Olin Goes to the Picture Show

Olin Goes to the Picture Show
Last semester, Olin students went to a private showing of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Something along the lines of 300 students managed to venture forth from the bubble (admittedly only to recreate it somewhere else) and arrive not only on time, but early, to the movie theater. We probably haven’t given as much credit to the brave souls who organized this, so here is a little bit more. This was an undoubtedly awesome experience, and a unique one not just for my time at Olin, but for my entire movie-watching career. Take a few more seconds to remember it before I mar it by way of explanation.
I think that a glimpse at what audiovisual entertainment may have looked like in the past could prove useful. Consider the post-war years of cinema. Movie theaters were no longer confined to populous cities. For multiple reasons, they had managed to spread to rural areas in many parts of the modern world. War-time leaders had recognized the value of propaganda and news-reels for maintaining morale and the war effort, and recognized building cinemas as important public-works projects. Going to the movies had become a common pastime for a much larger portion of the population, across multiple demographics. Even young folks of different sexes could mingle without any chaperoning, something that would have been scandalous anywhere else. “Playhouses for the masses” and “Democracy’s theater” were just some of the fanciful terms for movie theaters at the time. It offered a truly unique location for a community to come together and ensured that cinema was a social experience. It was still a form of entertainment but one rooted in more than just the sensory. Even if there was a bit of nationalism, it was still ultimately rooted in a sense of community.
Now this is undoubtedly a glorified notion. The mere fact that Hollywood loves creating films about the power of films makes me think we might be getting a good dose of movie magic (The Disaster Artist is the latest example, though it’s got nothing on Cinema Paradiso). It is undoubtedly a mythology that the studios and theatres themselves are interested in promoting. But keep this narrative in mind as we juxtapose it with our usual viewing experiences in the late teens of the twenty-first century.
I watched Star Wars again a good six days after Olin did, back home in Los Angeles. The screen was a bit bigger (IMAX), the seats slightly more comfortable (tempurpedic, with armrests). But, unbelievably, when Yoda got on stage and told me that “the greatest teacher, failure is,” I think one person in the theater may have chuckled. Now I’m sure that my memory exaggerates, but six days before at the time of this monologue, I am confident that the whole movie theater burst into laughter, for at least two minutes. Hearing the words of so many of our professors spoken from the mouth of a little green puppet who can call lightning from the afterlife was equally parts unnerving, hilarious, and touching. It was even on one of the Candidates’ t-shirt options.
I don’t think that the unique part of this Olin-at-the-cinema experience was subconsciously analyzing every moment of the film for its insights into the Olin experience. I could try to convince you that when you saw BB-8 extend more and more appendages to, uh, plug fuses, it represented the way you try to divide your time over more and more activities. And that Rey is feeling imposter syndrome because she is neither a Skywalker nor Obi-Wan’s nephew’s cousin’s former roommate. That moment of identification in the film, and nearly uniform laughter that followed, was merely the effect of something more subtle.
It started with the pre-movie buzz. People mingled around, interacting in different ways. They searched for their friends, bumped into others. They were excited for the film, and they were excited for each other. Then the film began, and I realized just how much I was being affected by the people around me. Maybe you were stirred by the smiles and cheers of your fellow Oliners; I’m certain I saw your enthusiasm mirror and augment theirs, too. As a hulking spaceship was torn apart by the light of a sacrificial jump to lightspeed, perhaps the silence and sharp breaths of your peers became a fundamental part of your experience. Waves of feedback riding along the connection between people.
Another interlude. Why don’t we consider the average internet-age audio-visual entertainment experience for a moment. Let’s start by assuming you don’t go to the movie theatre. Today there are countless shows and films that you can watch at a moment’s notice, whether you pay for them or not. The possibilities are endless, though more often than not it can feel like an undeniable overload. At the same time, every streaming service wants to provide you with the most personalized experience they can, recommendation after recommendation being served to you by Big Data itself, so that you can have the content that you want. It’s an individualistic view of entertainment.
But don’t worry, you’re not alone. Just do the math: Netflix claims that it’s subscribers view an average of 125,000,000 hours of content every day. It’s currently estimated that there are 35,000 hours of content uploaded to the streaming service. By the Pigeon-Hole Principle (shout-out to Sarah Spence Adams and Discrete), at least 3,572 people watched the same show or movie on any given day. And by similar reasoning, a minimum of 3 people began watching the same content within one minute of each other.
Are you feeling a sense of community yet?
Now let’s assume you did make it out to a movie theater. Bump 3 people up to 50, or even 500 people watching with you at the same moment in time. Sitting in a crowded theater makes you intimately aware of the concurrent viewers who may or may not be ruining your experience. I think I would be hard-pressed to find many people for whom that awareness easily and always translated into any sort of connection with the rest of the anonymous audience. Simply viewing the same film isn’t enough. You don’t respond to their reactions the way I think we responded to each other in that movie theater. For the most part, we have divorced TV and films from any sort of social experience, and most definitely from a community experience.
I have perhaps drawn in too much detail the differences between our showing of The Last Jedi, and the rest of our movie-going careers. You get it. Olin is a community. Olin saw a film. It was dope. The reason I can’t leave it at that is because what I felt reminded me of something else. Something which might give insight into the real difference between the experiences you’ve just read about (and maybe experienced? Damn, do I hope this is hitting any sort of chord). I’ll tell you about it in two more paragraphs.
The more a film is capable of absorbing you in it’s myriad details, textures and plots, the more we tend to praise it. We are usually eager to be drawn in to what we see, and loosen our connection to reality. To experience the lives of other people, and worlds far removed from ours (that secretly are our own). That’s why we purchase larger TV’s, and 22.2 surround sound systems. The fundamental art of film is the art of manipulation, and we are the willing subjects.
But this unconditional immersion is not the only way to watch films. When I watch films extremely analytically, I experience them differently. Sometimes I do it for fun, and sometimes there are films which demand viewing in this way. I need to both delve into the composition of any individual scene and shot, and still be conscious of all those which have come before. It requires a constant tension, a balancing act of distance from the film. That feeling is precisely what was familiar, sitting among Oliners. My familiarity and connection with the people in the movie theater was an anchor against the pull of that visual tide. The solo critical viewing is an active and sometimes difficult one, while this was an effortless tension, floating between the flashing lightsabers and the thoughts and reactions of those around me.
All I’m really trying to say is that I was very grateful to add community-movie-theater viewing to my list of cinematic experiences. Am I being a touch romantic? I tend to be, when I think, talk, or write about film. Did you feel something different that evening? At the close of the The Last Jedi’s second act, Kylo Ren extends his hand to Rey over the carnage of their fight for freedom. Maybe you immediately thought of Olin’s mission when you saw Rey torn between throwing out the past, or building off and learning from it instead. Maybe you felt a resonance with your peers at the struggle we all face in building our futures. Ah! You were entranced when you saw that these two characters, with such different experiences, had the same pain in both of their eyes. I’ll never know for sure, but there’s a chance you thought there was something unique about that 4:30pm showing on the 15th of December.

