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Resilience Resume Project

The Resilience Resume Project is a collaborative effort of the Career Center and Office of Health Promotion designed to help Villanova students see that success does not happen overnight and the journey to it is often full of difficult moments - even for the most successful among us. To illustrate this, members of the Nova Nation have shared stories including things like jobs they didn't get, awards they didn't win, times when they failed a big test or ideas they had for a career that didn't work out. This is what we're calling an example of a "Resilience Resume," sharing defining moments in a career through a different lens.

We hope you will be inspired by their ability to embrace the challenges, summon their courage and resilience and willingness to vulnerably share these moments with you.

Jay Wright at a press conference

"In November 2004, we were about to begin our fourth season at Villanova. We had yet to reach an NCAA Tournament. Over breakfast at the Villanova Diner, journalist Dana O’Neil told me she felt compelled to write that another miss might make Villanova consider a change. Although I was feeling none of that pressure from our Athletic Director, Vince Nicastro, I understood the narrative. We were hired to win and had yet to do so consistently. At that moment, doubt was perfectly natural. Yet what our staff was seeing each day in practice told us we were close. We elected to stay the course, and as our young team matured, we turned a corner, eventually posting a 24-8 record that allowed us to advance to the 2005 NCAA Tournament Sweet 16."

Coach Wright's Resilience Resume Social Media Post

Teresa Nance Headshot

"I come from an aspiring middle-class Black family. That means that of my five sisters and brothers, three of us grew up in inner-city Cleveland and three in a more affluent suburb of Cleveland called Shaker Heights. My mom stayed at home—sort of. She was involved in all our various schools, our community and of course, the inner-city parish we never left even after we moved. Consequently, education and the civil rights movement were critically important in our household. The only way to improve the lives of our family and our race was through education. Implicit here is the obligation to do both, of course. 

I did well in school and the activity that gave me identity was debate. I was in a mostly white high school and my oratorical skills and teammates shielded me from the loneliness and isolation that seemed inevitable. 

With my success came the family belief that I was headed to law school. And yet, I also did a ton of service. I loved teaching and looked forward to any opportunity to volunteer.

When I went to college, while I continued to debate, I also prepared myself as a teacher (student teaching, etc.) My family, however, kept telling me that I was better than being 'just' a teacher. So, I took the LSAT, did the applications and even went on interviews. The moment of truth came in one interview when an admissions person at a law school near my home asked, 'so why do you want to be a lawyer?' I knew the answer I was supposed to say, and I even started to go through my carefully rehearsed presentation. Instead, 'the great debater' sat in silence, head down and just mumbled, 'I don’t know!' Needless to say, I was rejected from law school. More importantly, I applied to graduate school in Rhetoric and never looked back."

Dr. Nance's Resilience Resume Social Media Post

Joyce Russell

“Throughout my life, I’ve had various professional and personal obstacles and setbacks that have called for resilience on my part and the need to pick myself up and keep going. I think the toughest obstacles were when they were totally unexpected and consequently, they threw me off.

One example was in a job situation where I was up for a promotion, expecting everything to go smoothly. I put together a strong portfolio for the promotion and I assumed it would be a slam dunk. And yet it wasn’t. One person was critical of my accomplishments. This really threw me off since I had no inkling he felt this way. Not only was I caught off guard, but I was disappointed, since I thought this person was a supporter of mine based on our interactions. I could not understand his motives or rationale. The whole experience caused me stress for months (my dentist told me I was grinding my teeth!)-I just couldn’t understand it.

While I did succeed in the promotion, the experience was really stressful. No matter how much we may want everyone to like us, not everyone will. I realized I could either stay consumed with why he was against me or I could just let it go and move on, knowing that I would never fully understand it. And that is what I did. It actually helped me later in life since I realized that not everything is predictable or that we have control over everything.

To me, resilience means calling on your support group–whether that’s your family, your friends and/or your faith, to help you stay focused each day, and to remember that you just need to stay strong that one day. Sometimes we worry about the next week or month or year, and this totally overwhelms us. For me, I prayed to stay positive each day and I still follow this today, many years later. This has taught me that tough challenges will be there and yet we must push onward if we really want to make an impact in the world. We can’t let others hold us back. If we are resilient, we can handle one day at a time.”

