Success and Failure, Part 1: My Failure CV

This three-part blog series is going to have a bit of a different flavor than most of what I write. I typically use this blog to share thoughts about the various research topics and educational issues I’m interested in. Recently, though, I’ve been thinking about more general issues related to academia, research, and writing. I’d like to spend some time sharing my thinking about a couple of things.

One of my advisors tells me from time to time that I should take care in moments when I “rattle off” accomplishments, lest I make my peers feel less accomplished in the process. I can see both sides of this issue. On one hand, I don’t think my CV should really have any effect on anyone else. I am me and they are them, and we come from different backgrounds. In particular, I know (and they know) that I have the benefit of 10+ more years in an academic space than most of my peers.

On the other hand, I understand his point and sometimes think about how I might actually use those years of experience to support my peers, rather than having the unintentional (but nonetheless real) effect of contributing to others’ imposter syndrome. (Which I really struggle with, too, by the way.)

I figure one way to start is to be transparent about how when I talk about successes, I am sharing a really narrow highlight reel of my academic journey. So, today I’m sharing my Failure CV. What’s below is a partial list of the rejections I’ve received since leaving high school almost 20 years ago. (These are just the ones I remember or have a record of — which I guess is less than 50%.)

I masked my collaborator’s names and the project or articles names for the sake of not implicating anyone else in this list. The point isn’t really what the failures were — just the sheer number of them, in particular in comparison to the successes listed on my actual CV.

Kathryn Rich — Failure CV


  • Brown University, REJECTED for undergraduate admission, 2001
  • University of California at Berkeley, REJECTED for PhD admission, 2005
  • University of Cambridge, REJECTED for PhD funding, 2017


  • Pearson Education, REJECTED application for content developer, 2007
  • McGraw-Hill Education, REJECTED application for educational research position (after I had already been an employee there before!), 2007
  • Approximately 50 other job applications REJECTED, 2005 and 2007 after leaving school (The above are just the ones I remember because they stung the most.)


  • While I can’t think of particular ones right now, I’m sure there are about a billion of these.


  • IES proposal to develop a digital curriculum tool that gives feedback to teachers on adaptation, REJECTED, 2016
  • IES proposal to develop integrated mathematics + CT curriculum, REJECTED, 2016
  • NSF proposal to develop learning trajectories for the mathematical practices, REJECTED, 2016
  • NSF proposal to develop a phone app to support early childhood mathematics education through augmented reality “math walks,” REJECTED, 2016
  • NSF proposal to support scaling of an afterschool science program already shown to support girls’ science identities, REJECTED, 2016
  • NSF proposal to develop a digital curriculum tool that gives feedback to teachers on adaptation (yep, another try at the above), REJECTED, 2016
  • NSF proposal to develop interactive problems that allow underrepresented minorities to explore STEM careers, REJECTED, 2015 (This one really hurt!)
  • IES proposal to develop integrated mathematics + CT curriculum (yep, another try at the above), REJECTED, 2015
  • William T. Grant Foundation proposal to to develop interactive problems that allow underrepresented minorities to explore STEM careers (different spin on the above), REJECTED, 2015
  • NSF proposal to study the use of innovative kinds of feedback in tech-enhanced math content, REJECTED, 2014


  • Theoretical analysis of relationship between computational abstraction and mathematical modeling in elementary school, REJECTED 2018
  • Exploration of theories of fact fluency development using a huge dataset from an online game, DESK REJECTED (Not even set out for reviews!) 2017
  • Study of how elementary school teachers integrated CT into mathematics, REJECTED (after a round of major revisions) 2016
  • Discussion of how databases of authentic problems could expand mathematical modeling opportunities in K-12, REJECTED 2015
  • Document analysis of the CCSS for CT content, MAJOR REVISIONS requested twice, fate still TBD.
  • AERA paper on fact fluency development using the online game dataset, REJECTED 2017
  • SIGCSE paper on the development of a particular computational thinking trajectory, REJECTED 2017
  • SIGCSE paper describing an analysis of the mathematical understandings required to use various Scratch blocks and modifications that would align with math standards, REJECTED 2016
  • NCTM proposal for session on comparing affordances and costs of physical and digital manipulatives, REJECTED 2015
  • NCTM proposal for session on open response and re-engagement in K-2, REJECTED 2014

Again, this is only the stuff I remember.

I’ve been lucky to have been accepted to three schools at which I’ve learned a great deal — but two Ivy League schools rejected me, and Cambridge took me only if I was willing to pay almost $100K for the privilege of being there. I’ve worked on at least 11 grant proposals — only 1 has been funded. I’ve worked on more than 10 journal articles, and not one has been published so far. I’ve had better luck at conferences, but even there I’m batting about 0.500.

My successes are my highlight reel. So are everyone else’s. Don’t ever forget that.

Over the next two weeks I’ll talk first about some of the tips I have for dealing with all the rejections that come with this territory. Then in week three, I’ll talk about how I manage to get so much stuff out the door — if there’s one thing I’m good at, it’s hitting submission buttons.


4 thoughts on “Success and Failure, Part 1: My Failure CV

  1. Katie – No way could I even begin to come up with my Failure CV – it would be waaaaay too long. But this is an excellent reminder that the CV represents the work that was not only good, but also happened to be at the right place at the right time. Just like FB represents generally only what we like about our lives. But I firmly believe there’s always a bit of luck involved in any acceptance, whether it’s college admissions, grant application, paper, or job (especially in academia). We live in the world where we never know who or how many we’re competing against. But I also firmly believe that if you do good work that you like there is a place for it. And persistence pays off. As I told a student this week, “If you don’t submit, it certainly won’t get accepted.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Absolutely! I firmly believe that acceptances are part hard work, part persistence, and part luck. How much each one matters just depends on the particular submission and its context. And I am sure my full failure CV (everything I don’t remember along with what I do) would be much longer than this. In the hours after I posted this, I remembered two more failed grant proposals, and this morning I got another new journal rejection.


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