Build Your Global Resume

In January, 13 students left Olin’s campus behind to explore academic opportunities in other countries; specifically Argentina, Hungary, Singapore, Germany, South Korea, Spain, Ireland, England and Scotland. Concurrently, Olin welcomed exchange students from China, Belgium, and Singapore.

Olin has worked hard to build strong partnerships with foreign institutions in places like South Korea, Germany, France, Belgium and Singapore. We’ve tried to make it easier for you to find a program that is a good fit given your academic goals and/or preferred destination. For specific guidance about how to plan your study away, visit our webpage http://www.olin.edu/students/study-away/ and let us know your initial thoughts about where and when. We can walk you through the application process whether you want to fulfill your AHS concentration while abroad or take classes in engineering and sustainability.

Some study away providers and programs that we recommend checking out include:

API Abroad Many Olin students have travelled all over the world on API programs from Argentina and the UK, to Italy, France and Spain. They offers programs in over two dozen locations throughout the world: in Asia, Europe, Latin America, Australia and New Zealand to name a few. If language acquisition is one of your goals for study away, API offers high quality language and culture programs for all levels of language learners in Spanish and French. Take a look at their website at www.apistudyabroad.com.
IES Abroad boasts over 65 years of experience in short and long term study abroad and has 34 locations around the world. From Multiculturalism and Immigration in the Mediterranean to Paris Business and International Affairs, IES courses are taught by well-credentialed professors at prestigious institutions. Check out their blog at iesabroad.org/blogs to see what students are saying about their programs and experiences.

DIS From Global Economics and International Relations to Sustainability and Architecture & Design, DIS offers a wide variety of courses that are taught by academic, military and political experts. The programs are in two locations (Stockholm and Copenhagen) and offer many different housing options that provide students with meaningful cultural engagement. Go to disabroad.org for more information.