Dean Russell's Resilience Resume Social Media Post

Kathy Byrnes

“I graduated summa cum laude from college and a year later started law school at Duke University. I was on a trajectory for worldly success, coming out of a top law school and working for a prestigious law firm in Washington D.C., and at a law firm in Philadelphia. The problem was, I was miserable. Though I loved the study of law – its nuance, its power, its logic, its analysis – I did not like enjoy the practice of law, at least in the “big law firm” setting. When I thought about my situation, I thought –I’ve committed three hard years of my life to law school, and tens of thousands of dollars of student debt, what can I do now? I was a complete fraud and failure. I dressed up every day, I took depositions and reviewed documents, I holed up in the library to research caselaw, wrote motions and briefs, yet I despaired. This was not what I wanted with my life. I sought connection, meaning, purpose; for me, I was not finding those things in what appeared to others to be a very credible, reputable legal career that also offered significant financial compensation.

Ultimately, I realized I needed to walk away; I needed to find another path to explore. Since I was in my early 20s, I’ve had a mantra: If I died tomorrow, would I like how I lived today? I realized I would be most disappointed if I did indeed die tomorrow. I needed to change that. After some searching, I found the opportunity to work at Villanova – first at the law school, then in Student Life. When I first made the change, my salary became 50% of what it had been. But I lived simply and had some savings from my lawyering days. And I took the leap to a new career, to what became a true vocation. And I have not looked back. What I’ve learned from this experience is that it is hard to know what you want to do for a career when you are 18, or when you are 22 or even 32. It’s okay to explore, to try different things. Every experience we grow from – we learn, we develop, and we take those lessons with us to the next part of the journey. I also learned that life is indeed a journey – that’s not just a cliché. We continue to discover what fulfills us, what we are good at, how and with whom we want to spend our time. I’ve learned that this discovery takes time – and that’s okay too. In fact, it probably takes a lifetime. 

I can also say that I’ve learned to love aging: because every day I learn something new, I become a different version of myself, and collectively, over enough days, I am slowly becoming a better version of myself. That only comes with time, with patience, with the bumps and bumbles along the way, which have helped me. I’ve learned from them and acquired wisdom from them. And I feel grateful for both the successes and for the hard things because all of those things together make me who I am, and make me better at what I do in my work life and in my personal life … because of them. I feel blessed.”

Kathy Byrne's Resilience Resume Social Media Post

Rev. Rob Hagan

“The world is full of success stories, and we know that life is also full of struggle. It is amazing when we come to realize how connected those two experiences are to one another. Success is so often the fruit of strife and struggle. When we see people, who make it to the top of the mountain, let us not forget about the climb, the missteps, the people along the way who help us overcome the obstacles on the road.

I have had the privilege and the joy of working closely with our Villanova Men’s Basketball team. The recent success is known to all, and everyone loves to point to the pinnacle of success culminating in the National Championships in both 2016 and 2018.

One year that people rarely talk about is 2015. The year when Villanova was knocked out in the first round…when we came up short…when we did not win it all! I can recall a locker room full of broken hearts and dreams. There were unfulfilled expectations, national media reporting using words like “failure”, crying flutists and yet another Villanova team coming up short.

It was inspiring to see each member of that team taking ownership of things that “I” could have done better. No finger-pointing but rather, with the passage of some time, renewed hearts, and minds…There came a humble desire to learn, grow and strive to get a better mind, body, soul and spirit.

The same fallen broken-hearted teammates went back to work in the summer with a renewed sense of urgency, humility, wisdom, and commitment to the core values that make up the Villanova Basketball family. The hardship and disappointment became the very catalyst for growth, and a spirit of unselfishness to accomplish a common goal. The goal was NOT to win a Championship but to become the best version of self and team we could possibly be.

It was Nelson Mandela who said: “I never lose. I either win or learn.” A friend of mine offered the insight he was given after wallowing in a recent setback for too long. “When depression sets in…through God’s grace we can rearrange those letter and spell: I Pressed On!”

Let us never be afraid to fail. Let us continue to live boldly and with courage to learn and grow. Let us strive for success, not by avoiding all setbacks but by moving through them to higher ground together!"

Fr. Hagan's Resilience Resume Social Media Post

Dr. Lucky

“So I almost failed at this assignment! I missed the deadline for submitting my contribution to the Resilience Resume Project! How’s that for failure? For doers, go-getters, high achievers like us, I have learned that one aspect of failure is learning how to cope with, navigate and negotiate the desire for perfection. For, as Winston Churchill aptly asserted, “perfection is the enemy of progress.” That is where I have experienced my moments of profound failure—failing to make progress on a project, paper, book or new venture because everything was not perfect. Too many times than I care to recall, I have found myself defeated before I even got started, wallowing in frustration and self-pity because I haven’t done what I said I was going to do. Why? Because I wasn’t satisfied with the first sentence, or my initial plans didn’t “wow” me or I gained a pound after starting a new lifestyle change instead of hitting my goal weight overnight. So what did I do? I sat still, which ultimately worked against me because I didn’t move forward. I have finally learned that there is no such thing as perfect. Every draft needs a rewrite. Every blueprint needs revising. Every stumble needs a doover. So this year, I’m going to make progress instead of trying to produce perfection. That. Defeats. Failure."

