On the Value of Vulnerability and Courage | wisconsinacademy.org
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On the Value of Vulnerability and Courage

While the Academy has long celebrated the achievements of leading thinkers and creators in this state, often it is the scale of their work, the impact beyond the individual that astounds and inspires us. The paradox is that the attention to detail, to the minutia, is essential, as is being undefeated in the face of disappointment and even failure.

We hear a lot about resilience these days, which is certainly invaluable. Persistence is essential to maintaining daily life and it is also the underpinning of great achievements. However, I think there is another quality we’ve developed during the pandemic which, while less celebrated, is essential.

In the past few years, we have had to learn new things, become familiar with new technologies, new ways of doing our work, and accomplishing our domestic tasks. We have often done this with an audience. We have had to learn and fumble in front of one another—our peers, our bosses, even people such as our doctors. And along the way, we’ve helped others, who like us, may have been clumsy or embarrassed or confused when trying to do something new. This has helped create an environment conducive to adapting, experimenting, and learning.

Becoming more comfortable with uncertainty, with learning in public, with helping one another navigate the challenges facing us—these qualities should be recognized and lauded to continue experimenting and stepping outside of our comfort zone. This is the space where knowledge is able to morph into innovation.

As I think about the mosaic artists featured in our cover article, their achievements show their skill, vision, and confidence. Yet, I am also grateful for their vulnerability and courage, so essential in taking risks. Their willingness to explore materials and take new approaches has given us work that is truly monumental.



Erika Monroe-Kane is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts & Letters. In a range of professional settings, Monroe-Kane has distinguished herself as an innovator, collaborator, and strategic-thinker.

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