IFSA Butler offers future-focused study abroad programs that include world-class academics and community-based learning for students who want to make a difference in the world and enhance their intercultural skills. They offer more than 100 programs in 53 cities in Europe, Asia, Australia and New Zealand. Check out ifsa-butler.com.

AIT in Hungary began, like Olin, with the goal of shaking up undergraduate electrical and computer engineering education. Hungary takes great pride in its rich tradition of excellence in mathematics and computing. AIT is specifically designed for computer science and software engineering students. Courses are taught in English in by well-known scholars, designers and entrepreneurs that emphasize innovation, interactivity and creativity. Centrally located in the heart of Europe, Budapest provides easy access to other countries if travel is a priority for you. Check out the program at ait-budapest.com.

Global E3 Because of the demand for engineering graduates with international perspectives, a group of leading universities around the world established Global E3 over 20 years ago. Olin is part of this highly-selective consortium of engineering programs. If you want to study engineering on your study away, then start your search with the Global E3 network. You can search for a member institution in one of the 23 countries listed on their at globale3.studioabroad.com

Whether you are looking to study abroad to broaden your view of the world, be immersed in a new and unfamiliar culture, or to build your resume and/or portfolio to be a grand-challenge scholar, come see us in the Student Affairs office. We can help.

SERV Activity Update

NEW FROM SERV: Community Service @ Lunch! Starting next Friday, SERV Lunches in the dining hall will now include a drop-in community service activity. We’ll be doing a new project each week – stop by, drop in, and help out for as long as you’d like. Our first project will be to make sock puppets for kids at Boston’s Children’s Hospital.

Service Opportunities: (Contact anyone on SERV if you’d be interested in learning more!)
Mentor Needed: Technovation Challenge for Needham 8th Grade Girls, Pollard Middle School
Mentor Needed: RoboNatick – Natick High School Robotics Club
Volunteer Teachers needed: Memorial Elementary After School Activities Program (ASAP) in Natick
Mentor Needed: Westwood High School Robotics team

Want to Start a Service Project? Welcome back to a new semester! This is the column where SERV usually puts all the ongoing service activities, however, we realized many of our current project leaders are taking semesters abroad, or working on senior capstone projects, etc. But don’t let that fool you! Service Projects can be done by anyone, any time. Here are the top seven reasons why you might want to start your own service project (number 2 will surprise you!)
7. Learn more about the community, city, and world around you. It’s no surprise that getting off Olin’s campus can be a challenge. Use your Service Project as a way to get outside the bubble and explore.
6. Practice your skills and Learn new things. Many service projects will make use of the skills. Whether it’s building bikes with Bikes Not Bombs, planting gardens with The Food Project, tutoring students in Needham, volunteer-teaching at an arts studio, or many others, you can use Service to augment your Olin education experience.
5. Have fun with your friends! Community service work isn’t always easy, but working on a team with people who support and care about you makes it much better. Plus, community service is a great excuse to hang out on a Saturday afternoon or a Wednesday evening.
4. Flexible options. Some organizations are looking for a multi-hour, semester-long commitment; other organizations can accept volunteers for one-off activities. SERV will support and fund Service Pursuits for projects you might do on your own, Chartered Projects for teams of students, and one-time events. Look at the SERV brochure on the Civic Engagement board outside the dining hall for reimbursement details.
3. Create meaningful and authentic connections with others. When doing community service, you tend to meet a lot of people. Some of those people might turn out to be great mentors, friends, or partners in your future endeavors.
2. SERV can help with transportation and logistics! SERV’s job is to make it as easy as possible for Oliners to do community service. That means we’re available to help with logistics, like coordinating meeting times or covering transportation costs. This semester we’re hoping to help Service Project leaders get Olin Van trained – stay tuned for updates.
1. Make life better. Each of us has the capacity to create an impact on the world around us. Even through the tiny actions of our day-to-day life, we can create a little bit of joy, relieve a little bit of suffering, or spark a little bit of curiosity. I would argue that together, these little legacies might equal all the Big Things we will do in our lives. Doing community service is a good way to keep that in perspective; and take it from a Jaded Senior™, keeping a good perspective is essential.

Interested? We hope you’ll consider reaching out to Grace, Michael, or Ashlee, who would be more than happy to help you set up your Service Project. Or, you can stop by the SERV table at lunch for fun activities and good conversation!