Dr. Lucky's Resilience Resume Social Media Post

Fr. Peter

“I attended a small, Catholic high school in Royal Oak, Michigan. There were 84 people in my graduating class and, for the most part, we moved from the elementary school to the high school building next door. My decision to attend Villanova University came as a surprise to many, as Philadelphia was a world away. Less than half of my graduating class planned to attend college, and only two of us were leaving the state. It was a different time, and college was not on the radar for many first-generation students like me. Attending Villanova University was a huge step forward. For the first time ever, I was going to be on my own, away from the comforts of home and the people I had grown up with.

Freshman year is a difficult transition no matter who you are or where you are from. Moving from Detroit to Philadelphia was an adjustment, to say the least. I had to adapt to the East Coast culture and to living in an institutional environment. For the first time in my life, I was uncomfortable.

I assumed classes would be the easy part, as school had always come easy for me. I was an A-B student and honestly, the Bs were few. I never remember getting anything below those grades. I anticipated that college classes would be demanding, as I had heard the stories about professors trying to intimidate freshmen. However, I didn’t think it would be a problem for me – I had a good educational background and was prepared. I soon discovered this was not necessarily the case.

Freshman English had a heavy focus on writing and the first paper I submitted came back with a big red F and an accompanying message: “Where did you go to High School and HOW did you ever get accepted?”  I felt like someone punched me in the stomach. I have never received anything below a B, let alone an F. Questions of self-doubt invaded my thoughts. Was coming here a big mistake? Maybe I wasn’t smart enough to fit in at this school. What if I failed again?

However, looking back, I now realize how much I needed that F. It was a wake-up call. I needed to experience the discomfort that came with adjusting to Villanova in order to grow, in order “to become what I was not yet.” That failure taught me to be resilient.

Although challenges and obstacles will come, you can push through and succeed like I did after that initial failing grade. And now look where it has taken me. "

Fr. Peter's Resilience Resume Social Media Post

Provost Maggitti

“As the fifth out of six kids and the first to go away to college, I hadn’t done as much career exploration as might be the case nowadays. I set off to college thinking I was going to be a doctor and that was a first inflection point where my intended path didn’t work out for me. Instead, I got into industrial sales.

While I had a good career, it never sparked a passion in me. It wasn’t until I went back to school for my MBA that I started to seriously consider a larger universe of options that might better fit my career aspirations and interests. At that time, I was getting my MBA at Johns Hopkins University and my wife suggested that I avail myself of the programs at the Career Center.

After taking several interest inventories and personality assessments, what kept coming up for me was college professor—a career I never really considered. As I researched it further, I realized that it was something I was very interested in pursuing. I decided at that point to make a complete career shift and entered a PhD program to become a college professor.

The message here is that we’re always exploring what we want to do, no matter our age. It’s never too late to make a change. Villanova’s Career Center is an invaluable resource not only for our students, but also for our alumni through our Experienced Career Services team. I’m a huge believer in the work that the Career Center does and the value it provides. "

Provost Maggitti's Resilience Resume Social Media Post

Dr. Welker

“One day towards the end of September 1995, I walked into one of the many nondescript classrooms in Ernest Cockrell, Jr Hall at The University of Texas of Austin. I was there because I had decided that I wanted to pursue my PhD after working in consulting for two years. I quit my job and my husband and I packed up our belongings and drove them from Pittsburgh to Austin. My husband was working as a management consultant and had found a wonderful job… based out of Philadelphia. He flew out of Austin’s airport every Monday and returned on Friday nights and I would meet him in Philadelphia about once a month. I was taking three graduate classes that met right in a row: Monday, Wednesday, Friday at 8:30 (Consolidation and Settlement), 9:30 (Shear Strength), and 10:30 (Slope Stability). I was taking classes from world-renowned professors. It was exciting, but I felt like I was in over my head. My 9:30 class was with my advisor, Dr. David Daniel. He was a masterful teacher that could make very complex topics understandable. Well, to everyone but me, apparently. On that fateful day I took my seat in the middle of the classroom and he handed back our first exam. A 42. Out of a 100. I was devastated. Suddenly, my mind was racing… “What I am doing here? Do I even belong here? How in the world did I ever think this crazy living arrangement was ever going to work with my husband? I’m making a mess of our life and now I’m failing? Will Dr. Daniel kick me off his research team because I’m so awful? Will my classmates judge me because now I’m a crying girl?” As these thoughts raced through my mind, the tears poured down my face. So now, not only was I failure, I was a crying failure! A crying failure in the middle of the classroom. After class, Dr. Daniel very gently asked me to stop by his office after my next class. I managed to pull myself together and get through my next class. I then popped my head in his office, “Dr. Daniel, you wanted to see me?” I sheepishly asked. He asked me to come in. He was compassionate and kind, so compassionate actually, that I burst into tears, again! After managing to stop the flow of salty water once again down my now blotchy face, we set about making a plan to get me back on track. I can’t say I turned into a Shear Strength expert, but I did manage to earn a B in that class and my PhD three years later."

