Olin’s size does some funny things to the school. There are the obvious things – the student/faculty ratio, limited social circle, etc., and there are the quirks you don’t quite notice ‘til you get here. The quirk that I’ve been experiencing lately has to do with extracurriculars.
Most Oliners have some serious hobbies. Passions outside of engineering are encouraged by the Admission office when you apply and are then fostered on campus, so most people have something else, an art or a sport or a…whatever category fire-spinning fits into. The fact that Olin is densely populated with other interests allows everyone to have a full college experience, even in a school with ~350 people.
Clubs don’t scale very well. In my theatre troupe in high school, we had roughly 100 people and 8 student board members. Here at Olin, the theatre troupe, the Franklin W. Olin Players (FWOP), has no more than 20 people and…5 board members. I only just started Linearity I, but I’m pretty sure that isn’t a linear system. The crazy part is, FWOP NEEDS all its board members, just as much as my high school needed its board members.
The point I’m trying to make is that in order to sustain the clubs that sustain the passions that sustain the Olin students, those students end up in way more leadership positions than they would in any normal-sized college. Many people are in two or three.
The leadership gap at Olin is so great that there is a phenomenon of upperclassmen not only scrambling to get freshmen to join their clubs, but to put them in charge; and not just in “Freshmen Rep” sorts of designated, first-year only positions. Not to knock those jobs—we had two great representatives to our Student Government, CORe, last semester—until one of them was made Vice President of Finance, anyway. Which is totally typical: a freshman gets involved with an on-campus organization, and is immediately sucked up into a leadership position, whether the organization is student government or a theatre troupe.
Which is to say – I am technical director of FWOP now. That’s where all of this is coming from. On the one hand, it’s a fantastic opportunity for me to showcase my skills and make a difference to the Olin community. On the other, I’m freaking out a little bit. This never would have been possible at a larger school and I totally wasn’t expecting it. Will my designs be good enough? Will I have enough time to lead effectively with all of my classwork? Will I be able to manage an organization’s budget and the time of those depending on me? And above all, will people respect me as a leader if I’m just a freshman?
The short answer is, yes. The long answer is…there are no freshmen at Olin. Seriously—as an institution, we’ve switched over to calling them first-years. Because we aren’t fresh (we aren’t all men either, but that kinda goes without saying). We all have tons of experience, either from our lives before Olin or our classes in our first two semesters. The upperclassmen need us, and even better, they trust us. All we need to do to lead is trust ourselves.
P.S. A huge congrats to everyone who just heard they were invited to a Candidates’ Weekend! All of us at Olin can’t wait to meet you! For those of you at CW2, you’ll be on campus at just the right time to see FWOP’s Twelfth Night – come say hi, and see for yourself if I do a good job after all!