Crossword Puzzle

ACROSS
1 Ranking
4 Type of salad
7 Not near
9 Dad
10 Typical
12 Greek story
15 Newspaper person (Abbr)
16 SolidWorks, OnShape, Fusion 360
17 365 days in 2018 Chinese culture
22 Fake smarts
24 What male dogs hear often
28 Very long fish
29 Facial feature
30 Operate
31 Agreement
32 Far ____
36 Leave
37 Spanish river
39 Plural facial feature
41 Not the favorite
44 Airport information
45 In quick time
46 Noisy hit
47 PC system

DOWN

1 Great weather
2 Kitchen clock
3 Spanish seasoning
5 Required essay format
6 Pile of cash
8 Asian side dish
11 Much ___ about nothing
13 Soup server
14 Wedding response
18 Grouchy
19 Wonderful
20 “I’m talking to you!”
21 Woman, slangily
23 A belief
25 Greek complex
26 Person who’s a bummer
27 Not off
29 US bird
33 Songbird
34 Breathable gas compound
35 Green guy who puts subjects last
38 Astonished
40 Belongs to a thing
42 Silent yes
43___ wop

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Response to Gender Bias

Emily Roper-Doten, our dean of admission, stated that Olin admission is not gender biased . In good faith, I tried to parse her argument, and the best I came up with is: “It’s not easier for women. Full stop.” This is not an argument.

I assert that Olin is biased in its admission. There is a larger male applicant pool and lower acceptance rate of men. Emily also states, “Olin has a commitment to equal membership in the class of students who identify as male and female by legal sex”. To conclude non-bias, there would have to be another piece of illuminating evidence to support non-bias. Emily never provides such evidence. If Olin were to publish success metrics grouped by gender, such as SAT, essay scores, or Olin GPA, we can judge the claim for ourselves.

In trying to construct an argument in absence of evidence, I came up with two theories. Both are made *instantly unambiguous* with a few aggregated numbers. First, it is possible that female applicants submit higher quality applications overall. Emily states: “We must be careful not to assume that the size of an applicant pool, or a subset of an applicant pool, is an indicator of application quality or admissibility.” This hints that female applications are better, but it is not directly stated. If female applications were better, though, it would fly in the face of the overall argument that any population subset is inherently equal to all others. Another theory is random sampling. Since every candidate has cleared a consistent standard, it is possible that a subset of applications are chosen that are above the bar. For example, 80 out of 80 females could be invited to candidates weekend and 80 random males out of the 120 that passed the bar are invited.

When discussing this bias, our strategy should be to lay out the reasons for forced diversity. We should reaffirm that everyone has a high bar (different as it may be). We can also note that population level differences are not wide enough or specific enough to make individual judgements. The reasons for diversity are good; we should stand behind them. One of Olin’s founding precepts is equal gender representation and the Olin experiment has had success. Also, clearly different perspectives and experiences aid creativity.

Emily brought up an important question: How should female students reply to questions of worthiness? How about this: “My past accomplishments are what got me here, same as you. Let’s add two more flyback diodes.”

I understand this can be a sensitive topic. And I believe women are strong enough to handle the truth.

