NPR newscaster Korva Coleman recently kicked off Hood’s new “Passion and Profession” speaker series with a talk about experiences that guided her through her career, including reflections on the gifts of failure.
Coleman is best known for her role delivering national newscasts airing during NPR’s news magazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition and Weekend Edition. She said she has always been drawn to radio, majoring in journalism at Howard University and working as a newscaster before moving to Washington, D.C. However, she didn’t immediately recognize radio as her passion.
“I’m passionate about what I am doing because it took some trial and error to discover what I wanted and what I actually needed to do,” she told the audience. “Radio was one of my absolute first loves and has remained so all of my life.”
Before Coleman’s career took off at WAMU, Washington, D.C.’s local NPR station, she was enrolled at Georgetown University Law Center with ambitions of being a lawyer or running for office. Unable to keep her grades up and shake the feeling that law school wasn’t what she was meant to do, Coleman dropped out and jumped on an opportunity to give radio a try. She called the experience “very serendipitous” and credits her failure with allowing her to discover her true passion.
She prodded the audience to ask themselves, “Are you happy with your choices?” and encouraged students to think of Hood College as their safe space to try new things, consider different ways of thinking, and discover their own true passions.
“Take up the mental exercise of trying to take a world view that is different from the one you are accustomed to believing,” she said. “You may ultimately decide that this is not a world view that you want to keep, but how are you going to know this if you haven’t tried it?”
Before her public talk, Coleman also spoke to a class of communication arts and English majors, many with aspirations to work in journalism themselves. As the mother of two college students, she said she knows making choices that will chart the path for the rest of one’s life is scary.
“Go ahead and be afraid, but do it anyway. Whatever that may be,” she advised students. “If you’re not willing to try, you certainly won’t succeed and you’ll never know, and that would be the greatest loss of all.”
She said college is the place students get to test drive all the things they might want to be, and failing, whether that’s changing majors or taking a completely new path than originally intended, can be a great gift.
“Ask yourself, ‘Why am I here? What do I secretly really want to try to do? What would I most regret that I failed to try to do?’” she said to students.
“Remember the purpose of a liberal arts education is to help you answer these questions about yourself,” Coleman continued. “It’s to help you realize your humanity. It is to help you learn to accept the gift of failure and to take the precious lessons from that shortcoming. Don’t miss this chance. Don’t lose this gift.”
The “Passion and Profession” series, created by the Catherine Filene Shouse Career Center and Office of Service Learning and the Office of the Dean of the Chapel, will feature a speaker each semester whose career is based in a particular set of personal values that connect to a current social justice issue. The mission of the series is to introduce students to a variety of professions, to hear the stories of successful individuals and their preparation for and practice of a profession, as well as to understand how a liberal arts education has contributed to their personal and professional development.
Watch Coleman’s complete talk and a video interview below.