At the beginning of this month, Charlie Nolan and I were in the Bay Area visiting schools, conducting interviews, and hosting an enormous recruiting event. This was a great opportunity for me: I got to escape the looming New England winter for a week (experiencing Dia de Los Muertos in the Mission, watching the sunrise from Bernal Heights park the morning after daylight savings, and taking 1 down the sunny, then foggy, then sunny again coast to Santa Cruz). I got to stay with recently graduated friends, and use the company p-card to take them out to a nice dinner as a thank-you. But most importantly, I got to visit some of the top-ranked schools in the area, and get a sense of what it would be like to work there. After my year at Olin, I hope to move to the West Coast to teach high school science, so it was great to get this taste of what that will be like.
But it was also an invaluable week for the admission office. We normally see families from all over the country coming in for campus visits. Boston has a high density of attractive institutions, so Olin is easy to roll into the mix. But not everyone can make that flight over, so we've targeted a few key locations where we can 'bring Olin to you'. The Bay Area is one such place. We receive a TON of applications from the Bay Area - more than anywhere else - and we actually enroll more students from the region than from all of Massachusetts! Without this visit, a huge portion of our applicants (some of whom are on the fence or would be perfect for Olin but don't realize it yet) might not try to take a shot at a spot. And we'd be missing out on, as Charlie is fond of stating, some remarkable candidates!
Normally, we give info-sessions to 1-10 families at a time. They consist of a video, then a conversation or a presentation, and they are followed by a tour of the college. Well, we had over 30 students and their families came to the main prospective student event, which took place in the reception hall of a hotel near the San Francisco airport. Instead of a physical tour, Charlie turned the floor over for a Q&A segment with 7 alumni who had volunteered to participate. Yiyang, Rachel, Andrew, Hannah, Rebecca, Jason, and Zachary (who graduated in '11, '11, '13, '13, '13, '14, and '14, respectively) shared their extremely varied perspectives on their time at Olin and the post-graduate experience. The crowd loved it, and asked some very insightful questions! Our grads represented the diversity and breadth of Olin in many ways - Men and Women; EC:E, M:E, and E:self-designed major; going to grad school vs. working in industry vs. working at an Olin-founded start-up; applicants from the next country and applicants from the other side of the world.
Photograph by Duncan Murdoch, Olin's 4th employee
Afterwards, a few more grads joined us for a drink and a bite in the hotel restaurant. Then Three grads from '06 - Etosha, Dylan, and Kate came to share their stories of Olin's early days. And Mark ('14) pulled up on his company's prototype electric motorcycle, and Charlie regaled us with stories from his motorcycle heyday. He even had a test-sit on the bike! It was a lovely reunion.
Some seriously cool wheels
In the end, my favourite take-away from the evening was what Charlie took away: in his subsequent presentations and information sessions, I heard him quoting and referring to these grads, incorporating their stories into his well-practiced spiel. We're never finished with learning from one another, it seems!
Afterwards, we traveled up and down the coast talking with many outstanding students from exciting schools. Then we interviewed a dozen more prospies for two full days over the weekend. I'm getting nervous about the coming application season - trying to choose a pool of Candidates out of the superlative applications we read this year is going to be harder than ever. Luckily, I know that things will work out in the end. The students who are the best fit for Olin will find their place here. And the rest will do incredible things wherever they end up.
Best of luck to all our applicants!
P.S. Big thank you to Paul, David, Matt, Noah, and Janice, Tim and Jialia, and finally Andrew, Hannah, and Zach - I had a great time catching up with you all.