An Open Black Box

Editor’s Note: This article should be read in full. Please take a copy of the paper with you if you can’t read it all in one sitting, but the reader should have the context of the article in its entirety.
One of the most fundamental changes to Olin in recent history is the impending Academic Center redesign project to rebuild The Shop and the Design Studios. It is the first time since Olin’s the campus was initially completed that any heavy construction work will take place, and it marks a huge milestone for the college. Because Olin’s curriculum was essentially created after the buildings, there was limited opportunity to use a developed academic philosophy to influence the campus’ design decisions. We have now learned enough about ourselves, our goals, and our needs to justify reconstruction, as well as intelligently and productively redesign key sections of our campus to better serve our community. Therefore, it is critical that we employ all the resources and knowledge we have accumulated over the last twenty years to ensure that we create the best product possible. This is an amazing project with enormous potential. Its success is critical to the development of the college, and it needs to set the right precedents for the future.
In the course of my efforts to learn more about the AC redesign, I met with Aaron Hoover, Lawrence Neely, Steve Hannabury, Russ Zacharias, members of the Shop staff, and a number of students. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who were gracious enough to speak with me. Our discussions have been insightful and invaluable. I appreciate your time and openness.
In the interest of brevity, I will be focusing on some of the key points and trends I noticed during these discussions, which I feel it would be beneficial for the entire Olin Community to be aware of.
For context, here is a brief history of this redesign project. The concept of an AC 1/Design Studio redesign was first conceived of almost 3 years ago as part of a proposed “menu of projects” that could be presented to donors in an effort to bring more concreteness to—among other things—the concept of “curriculum innovation,” for which the college was seeking funding. During the summer of 2016, the faculty design teams for the two project spaces had their first meeting with architects to develop a preliminary design.
After the completion of the initial design, the project was shelved for nearly a year, until the necessary funding could be obtained. After several failed attempts to gain outside financial backing, the Olin Board of Trustees agreed to fund the project personally. By July of 2017, there was enough money pledged to ensure the project could move forward, and work began anew. At this point, the faculty and staff stakeholders met with architects again to reconfirm the specifications for the spaces involved in the redesign. This led to the project presentation at the September Town Hall shortly after.
What this boils down to is that the design work was primarily carried out by faculty based on their experiences in the spaces and knowledge of student experiences. The role of Steve Hannabury and Facilities is to manage the project logistics and deliver what faculty have asked for.
I dove into this article holding many of the same concerns as the rest of the student body. However, I have been pleasantly surprised to learn that a number of my concerns and those of my peers are the symptoms of Olin’s communication system and not the core design of the project. At its heart, this is a sound project and the next logical step in Olin’s development. It identifies some of the simplest and most effective ways we can further our institutional goals and expand experimentation in our curriculum. It gives us real Shop facilities, not some classrooms with machines crammed into them, as well as a midsize space for studio classes and other workshop events. Both of these resources are ones that students, staff, and faculty alike have lamented over for some time, and we are finally making those dreams a reality.
My positive opinion of the concept of the project is not held by large sections of the Olin community. I am going to attempt to explain why this is the case, possible ways of improving public opinion, and why I believe so strongly that this project will have a significant positive impact on Olin College.
While I hope this statement is redundant, I feel the need to state outright that my intentions here are to offer my observances for purely constructive purposes. I neither wish to attack nor defame, and I maintain a steadfast desire to bring about the best end result possible. With that in mind, here are my key discoveries regarding the AC redesign.
One of the most essential components of a successful large-scale project is an effective communication network. This is something that Olin has generally struggled to develop. Because of Olin’s population size, hearsay and the grapevine have normally sufficed for the transmission of information. I will not say more on that here. That is a discussion for another day. A primary concern surrounding this project is the lack of readily available information for the Olin community regarding the process of completing this project, its progress, and how those efforts will impact life at Olin.
A persistent example of the need for more active dispersion of information is the frequent readdressing of Large Project Building (LPB) access during the spring semester. Because of the lack of a unified communication system, information regarding LPB access has been transmitted singularly through the grapevine. As a result, fact has been repeatedly mixed with gossip, resulting in persistent student concern and action based on incorrect information.
The project leaders have marveled at how their information could be so misconstrued, one even remarking “We have no idea where [students] get these ideas. It never crossed our radar to close the LPB. It would be impossible.” Because of the lack of unified communication, students have no way of knowing this without asking project leaders personally. This is neither the fault of the students nor the project leaders. It is simply a current norm of life at Olin. Furthermore, the problem extends to all sections of the Olin community which lack a constant direct path to project leadership. The continuing use of the grapevine as the primary communication system unnecessarily exposing the project to potential delays, convolution, and the need to answer repeated questions from panicked community members who “heard something,” simply because they have no more valid or trustworthy source of information.
Examples such as LPB access have already begun to crop up, and as the project continues to ramp up, there are guaranteed to be more. It is therefore essential that we establish a regular, official communication channel between all community members and the project leaders, to ensure the community has up to date information and a place to turn where questions, comments, and concerns can be addressed in an official capacity.
Another reason there are so many concerns held among the students surrounding this project is that there is a huge difference in perception of the project between the project’s inner circle and the rest of the community, a gap I am attempting to bridge here in part. This is both the result of the communication rift described above as well as the manner in which information surrounding the project has been brought to the public. Students and other community members have been exposed to the project in a very literal way. We have been told what physically is happening to the spaces, but the intent behind those changes has not been adequately addressed.
The redesign will do much more than simply create an Olin Zoo of Engineering for people to press their noses against. However, this was how community members outside of the project’s inner circle defined their perception of the project’s goals. In my discussions with the project leaders, I got a very different picture. They characterized the project as the creation of a platform to empower innovation, which we can organically build off of as time goes on. By building a space with as few permanent fixtures as possible, it can be easily and quickly reconfigured for whatever purpose it must fulfill, adding great versatility. The space will also allow for new opportunities to be explored which were not previously possible simply due to our space constraints. In short, it is designed to broaden our opportunities for experimentation and ease the flow of creativity which has in some ways been stifled by our campus’ design. It is not the end. It is a springboard toward an exciting new beginning with wondrous possibility.

