Olin as an Innovator

Though Olin is marketed for our innovative educational approach, the curriculum and teaching methods are becoming increasingly stagnant. As an institution, we have managed to create a successful project-based and self-directed learning environment, which is well-renowned by many other universities. However, with this pressure to be a role model for other schools and have positive media surrounding us, we are stifling environments that are conducive to change. We are left with the choice to either model what we have done or continue progressing engineering education by making mistakes and figuring out what works.

Without this external pressure on reputation, we could begin experimenting with areas of the curriculum that are so often overlooked. We could think about fundamental changes to the three tenets at Olin and figure out where entrepreneurship and the arts and humanities belong. The introductory science courses could be replaced with integrated classes, and we could apply our own interests and passions to course material. As students, we could ask for the option to pursue non-accredited degrees from the school and have more of a choice in what and how we learn. We should not have to feel as if we have to sit through required classes, stay awake, and struggle to motivate ourselves. The professors here are incredibly open to change, and if we are willing to make sacrifices, we could make great advances in teaching and learning. There are so many ideas that are incredibly inspiring, empowering, and contagious that should not just be lost in the nuances of the system.

By marketing ourselves as a school with an innovative curriculum rather than a school that is constantly changing, we risk losing the very innovation that we are marketing. The students who apply to the school are beginning to change as Olin’s name grows. We are seeing fewer people who are eager to build from the ground up and attracted to an environment that is risk-taking. We are taught to reach far and stub our toes on our projects. We need to be doing the same with our curriculum. After a decade spent trying to perfect our original aspirations, we should pause and look at opportunities to innovate engineering education. We need to make sure that we do not stop innovating simply because what we have works.