If you ever had the privilege of rooting on Olin's own Gui Calvancanti during the first season of the Big Brain Theory, you might remember that the contestants were vying for a contract with the design firm WET, which is famous for designing the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas. WET's CEO Mark Fuller was one of the judges on the Big Brain Theory - and it is a TED Talk he gave (separate from the show) that I am most interested in.
The TED Talk was titled "Design DisIntegration," and one of its strongest messages was the idea that an environment which encourages the integration of different people and disciplines is the only environment that will blossom innovation. Watching this talk months ago reminded me so much of the Olin that I knew from conversations with Oliners at Candidates Weekend and Summer Parties, as well as from the stories in OLINsider blog posts and Frankly Speaking articles.
I revisited this TED Talk a week ago, sharing it this time with several reflective first-years, and all of us could not help but confirm the same feelings from our early experiences here. When I think of what it means to be a member of the Olin community, I think of thriving in an environment where integration of ideas and people happens organically and often.
One of my favorite things I look forward to at the end of the week is a lunch meeting called the Curriculum Innovation Think Tank. The "Co-Curricular on the Curriculum" is hosted by faculty member Jessica Townsend and comprised of an intimate group of students from all four of Olin classes, including one first-year: me! We're a bunch of students who are passionate about discussing how to iron out certain kinks in the academic curriculum, such as figuring out whether we should offer more integrated AHS/ENGR courses that would give our engineering a deeper context (Imagine an AHS Foundation titled "Six Diseases that Changed the World!"). What is so exciting is that Jessica Townsend's position as Associate Dean of Curriculum and Academic Affairs means that our student conversations have sticking power within actual curricular planning. It's not often that an institution takes great care in acting on the combined feedback of both faculty and students on higher-level matters like curriculum change.
The equal relationship between faculty and student goes beyond the prescribed sphere of academics too. You may be familiar with some of the interactions Oliners boast about, including having a casual conversation in the dining hall with one of your professors or making pottery on weeknights during a faculty member's co-curricular. But are you familiar with ganging up on your professor in a kayak-paddle splashing-war in the Charles River?
Words can't describe how happy I am to be at a place where I'm not "just a number," where after only several weeks I feel justified in calling the group of advisees and my advisor my advising family, and where a multitude of other brilliant people are on the queue to integrate their personal lives with mine too.