Looking forward and looking back

It's a bright but gusty day at Olin. Snowbanks slowly sink in the sunshine, but the air still cuts with winter's chill. It's quiet on campus. The students and faculty are away on their spring breaks. The staff still hum along. But the quietness belies an undercurrent of tension. It's the home stretch for so many: seniors, about to complete their time at Olin; candidates, awaiting the notification that will help them choose their future; Admission staff, eagerly anticipating the official announcement of the name of our new Dean. It's been a long journey getting here, and it's hard not to feel a little nostalgic.

For Olin's graduating class of 2015, the story starts four or five years ago, in 2011 for some, 2010 for others. Twelve students graduating this year initially enrolled after taking a gap year. More joined the class after taking semesters off over the course of their time at Olin. It was a time of upheaval - due to the financial crash, the scholarship had been dialed back from full- to half-tuition. They were joining a student body that had just barely been at Olin concurrent with someone who had been at Olin concurrent with the original partners (who founded the honor code and set the culture). '06 to '09, '09 to '12, and '12 to '15. All this matters a great deal when the community is looking at them to see how you are going to contribute to the student body, though they didn't know it yet. 

They arrived in the Fall of 2011, fresh-faced and eager. They were ready to, as the Honor Code they signed mandates, 'Do Something.' 

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Preparing to become exemplary engineering innovators who recognize needs, design solutions and engage in creative enterprises for the good of the world.

Since then, members of this class have revolutionized academic teams, founded social justice programs, earned outstanding accolades, started businesses, and led conversations that have shaped the way this college operates at every level. Without a doubt, they stepped up to the challenge of 'leaving their mark', and knocked it out of the park. Olin's buildings may have been built long before the class of 2015 arrived. But our tiny college is still very much under construction, and it's every Oliner's privilege to have an impact. 

To the class of 2019: I'm sure you're mainly focusing on which colleges you'll get into, not necessarily what your legacy will be there once you arrive. You might already be receiving decision letters, and weighing the pros and cons of enrolling at each university or college. So I ask you this: When you think of Olin, don't just think of what you'll get from your time here. You should also think about what you'll give back.  At a tiny institution like ours, the mere fact of your presence is bound to have an effect on the culture. At one so new, it's possible that the impact you have will take root as a part of a new tradition. And at an institution so innovative; so open to change, it's likely that you'll be able to choose to improve something that you think really matters, and for that change to be embraced by the whole community. Now that you are finishing your time in high school, do you feel like you were able to have an impact in the way the institution operates? Would you like to have that chance at your new College?

Looking back also reminds me to look forward. Since the class of 2015 graduating this year, the class of 2019 will be one more 'generation' removed from the partners. In addition to that, our Dean of Admission Charlie Nolan is retiring this summer - they're going to announce who our new dean will be any day now. All told, I predict that the coming year will be incredibly important for setting the culture of the Olin community moving forward. It will be a year of reflection and of self-definition, of exploration (as always), but also of introspection. And, to some degree, all members of the community will play a role, answering the question "What makes a successful Oliner?" by demonstrating it.

We all must decide the kind of impact we want to have: How will we make Olin a better place for our having been here?

Cheers,

Graham

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