‘Stanford, I Screwed Up’ returns to campus

March 31, 2016, 12:34 a.m.

The Stanford Resilience Project will hold its second annual “Stanford, I Screwed Up” event, which celebrates the failures and adversity Stanford students have faced in the past, tonight at 7:30 p.m on Meyer Green. The event will feature 12 performers who will share the challenges they have faced using different forms of artistic expression.

The Daily sat down with Event Manager Aaron Grayson ’11, Academic Skills Coach and Volunteer Coordinator Alana Kim Garcia ’08, and Director of the Resilience Project Adina Glickman  to discuss the event in greater depth and the experiences they have had in its preparation.

The Stanford Daily (TSD): What are each of your roles in preparing for this event?

Aaron Grayson (AAG): I am the event manager for “Stanford, I Screwed Up.” That includes being the point person for each of the administrative offices on campus that we have to work with in terms of securing the venue and working with the vendors. I also work with the performers in helping them develop their stories that they will be sharing on stage. We have dancers, singers, storytellers, spoken word artists — the full gamut of artistic expression.

Alana Garcia (AKG): I’m Alana Garcia, and I work as an academic skills coach and also support The Resilience Project. Part of that is helping with this event and helping with a lot of different things including making and posting videos, working with the performers to get them ready for the stage and others odds and ends. I am also organizing the volunteer corps for the day of.

Adina Glickman (ARG): I’m Adina Glickman and I am the Director of the Resilience Project, of which “Stanford, I Screwed Up” is our signature event, and I oversee the whole process.

TSD: In what ways has “Stanford, I Screwed Up” accomplished its goals as part of Stanford’s Resilience Project?

ARG: The purpose of the event is to bring a combination of celebratory tone and authentic voice to the concept of failure, setback and learning from failures. We did it for the first time last year and we had over 800 people in attendance, which to us says that that’s a meaningful experience for people on campus.

It speaks to something that students feel is important. We got good feedback afterwards, and someone posted on the Facebook page that “this is the best thing that Stanford has ever done.” Just the quality of the feedback that we’ve gotten is that it’s a great event. It brings the conversation of failure out in the open; it’s not hushed or dark or regretful.

TSD: What has planning for this event involved and in what ways will its execution this year be different from last year’s?

AAG: If there’s one word that encapsulates this whole process, it’s partnership. It’s funny that it’s called “Stanford, I Screwed Up” because the magnitude of this event requires that you don’t screw anything up. That includes thinking about bike safety and points of ingress and egress and fire marshals and the whole safety aspect.

On top of that, I think it requires you to think on your feet. I work with students who have their own sets of mistakes and failures that they’re going through, and I need to be accommodating and supportive at the same time to ensure that they do everything that they need to do for them to do the best performance that they can of their stories.

ARG: These are the primary elements of the event that are not on the poster and each of them has a huge amount of backstory and complexity to it, not the least of which is the performances and getting the students ready for their performances.

It’s different this year because we have larger ensembles on stage that are moving. That’s a really different element. Just in terms of getting students to the point that they know what they want to say and are prepared to say that to a group of potentially a thousand strangers is a really important part of developing resilience…

What went best last year was that there was so much warmth, respect and love in that crowd. The event had the right tone and the audience had an experience that, for a big crowd, really was encouraging and not like anything else. When you get 800 students together for Discover Stanford, it’s a great energy, but it’s totally different from this. This was a mixed crowd of graduates, undergraduates, staff and community members. We want that part to remain the same.

TSD: Ideally, what impact would you like to see “Stanford, I Screwed Up” have on the Stanford community?

ARG: I would love for this to become something that students can own more. There are a couple of students who approached us and are hoping to develop a student group that’s in support of and carries forward the mission of The Resilience Project. I would love to see this be a much more student-driven event.

TSD: What makes you most believe in “Stanford, I Screwed Up”’s purpose and how would you encourage others to attend?

AAG: When I give a synopsis of what I do as event manager of an event called “Stanford, I Screwed Up,” people laugh when they hear the title of the event. I tell them it’s a celebration of failure, and students tell their stories about the times that they’ve messed up and how they become resilient.

I tell them that we have some students sharing their experiences of being on academic probation and how they’ve had to figure out some things personally in their lives for them to be that much more ready to handle Stanford at the speed that it goes all the time.

One of the people I described this event to outside of the Stanford community said he wanted to bring his high school daughter because he understood that it’s something that doesn’t affect only college students but high school students as well. There’s not a lot of persuading that needs to happen. When people see other people being brave enough to share their personal experiences, it’s automatic.

TSD: What will students have to look forward to at this year’s “Stanford, I Screwed Up” and what are you most eager for?

AAG: Audience members can look forward to incredibly brave and creative people telling their stories in a variety of ways. You have poets, you have dancers, you have dynamic storytellers, and you have people who are sharing videos and presentations about experiences they’ve had in different parts of the world that have helped shaped their experiences at Stanford.

I think a lot of people need to hear that because a lot of people come from outside of California and get to this California sunshine, where everyone is so chill and they all look like they have it together when they don’t. I think they’ll get that sense that it’s okay to be me where I am and I’m just going to keep moving forward.

For the performers, this is equally as powerful, if not more. I think it’ll be like releasing a huge weight on their shoulders. Seriously, I think that just watching them grow and making connections about their experiences in the past and how that is shaping their presents and futures; it’s super cool to see. You can see these lightbulb moments where they never noticed how that experience makes them who they are today.

AKG: I’m most looking forward to students getting up there and finalizing their performances. Some of them have never performed in front of anyone before in any capacity. I feel very much like a mentoring mom type. I am really proud of them.

Celebrating failures is like the other side of the coin, the essence of humanity. As Stanford students, everyone had some type of achievement that propelled them to be here. Understanding that with every Ying there’s a Yang is what’s unifying. There are so many opportunities to celebrate the awards you get and the tests you ace. This is the one time where you can celebrate that to get there, it may take a lot of rejections.

This interview has been edited and consolidated for length and clarity.


Contact Angelique Dakkak  at angeldak ‘at’ stanford.edu.

Correction: An earlier version of this article mistakenly said that Glickman, not Garcia, was the Stanford alumnus who graduated in 2008. The Daily regrets this error.

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