Dr. Welker's Resilience Resume Social Media Post

Kevin Covington

“When I reflect on my undergraduate days, especially my first year in college, I was so excited and optimistic to start.  However, the first semester ended quite differently than I had hoped.  In high school, I was the type of student who really liked going to classes and did relatively well.  But when I got to college, the classes were much different than I had expected, they were more lectures than my high school classes.  I had honors most of my high school career and I thought that college would be similar, at least the classwork would be.  I did what was asked of me and not much else.  I didn’t take notes unless they were written on the board, and I certainly didn’t study because I didn’t really have to in high school and that earn me honors then.  Slowly, I began to do poorly on quizzes and exams, and it seemed as if everyone around me knew more about college than did I.  It was as if I was a step or two behind my peers; they knew what to study and how to study.  After the first semester doing everything that I did in high school to earn honors, I was placed on academic probation in college.  I felt like I would never “get it” and that I had made a big mistake going to college.

I was across the state attending college, and I wanted to come back home but I still wanted to be in college.  I felt like I was treading water and could barely keep up.  During that first semester around finals, I remember trying to study in the library – it had taken me some time to find the right area to study and not just hang out with friends.  While I was sitting at the table with my work all over the table, an upperclassman stopped by my table to say hi.  His name is Greg Ray and I will never forget our meeting.  He talked to me about how I was doing and if I enjoyed being in school.  He also said that he would often see me at parties and around campus but then told me that I had to get serious about being in school.  It was not high school and that here you have to work hard to succeed, sometimes harder than others around you.  He told me that I shouldn’t be discouraged about my first year and that I should take it as a teachable moment – I knew what not to do now and that I had to cut down on the parties and visit the library more and not just during finals.  Greg helped me to understand that failing isn’t final unless I made it final.  He also helped me to understand that success is often about the amount of effort you put in and less about comparing myself to others.

That next semester, I started to study in a way that worked for me.  I am a visual learner – something I discovered after my talk with Greg.  I would have to write and rewrite chapters from textbooks which would take hours to do.  I did this for each class.  I asked questions in class and started to take notes from lectures which was difficult because initially I couldn’t tell what to record and what not to record.  But after some time, it became second nature and slowly, my grades improved as did my attitude about school and my place there.

Success can be hard to visualize when it comes slowly or when you doubt yourself.  But what I learned is that effort and attitude are vital.  I realized that success for me requires a lot of my time and focus and that I cannot compare my path with anyone else’s path.  I am happy to say that I was able to earn my undergraduate and two graduate degrees and I owe a lot of that to a chance conversation with someone who cared enough to talk to a frustrated freshman many years ago."

Kevin's Resilience Resume Social Media Post

Kevin Grubb

After a few years of working as a career counselor and coach, I applied and got an interview for a leadership opportunity at a very well-known organization. I was so excited about the chance to be in the room with people and talk about how my skills and experiences aligned with what they needed in their next leader.

Despite my effort and preparation, I bombed the interview, and I knew it. I could feel it going badly, and I was losing confidence with every less-than-great response I gave to their questions. My inner critic was having the best day ever. It came as no surprise to me that I got an email a few days later telling me that the organization did not want to have me continue the interview process. Even though I had a strong feeling the rejection email was coming, I was pretty crushed. I was supposed to be the person who knew it all about interviews. I coached other people on it all the time. How could I have failed? I had a lot of questions for myself. I distinctly remember taking myself for a walk to clear my head. The story I told myself was that I would learn from this mistake and do better next time - whenever next time was. If I'm being honest, I only halfway believed myself.

Sure enough, the time to prove myself came again when I applied for and got an interview for the leadership role I am in now at Villanova. I was much more ready this time! Because I tried something like this before, I knew just a little bit more about what to expect. Because I gave less-than-great answers before, I sharpened what could be great answers. Because I knew I could pick myself back up again, I didn't fear failing as much. And here I am now, having succeeded in that interview.

I know now that failing is part of the process of succeeding. I have to stretch myself - thoughtfully - beyond what I am normally capable of to realize what the next frontier is really like. I remind myself that it's okay not to know it all and to be open to learning from what falling short might teach me. The next time might be the right time, and I'll never know unless I keep trying.