This focus on designing a blank space conducive to experimentation is what I am referring to as the “Empty Box Mindset.” Essentially, the modus operandi of the design team is to create a space, fully flesh out the construction designs, and when that design is complete, move on to think specifically about the usage details of the spaces. While this mindset has allowed the project to progress quickly and remain on schedule up to this point, it has also given the somewhat correct impression that the construction design was made in a vacuum, due to the lack of formal consideration of potential space use cases in the final construction design phase. There is also evidence to suggest that this mentality is a key reason for the lack of student involvement at this stage of the project.
One argument I was presented with for the lack of student inclusion was that the project leaders did not want to waste people’s time by making them suffer through useless meetings and that instead, they were employing a more nimble system of convening necessary people on an as-needed basis. This is merely a possible explanation, not a justification. While this is an honorable goal and an extremely sound practice, it does not justify the exclusion of what can be safely argued is the spaces’ largest user group. So far as I have discovered, there is no sound argument for the exclusion of the student body from this process, simply because students are such a major user group in both spaces.
I had prepared a long-winded explanation on the merits of co-design, but then I realized something. Any reader of this article who is remotely familiar with the Olin curriculum should also be aware of our fervent advocation for the practice of co-design and solicitation of user feedback in our classes. It is a cornerstone technique of Olin design philosophy, found on some level in nearly all Olin design courses. It is disquieting to not see it put into practice on our own campus, regardless of how “empty” the box supposedly is meant to be at this stage.

There are individuals—both inside and outside project leadership—at work attempting to rectify this oversight. However, at this juncture, that point is essentially moot with respect to the construction phase. Given the tight timeline of the project, we must move forward if we still plan to complete the construction in the summer of 2018, which is non-negotiable at this point. We must continue to make the most well-informed decisions we can, using all the resources at our disposal. I have it on good authority that there are plans being developed to have students play a much more active role in “filling the box.” What that actually means has not yet been defined. Once the budgetary constraints become more palpable, our design flexibility will become clearer, and this section of the project will come into more focus.
**Note: I am about to do something incredibly dangerous. I am going to provide in clear terms what I have determined to be the answer to a question on many of the project leaders’ minds: why are the students not more excited about the project? Again, since the construction design phase is nearly complete, the answer to the question is essentially irrelevant from a practical perspective. Nonetheless, I firmly believe it is still worthy of state, if for no other reason than to prevent repetition of these events in the future. This will be blunt and direct but based in fact. I ask that readers keep in mind that I write these words while still wholeheartedly believing in the mission of this project and with the pure motivation of bettering Olin College, not damaging it. I also ask that if you proceed beyond this point, you remain with me to the end.**
During my discussions, members of the project team said they were “surprised that students were not more excited about the project.” This difference between expectation and reality is the perfect argument as to why student involvement in the design process would have been beneficial. Students would have been excited about the project if it had not been handed down to them. We love Olin and we want to make a difference and do our part to make Olin everything that we know it can be, everything that it was advertised to us as being when we decided to come here in the first place. Because of the lack of student involvement up until now, those students with a vested interest in the project have felt frustrated and disregarded.
There is an expectation among students, which was established with the college itself, that Olin will be uniquely student-centered and handle major decisions differently than other institutions. Students expect decision-makers to take stock in their viewpoints, especially when the changes affect students directly. We trust that this agreement to cooperate will be held up, and that agreement was violated. By extension, students’ trust in Olin’s administration was violated.
In excluding students from this phase of development, Olin has just set an extremely dangerous precedent of disregarding community input in critical decisions. We expect Olin to be better than that. At this stage in the process, there is nothing that can reasonably be done to repair this in the context of this current project. The construction drawings are already being drafted. All we can do is push forward and learn. That is what we do best at Olin after all. We make decisions, evaluate their outcomes, learn from them, and hopefully make better decisions the next time.
Despite the missteps this project has taken, it is crucial that we keep one thing in mind. Robyn Goodner, our instructor of design and fabrication sums it up well. We must “actively assume best intentions [of the project leaders], because [the intentions] are there.” There is no malicious intent here. Even though our natural instinct to vilify people whose decisions we may not agree with might say otherwise. We are all on the same team and are working toward a common goal: to better the college and the experiences community members have here. This project is not the end-all-and-be-all, nor was it meant to be. Olin lives on experimentation and iteration, and it only functions if community members take an active role in ensuring its success. So I issue a challenge to each of you who are reading my words.
I urge you to not be satisfied with the explanations that I have presented here. I put this article together in a week. There is so much more that can and should be done. If this project is one that concerns you, interests you or even kindles your idle curiosity, then I implore you to dig into it for yourselves. Ask questions that are important to you, draw your own conclusions, create your own insights, and challenge your preconceptions, including those generated by this article. I welcome it. We must not simply sit back and watch the process unfold or, even worse, allow ourselves to stew in silent frustration. Take the mantle of action upon yourself.
During our discussions, both Aaron Hoover and Lawrence Neeley expressed interest in speaking with students and knowing more of the student perspective regarding this project. If you would like to learn more or take a more active role, I recommend starting by contacting them. As the spring semester progresses, there will be an increasing number of opportunities for community members to influence this project. Take advantage of them, create opportunities where you think they could or should exist, and if nothing else, take some time to think about this project, what it means to you, or what you would like to see these spaces become. It is that community initiative which makes Olin work and that dedication to improvement which makes Olin great. Let us embody those virtues and employ them to preserve, defend, and display our values as a community.
I may still maintain some of the same concerns that I did when I started the journey to write this article. However, I am optimistic about the future. I have gained a new perspective. I now see that this project is not simply a monument to remain unchallenged and untouched but rather another step in the process, another piece of the ever-developing puzzle that is the Olin philosophy. It is another chance for us to do things differently, to do things better. Make no mistake, they will be better. While I look forward to seeing the new spaces themselves, I’m much more excited to know what comes after, what manifests because of these changes, who is inspired by these new resources and what possibilities these new spaces bring to Olin. I look forward to playing my part, and I long to see what we create.

