Monday, April 28, 2014

Value is Determined by Character not Success or Failure

By Rachel Rooney, Toppel Peer Advisor
I recently read an article by the Chronicle of Higher Education called “Next Time, Fail Better.” It is written by Paula M. Krebs, an English professor at Wheaton College, and argues that English majors don’t know how to fail and compares them with computer science majors. I’m an English major, but I am also taking a computer science course this semester. I have worked very hard all semester to not fail and have tried many, many times to apply the concepts to the lab. Computer science has helped me learn how to fail in a way. How I found this article was actually because I Google-searched “how not to fail computer science.” This piece is my response to that article which is here:
Samuel Beckett said, “"Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better." Beckett was one the last great modernist writers, and lived a very fascinating life. If you have the time, you can read about him here: Something else I noticed that came up on Google was a question by someone who wanted to try computer science but was afraid to fail. That never crossed my mind when I signed up for the course. Or for any course outside my major. So, yes, I am afraid of failure. But I’m not afraid of trying. I believe that to focus on failure means missing out on the try part. There’s something to be said about a person’s character when they see the possibility of failure and decide to try their hardest anyway. To decide not to give up, not because of what is going to happen, but because of simply having the character to continue. Krebs wrote, “The work of coding was an endless round of failure, failure, failure before eventual success.” These verbs very accurately describe the frustrations of computer science. There are days when I sit on my floor and think about the frustrations of it and then get up and decide to do it anyways. There is something inside of us that is stronger than our failures. 

Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty… I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life. I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” I truly believe that nothing—or very few things—of worth are easy.  I advise you to take Roosevelt’s words to heart, but also I’m going to say that the article is wrong. English majors do know failure. Revision is a constant process. Write a paper. Revise. Revise again. English majors work hard, because it’s a creative expression, thought driven field. It’s subjective, unlike the computer science major, which is very inside the box; you do something to get a result. The main flaw of her paper is in comparing computer science and English, because they are both very different. Krebs does make a comparison of the two: “But that's an important difference between computer science and the humanities. When a program runs and produces a good result, it's perfect. It's awfully hard to define success the same way in the humanities. What we do, teaching or writing, can always be better. The program will never simply run.” While Krebs acknowledges the differences between the two fields, she still holds by the claim that English majors miss out on the lesson of failure. I believe English is not meant to be perfect. It’s not about getting a result, but about gathering ideas and putting pen to paper. It’s about reading literature and thinking and writing about it. It’s a process that involves forming opinions, finding evidence, creating a thesis, and proving a point. It’s a much broader complex field than computer science.

What I am writing next is the important part. Listen. The performance based perspective that says we are determined by either our success or our failure is a prevalent theme in the article. But it’s also a perspective I would encourage you not to embrace. Life, you, me, everyone, it’s all messy and nothing is perfect. Even in computer science there can be exceptions. It doesn’t matter if you fail or succeed. In thirty or forty years, it won’t matter if you got an A in that one class in college. People aren’t going to remember you for your grades. If you want to be an encouragement to those around you, dare to be a person who has self-respect and respect and concern for others. At the end of the day, how you lived—your character—is what matters. Don’t let people tell you that your value is determined by your success or your failure, because it’s a lie. Max Lucado might have said the truth the best way possible; “you are valuable because you exist. Not because of what you do or what you have done, but simply because you are.”

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Final Exams: Keeping it All in Perspective

By Kelly Martin, Toppel Peer Advisor

Finals... probably the bane of every student’s existence. The one thing that stands between you and winter or summer break and sweet freedom. Getting through finals involves a lot of stress: about the material you’re learning, how you’ve done in the class so far, how you hope to do on the exam in order to get that final grade you’re aiming for. Often it seems we spend more time calculating the exam grade we need than we do actually studying. And sometimes the amount of stress and pressure we put on ourselves actually prevents us from doing well; can’t focus while you study, freak yourself out while taking the exam, even sleeping through an exam after staying up too late studying. And not to mention all the health problems associated with pulling all nighters or getting minimal amounts of sleep.

So considering all this, I think college students need to step back and put some perspective on these exams we’re all about to take. While studying abroad last semester I adopted the mentality of being there for the experience of living in a new country, not necessarily there for the grades I would bring back to UM. While this may seem a bit too relaxed for some, it’s now a mentality I have brought back home to some extent. I’m not saying I don’t care about academics anymore- I still aim to do well in my classes and work hard. But rather than stressing over one mediocre test grade or killing myself studying for a final exam, I try to put it in perspective. These grades I get now have almost no impact on the rest of my life. Sure, if you fail every class, that will definitely have an impact. But if you’re an otherwise good student, a couple B-/B/B+ grades on your transcript will not kill you.
When you’re writing a resume, your GPA gets one line, if you even include it at all! But what takes up the most space? Your experience section. Rather than spending all your time in the library studying to get those perfect grades, consider the fact that you could be putting some of that time into doing things you really love, and that will come through on your resume. Join a club on campus and get involved with their events; get an internship in your field that you’re really excited about; volunteer with a local organization to get more experience. All of these things will have so much more meaning to a potential employer than your GPA will. And after your first job, or even six months after graduation, you take the GPA off your resume!

As you go into finals this year, remember that the grades you get on these exams and in these classes aren’t going to determine the rest of your life. Take a step back, take a deep breath, and relax. And if anything, take some time to start considering what you can do outside the classroom to supplement the education you’re getting and make it even more meaningful.

So from all myself and the rest of the Toppel team, good luck on finals! But remember, it’s not the end of the world- do your best, and make sure to focus on what’s most important!

Monday, April 21, 2014

Toppel Internship Program

By Maura Gergerich, Peer Advisor 

Found an internship for the summer? Congratulations! Good for you for taking that next step in advancing your career! Now, what should you do to prepare?  Try out the Toppel Internship Program (TIP).

What is TIP?
TIP is a program that provides students with a 1-credit transcript notation on your University of Miami transcripts.

Why Participate?
It’s nice to get recognition for the things you do. With TIP you get official recognition from the university. Yes, you can highlight your experience on your resume, but having it shown on your transcript gives it more emphasis when employers see it.  It may also be required by certain employers that you do receive credit for your internship. This happens mostly with unpaid internships, but that doesn’t mean that it won’t be required if you are getting paid. TIP also helps to make sure that you and your employer are on the same page when it comes to your goals. You don’t want to waste a summer sitting at a desk making copies if you were expecting to get hands on experience. TIP can make sure you get what you are expecting from your internship.

How to qualify
For the fall or spring semesters you have to be enrolled as a full time student. If you have a summer internship you do not need to be taking summer courses. Also in order to be a part of TIP you need to secure your internship and contact the Toppel Career Center to ensure that internship experience meets Toppel requirements (company, content of internship, hours, etc) via email at  Once you have an internship, the first step of TIP is to attend a mandatory orientation. This will explain in detail what exactly you do for TIP and can help answer and questions you might have.


Throughout your internship you will fill out a midway evaluation and at the very end you attend a reflection session. This is basically to keep you on track with the goals you have set out for yourself. It helps to make sure that you are getting the skills or knowledge or experience that you hoped to gain.

You can visit for more information and to see what dates are still available to attend the orientation. Best of luck interning!