we are having classes while, on the two floors above our heads, workers are pulling down partition walls all the time...On top of all this, our head of the department resigned. The new one has been elected one week ago. I waited and waited before writing to you, hoping we might be able to come up with a solution, and in these past two days I again checked with the new head of the dept. the feasibility of carrying out our promise, but in these conditions we cannot guarantee any reasonable solution which may allow us to hold the seminar, and I know November 11-12 is round the corner. Also on behalf of the new head of Dept., I cannot but apologize, hoping we might have a chance in the future (as soon as we will have again a space where we can be operative in an acceptable way) to make up for our failed invitation, which makes me terribly sorry about. Once again, my sincerest apologies, Kindest regards, Carlo
  2. 2. Snatching success from the jaws of failure JANE EDWARDS BENT KEEVER MICHAEL PIPPENGER CIEE BERLIN, NOVEMBER 2015
  3. 3. our agenda today 1. We’ll tell some stories of things that haven’t worked well for us 2. We’ll examine the decision-making in creating these initiatives 3. With your help, we’ll identify together the factors that contribute to less than perfect outcomes 4. We’ll look at strategies for turn-arounds, modifications and terminations 5. We’ll end with some planning steps that can help ensure that things go right – and that when they don’t, something is nonetheless gained
  4. 4. Michael Pippenger The presentations I will not be giving today: The one about the program where the professor expected us to purchase silk sheets for their accommodation. The one about the program where we put students under what amounted to house arrest for a week in a global capitol city. The one about bad hires from failed searches in which references weren’t fully “accurate” in their “recommendations…” The one about failed exchange partnerships in which colleagues asked: “are you breaking up with us?” and “couldn’t we just sign an agreement to prove we’re good friends?”
  5. 5. Why can’t we talk about these failures? EMOTIONAL REASONS Shame Fear Anxiety Insecurity STRUCTURAL REASONS Institutional procedures Legal requirements Corporate identity University hierarchies
  6. 6. What failure looks and feels like…
  7. 7. A Case Study: Building a Program in Beirut and Cairo Democracy and Constitutional Engineering Two courses: Comparative Democratic Politics and Data Analysis and Statistics for Political Science Research conceived and designed by Professor John Huber Cohort: 14 Columbia students and 12 regional students Duration: Approximately one month Tuition: $10,000 (scholarships available for all students) Location: traveling between The American University in Cairo and American University of Beirut
  8. 8. Stakeholders involved Faculty member Department Provost’s Office President’s Office Columbia Global Centers Five partner institutions in region Students Risk Management General Counsel
  9. 9. A tale of two cities slide (version 1) <
  10. 10. A tale of two cities (version 2)
  12. 12. From Failure to Success: Hello Tunis and Istanbul!
  13. 13. Lessons learned Foster clear communication and fear not Acknowledge weakness and ambiguity Institute change based on failure Laugh Understand cross-cultural challenges Recount your failures to your students, colleagues, supervisors, institutional partners Expect fluidity and respond with nimbleness
  14. 14. Jane Edwards Yale University The Yale-PKU Joint Undergraduate Program in Beijing The stuff nightmares are made of Presidential initiative National visibility in two countries Stakeholders in every constituency you can imagine Lack of grounding in the curriculum Lack of working similar institutional models Lack of consultation with faculty Lack of analysis of student interest Complications of institutional partnerships with other countries Local issues, in this case environmental
  15. 15. S0 what are the factors here? Institutional pressure Financial expectations Misguided stakeholders Intransigent partners Incompatible faculty priorities Lack of student interest Sudden global political-economic shifts Externalities: civil unrest, natural disasters, environmental issues, epidemics, the World Cup… AND???
  16. 16. Brent Keever CIEE Paris Study Center, CIEE Paris – Université Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris 3 Paris Film and New Media Collaborative Project, 2013 - ? “Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.” Samuel Beckett, Worstward Ho (also cited by Stanislas Wawrinka’s inner left forearm . . . .) Master’s-level courses in film and media studies, assured by the CIEE Paris center, taken by Paris 3 and CIEE students. Launched in 2013. Initiated by Paris 3 Three tracks: Theory and History, Cultural Studies, and New Technology and Cultural Economy “Light” version to be offered in Spring 2014. Three seminar series, three US scholars, 18 hours of instruction. At CIEE Paris, for Paris 3 students.  March 2014, 3 seminars become 3 talks. Delivered by specialists in the field from the US (Petro (UW), Williams (UC), Andrew (Yale).  3 talks in Film History, Cultural Studies, World and International Cinema.  Warning, Flop Zone. . . .  And yet . . . .Global Cinema/Media Worlds, Fall 2015. CIEE Paris / Paris 3.
  17. 17. Global Cinema / Media Worlds, CIEE Paris, Paris 3, Flipping the Flop Language and culture class around Global, World and Trans-national Film and Media Reading comprehension, weekly viewings of films from King Kong to Lawrence of Arabia to My Beautiful Laundrette to Bird People to Man of Steel. Work on language exchange, prononciation, media analysis lexicon. Inspiration, Dudley Andrew. The Chiasmus between Exploring and Exploiting. And the presence of the media eye in the encounter with the « Other ». Chiasmus? A different way to see the relationship between linked though not equal terms. « All writers read, but not all readers write. » Relatedly, « not all explorers exploit, but all exploiters explore. » Can the same be said about the relationship between mistakes and failures ? And how can we be sensitive to how different cultures recognize this relationship?
  18. 18. How can we reduce the anguish? Distinguish mistakes from failures Avoid Innovationitis: or, How to Avoid the Frenzy of the Ever-New and Better Articulate effectively the value of failed initiatives to the wider community Have a model to hand for handling failure in real-time with staff and colleagues
  19. 19. Right. Onward to success. Thank you. Fail often and cheerfully.