 

A Community SERVey

This October, SERV sent out a survey asking Oliners to describe their experiences with community service, both before coming to Olin and after. We’ve heard repeatedly that people want to do more to interact with communities outside The Bubble, but “doing more” can be a big challenge when we already do so much. We hoped to use people’s experiences and responses to think about how to make community service more accessible and appealing to a broader cross-section of Olin students, and also better-support all the students who already do community service here.

Thanks to the 58 students who filled out the survey – the results are in!

If logistics (like transportation) didn’t matter, how often would you see yourself doing a community service activity?
48% of respondents said they would like to do a community service activity either every week or every other week. Another 24% would be interested in doing monthly community service. The vast majority of respondents do want to find a way to fit community service into their schedules; from their answers to the question, “describe your community service experience,” we know that most haven’t found that way yet.

Logistically, what kinds of service opportunities appeal to you?
The two top choices here were short, low-level commitments on campus (73% of respondents were interested) and afternoons off-campus (71%).

What kinds of community issues interest you? (Check all that apply)
Unsurprisingly, the top choice here is STEM Tutoring – 70% of respondents would be interested in this option. This is also the option that might already be best-covered by existing clubs on campus like igniteCS or eDisco. The other high percentages included Environment (59%), Food Access (57%), and Olin Community (57%). Other options included animal care, healthy relationships, international issues, developmental disabilities, health care, and elder care, which ranked between 40% and 20%.

What might deter you, or what has deterred you in the past, from getting involved in community service? (Check all that apply)
66% of students cited a lack of time, and 62% cited time conflicts. However, 50% of those surveyed also said that they “don’t know when community service events happen.” Clearly, while rethinking the organizational structure of SERV activities will be useful, more or different publicity is needed as well.

What could SERV do to address these issues?
In addition to the raw data, the SERVey also provided some specific guidelines for what SERV ought to be doing to better support volunteerism and service. Some are more obvious, and just require a bit of organization on our end; others might need more long-term action. Either way, this semester’s and next semester’s SERV teams can try to:
1. Schedule early in the semester:
“Make a schedule of events at the start of the semester and let everyone know what that will be before they commit to other stuff”
2. Provide more infrastructure and logistical support for organizers:
“If all logistics are taken care of, it’d help.”
“the main problem is that setting up service opportunities takes a lot of effort on the organizer’s behalf”
“make the initial process as easy as possible”
3. Publicize events more frequently – many people suggested that we do a monthly newsletter. We do list everything in Frankly Speaking, but it’s worth posting it elsewhere as well!
“flyers in the dining hall about when certain community service events happen, email signups”
“Do more updates on activities that have spots for volunteers”
“IDK man, send out a when to meet?”
4. Organize Olin Van Trainings (75% of respondents did not have a car):
“Olin Van training has historically been difficult to arrange.”
“If y’all could get me van trained I’d be happy to drive to events!”
5. Organize more, and potentially different, activities:
“Present more opportunities that are less physically demanding.”
“Have a wider variety of service opportunities”

So, now what?
We’re really glad to have gotten so much good feedback on what community service could be at Olin. Now’s the fun part: putting ideas into action! If you want to help out, if you’ve got a service project or idea, if you think the ideas we described here are no good, or if you’d just like to express your disappointment in our use of “SERV” puns, we’d love to hear about it at SERV Lunch! Wednesdays, 12:30-1:00 under the clocks. We’ll see you there!

