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"Embracing Uncertainty as an Opportunity for Learning” Op-ed Featured in Inside Higher Ed

Joseph Holtgreive believes students can discover their untapped potential in dealing with failure

For many talented engineering students, college is often the first place they encounter failure. Northwestern Engineering’s Joseph Holtgreive understands this well.

Joseph HoltgreiveAs assistant dean for undergraduate engineering and director of the McCormick Office of Personal Development, Holtgreive works to foster more self-aware and empowered students capable of maximizing their personal growth. In a recent editorial in Inside Higher Ed, Holtgreive challenges colleges to help students overcome their experiences with failure by teaching them skills like mindfulness and emotional intelligence so they can recognize and take advantage of their untapped potential. 

Holtgreive cites initiatives adopted at Northwestern Engineering that have helped undergraduates manage stress in creative and effective ways. Non-traditional engineering courses like improvisation and swing dancing are offered to encourage students to think creatively and work collaboratively with their peers. In addition, the Office of Personal Development’s PATH Advising system motivates students to confront their emotions and organize a structured plan to overcome obstacles to their academic goals. He believes these opportunities leave a positive impact even after short-term challenges have been addressed. 

“If we do a good job of supporting these very intelligent young people at this critical juncture, we will not only help them past their immediate crises,” Holtgreive writes. “We will also help them unlock capacity that they didn’t know existed and ways of tapping into it.”

Read the editorial in Inside Higher Ed.