A Message from Our VP: From Broken to Beautiful, a Lesson in Grit

March 1, 2023

Dear Student Affairs Team,

I broke a bowl on purpose.

This was a few weeks ago.

I was with our Division of Student Affairs Senior Team. As part of a strategic workshop, we did a little kintsugi.

Have you ever heard of kintsugi?

Here’s one definition: “Repairing broken pottery by mending the areas of breakage with lacquer and gold.” The direct translation in Japanese is “golden repair.”

You’ve probably seen kintsugi without knowing the word for it. Here’s an example:

Kintsugi Bowl from Senior Team Retreat

Heather Miller's bowl from the Senior Team Retreat

Simply put: we each smashed a simple bowl, gathered the shards and glued them back in place — slowly, with focus. When I was finished putting my bowl back together, every crack was visible because I painted each one with gold lacquer. But it was more beautiful than before.

Kintsugi is brimming with metaphors. And there’s a key connection between kintsugi and us: human grit. Something broken can be put back together and be more beautiful than its original, so-called perfect form. Our desire to overcome obstacles both tiny and enormous never fails to astound me.

Humans are remarkably adaptable, after all.

The things we go through — as individuals, as families, as neighborhoods and work teams — are sometimes harrowing. But there are also a thousand little daily challenges we each face, defeat and do again tomorrow.

Here’s the simple point I’d like to make: You my colleagues in the Division of Student Affairs — possess persistent grit. Please take a second to acknowledge how far you’ve come and how much you’ve overcome to get here.

I know there are many things happening in the world that may dampen your mood — that may make you feel disconnected, confused, disheartened. And yet, each time we bounce back — we gather our shards and put ourselves back together.

With the help of our friends, families and colleagues, we press on. And when we take another step forward, we’re stronger because of what we’ve overcome. Our grit makes us better at what we do, helping maximize the Longhorn experience in so many ways.

What a personal thrill it remains to lead this Division.

What a humbling endeavor it is to serve the students who will change the world.

And what a lot of fun it is to work alongside you. I encourage you to read through this March newsletter to see examples of how we are supporting our students’ success and academic journey in alignment with our five strategic priorities. You will see our “grit” in full force.

Thank you for your grit. Thanks for keeping alive the vision of what, together, we’re creating here.

For Students, We Will!

Soncia Reagins-Lilly
Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students