<3 SERV

Interview with German Students

Olin
Exchange Students
Germany
Frankly Speaking

The following are excerpts from Student Affairs’ interview with Olin German exchange students Felix Eberhardt and Christian Lichter. Both students’ home institution is OTH Regensburg – University of Applied Sciences in Regensburg, Germany.

Tell us a bit about how you found Olin and why you wanted to study here?

Christian: I was very interested in Olin because of its project-based approach to learning.
Felix: I always wanted to study abroad in the US. Luckily OTH Regensburg had a partnership with such a great institution like Olin which made the application process much easier. Because of this, I decided to come to Olin without the slightest hesitation.

Can you tell us about your academic experience at Olin?

Christian: In general I am very pleased with the academic experience although it is more time- consuming than at Regensburg. It’s a much more informal learning atmosphere.
Felix: It’s a very different experience. At Regensburg, there are over 11,000 students in the University of Applied Sciences and another 23,000 in other faculties at the university. If you have a question about an assignment, you would never call the professor as you might at Olin. It’s a lot more formal and we don’t call our professors by their first names.

Can you tell us about life outside the classroom?

Christian: I look forward to rock climbing in the US. There are several students at Olin who do it regularly. I enjoy hiking and rock climbing at home in Germany. Regensburg is close to the Alps.
Felix: I play on the club basketball team at Babson and we have a lot of competitive games. At home in Regensburg, I play semi-pro basketball every weekend.

When you think about why you came to the US to study, have you achieved what you set out to do?

Christian: Yes, I had always wanted to study in the US to broaden my perspective and build my global resume. I was motivated to pursue this because of my apprenticeship in software engineering at a hospital in Germany.
Felix: I am hoping to improve my English while I am here as well as gain a new perspective on technical problem sets. That is my goal.

What do you miss most about German culture now that you’ve been here for 3 months?

Christian and Felix: Freshly baked bread, or brot in German!

Students who study abroad often talk about a point in time when they changed. For some, it’s about feeling comfortable speaking a new language. For others, it’s feeling immersed in the culture of their host country, and enjoying their new home. Can you pick out one moment during the semester that was a turning point for you and your time here at Olin?

Christian: That was not the case for me. I have been enjoying it here since the first day I arrived.
Felix: I felt comfortable from the first day at Olin. The hardest part, in the beginning, was meeting so many new people and getting to know them, but everyone was really friendly and always tried to include me as much as possible. I made some really good friends very quickly who took care of me and helped me find my way in a new university in a foreign country.

Could you describe a “low point” or what has been most difficult during your time at Olin?

Christian: I got sick and had to go back and forth to the health services center for medication.
Felix: Missing my family and my girlfriend, but they are coming to visit me for Thanksgiving break.

Is there something about German culture or language that you would like to share with your fellow Olin classmates?

Christian and Felix: If you visit Bavaria, where Regensburg is, servus (pronounced zair wus) means hello and goodbye.

Would you encourage your classmates to spend a semester at Regensburg or to visit you?

Christian: Yes, definitely. There are three rivers flowing through the town, one of them is called Regen which gave Regensburg its name. Also around Regensburg, there are a lot of climbing rocks. And public transportation is very good; the bus comes every 10 minutes and you can get anywhere in or near the city very easily.
Felix: Definitely! Try and go in the spring or summer (April to August are the best months). Regensburg is one of the oldest cities in Germany (2500 years old). This UNESCO World Heritage city is filled with young people (35,000 students among its 160,000 inhabitants). There are lots of good (and, compared to Boston, cheap) restaurants and beer gardens. Many big companies (BMW, Audi, Siemens, Continental, and Krones to name a few) have offices in Regensburg. If you’re into soccer, Jahn Regensburg plays in the German second division. Other big cities in Germany are easily (and cheaply) accessible from Regensburg by public transportation: Munich (1.5 hrs), Prague (3 hrs), Vienna (4 hrs), and Berlin (5 hrs).

Drawing by Hadleigh Nunes