Extra-Curricular Activities

I had a lot of trouble coming up for a title for this post. It's mostly (but not completely) about committees I'm on, but that sounds terribly dull. I've seen the word 'Service' used, but that sounds much more selfless than I know I am. Fellow blogger Bennett often refers to setting aside time for 'building the college', a phrase I like a lot, but think is a bit pretentious for this particular topic. So, extra-curricular it is - a title I'm not particularly pleased with, but it does the job.

This work - the work on the Olin that exists outside of classes - is actually what I'm most interested in, and is one of the main reasons I came to Olin. I like learning about and working on pedagogical issues more than engineering, although I try not to prioritize this work over classwork... usually. So, I'm going to write a lot about some of the things I'm involved in this semester (besides blogging for you guys!) - maybe you'll skim, hopefully you'll find something that you too are interested in. Enjoy!

Caitrin Lynch, Mark Chang, Siddhartan Govindasamy, Maia Bittner, Steve Schiffman and Sarah in a committee meeting.

Members of the IRC: Caitrin Lynch, Mark Chang, Siddhartan Govindasamy, Maia Bittner ('11), Steve Schiffman and Sarah ('10), discussing creation of a new cross-campus newsletter

Inter-collegiate Relations Committee

I've been newly appointed to this committee, which I think is quite appropriate I be on since I cross-registered for 3 courses last semester and 2 this semester. We've only met once so far, so I don't have much to say, other than I'm happy to be working on the BaBOW partnership. An aspect that's new to me is trying to educate students at other colleges about the classes and programs they can take here at Olin (I didn't even know we offered an engineering certificate program!).

Faculty Committee for Curricular Effectiveness

I'm the student rep for this committee, which Jon Stolk (my MatSci prof this semester), Lynn Stein (my Software Design prof last semester), Alisha Sieminski (bio prof), Rebecca Christianson (physics prof), and Ann Schaffner (Dir. Institutional Research) are on. It's been fascinating to get an inside look on some of Olin's internal structure to see how things really work. Unfortunately, all the most interesting things are confidential and I can't tell anyone about them! I can tell you about a couple interesting things we're doing though.

  • Last semester, we conducted a student, faculty, and staff survey regarding the state of innovation on Olin's campus.
  • We also organized Expo, Olin's big end-of-the-semester student showcase, last semester and instituted some minor changes from previous years based on feedback we've received. It was really interesting to see how one of Olin's flagship events is put on, since I've only experienced Expo from the student side before. We're also discussing some major changes for future Expos. I've been pretty excited about this - it's refreshing to explore a bunch of different possibilities for Expo that would achieve different purposes or solve some of the problems we have with the current implementation. Should Expo still be required? Should it happen just once a year?
  • The CCE is also charged with reviewing proposals and allocating grants from the Curricular Innovation Fund. I'm nominally a co-investigator with Jon Stolk and John Geddes for a proposal to replace letter grades with a competency-based assessment system next semester in a couple courses. This is such a rejuvenating and cool idea that I'm almost afraid to get my hopes up in case it doesn't happen!

Maia Bittner reading

Finishing 2006's summer book, The Tipping Point, at a T station before my freshman year

Summer Book Committee

One of the longest traditions Olin has is having every community member read the same book over the summer and discussing it in a convocation at the beginning of the year. This year, I'm helping (aka reading a bunch of interesting books and telling other people what I think of them) pick the book for this summer. I love reading, and it's nice to have an obligation to set aside time and read cool books. We initially narrowed the list of 22 titles nominated by members of the Olin community down to Inviting Disaster, The Geography of Hope, This Is Your Brain on Music, and Why We Do What We Do. Since then, we've read the books, hit some bumps, read some more books, and now I think we're trying to nail down a decision by next week so we can order and ship the books to everyone.

Student Ambassador for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champagne Partnership

I actually know very little about the Olin-Illinois partnership, beyond what it says in our press release. One of the main ideas behind Olin revolutionizing engineering education is that it would spread beyond Olin (we often talk of "exporting" Olin). At the President's Council meeting last semester, I was a student assistant for the break-out sessions, where we discussed whether it was even feasible to try the Olin experiment elsewhere, and if so, how best to do it. The main thing us student reps are doing is meeting and arranging accommodations for the 8-10 Illinois students that are coming out for the Engineer of the Future 2.0 summit we're hosting in April. The summit is replacing our traditional "Big Conversations" day (no classes!) so it better be good!

Candidates' Weekend & more!

Finally, this weekend, I'm interviewing candidates at Candidates' Weekend. Oh, and helping coordinate a couple other activities for CW too - one of which I need to stop by the Wellesley Cheese Shop and pick up a bunch of yummy cheese for. When Spencer ('10) and George ('10) left to study away this semester, they appointed me in charge of cheese club, so I've been running around trying to do cool stuff for that (we're making fancy mac n cheese with $70 worth of cheese tomorrow!) and submitting line items to CoRe.

One last thing - On Monday night I went over to President Miller's house for an ice cream social with ~10 other sophomores. There, he told us of all the other sweet things Olin's working on that I haven't encountered in my committees - apparently we've been getting a ton of international interests and are working on forming some partnerships with institutes overseas!

See you at Candidates' Weekend!

Maia Bittner

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