Horoscopes by Drunk Editors

Libra (Sept. 23 – Oct. 22): They say that two birds of a feather flock together. It’s a wonderful thing to find a sense of community, a sense of belonging, a place that no matter how hard you mess up someone will always be around to tell you “well, at least you tried.” A lot of people strive for that. No one should take it for granted. Birds also flock in trees. Too bad Olin doesn’t have any.

Scorpio (Oct. 23 – Nov. 21): Scorpions are pretty dangerous. If you see one, do not engage. It may try to lure you in. Be assured, it does not have tequila shots and will certainly not be giving any to you.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 21): When selling your next house remember: location, location, location.

Capricorn (Dec. 22 – Jan. 19): Let’s see…(rolls die) 2? It’s gonna be a rough week because (rolls again)…4? Your cat will be sick. (Rolls again)…1? He’ll be fine. He’s scrappy

Aquarius (Jan. 20 – Feb. 18): You won’t be able to connect to the Olin network, no matter how hard you try.

Pisces (Feb. 19 – March 20): You might be allergic to grapes, Kevin.

Aries (March 21 – April 19): Winter is coming…with highs of forty degrees and lows of around twenty. Make sure to wear a nice coat, the scarf your grandmother made you, and sacrifice to your local weather deities today. Remember: a goat a day keeps the chills away!

Taurus (April 20 – May 20): You might find yourself with a pen that you swear wasn’t yours.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20): Stay away from Pisces on Friday.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22): Call your mom, Jerry. For Pete’s sake!

Leo (July 23 – Aug. 22): You know that thing you haven’t cleaned for a while? Yeah, now would be a good time.

Virgo (Aug. 23 – Sept. 22): The planets have aligned for you this month. You’ll find that the person you’ve been waiting to respond to you is…who am I kidding? I can’t do this. I’m not cut out for horoscopes just like I’m not cut out for taking care of basil plants. Every day it just sits there, dying, and I didn’t even notice, didn’t even care until it was dead. I was supposed to take care of it and it died. Here I am trying to tell you how to live your life, and I can’t even take care of a stupid basil plant.

Horoscopes By Drunk Editors

Virgo (Aug. 23 – Sept. 22): If you think you shouldn’t , you probably really shouldn’t. Or you could do it and see what happens.

Libra (Sept. 23 – Oct. 22): Paranoia is a survival mechanism designed to keep you from being eaten, stabbed in the back, or poisoned.

Scorpio (Oct. 23 – Nov. 21): Three can keep a secret if two of them are dead. Not that we endorse murder. Or suicide. Or even threats. We endorse nothing, nor are we endorsed by anyone. It’s a complicated legal thing.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 21): Curiosity did kill the cat.

Capricorn (Dec. 22 – Jan. 19): Sometimes having seven different contingency plans is a good thing.
Aquarius (Jan. 20 – Feb. 18): You are going to have a wonderful week. It will feel like you’re walking on clouds, like the birds are singing just for you. Think about buying a lottery ticket. Profess your love to your secret crush. Take up that hobby that you’ve always previously failed at. There is no losing for you. It’s like being King Midas, except that you won’t find yourself accidentally killing the ones that you love when they give you congratulatory high fives. Like being Achilles, except your mother knew that tongs existed and was able to thoroughly dunk you in the River Styx. Like being the Chicago Cubs making it to Game 7’s 10th inning to finally end a 108 year dry streak. In short, there is nothing that you cannot do this week. Play your cards right, and it could go down in the history books as one of the single greatest weeks in human history. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste. You could solve world hunger. You could find the cure for cancer. And if you think this is all too good to be true…

Pisces (Feb. 19 – March 20): Put it back down. Walk away slowly.

Aries (March 21 – April 19): Foolhardy decisions are for fools. Not that you’re a fool…

Taurus (April 20 – May 20): Don’t do it.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20): You can never look over your shoulder too often.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22): Reevaluate your options.

Leo (July 23 – Aug. 22): Bulls shouldn’t play in China Shops.

Crossword Puzzle



1 Smarty
7 Mars day
9 Christmas phrase
10 Irritating type of voice
14 Online craft market
15 Aware of (two words)
18 Tattle
19 How many to tango?
20 Slowly stop
21 Unusual
23 Long time
25 Bland color
27 Sing on a hill
30 Depends on
32 To ___ or not to ___
33 Break, in music
34 Back muscle, abbr
35 ___ Alto, CA
37 Many
39 Stuff to sell
40 Oliners
42 Brew
43 “I win this hand”
44 Pesky biter
45 Margaret’s nickname
47 TV trial of the century judge
48 Prefix for a PhD, abbr
49 State known for rain
51 Mediation? Just do this!
52 Shiny yellow
56 Skill
57 Skirmish
58 Getting up there
59 A new model


1 Power
2 Littlest bit
3 Bird house
4 Clever
5 Writing vessel before ball point pens
6 tiny
7 Weasel type
8 Property
11 Way to soften a question
12 Express sympathy
13 Grassy places
16 Exist
17 Can’t
19 Unix translation
21 Relaxing
22 Popular Food Network celeb
23 Consume
24 Working
26 Ointment for cuts
28 Fruit
29 First state in the Union abbr
31 Jewelry
35 Diet type
36 Geometry 101 calculation
38 Homer’s neighbor
39 Disney bigwig
41 French coming-of-age film
44 Digit
45 Sound to get someone’s attention
46 Opposite of 57 Across
50 Nerve network
51 My love waits for me beyond it
53 Hooray to Juan
54 Cool light
55 ___, Daylight come and me wanna go home










Screen Shot 2017-08-29 at 20.00.56

Free Soapboxes Here

Here at Olin, we intentionally and deliberately teach students how to express their ideas. Every first year takes one writing course and two courses with design reviews to showcase and justify their progress. We give students lots of venues for presentations, public whiteboards to gauge public interest, and well, there’s also this piece of paper that you’re reading.

A few weeks ago, as part of a project for Six Books That Changed The World, Logan Davis put up three presentation boards around campus, each bearing seven black and white posters. The posters carried political statements like “Neo-Nazis Have Bad Ideas,” “The Press Should Be Free,” “Government Can Be Inefficient,” and “Islam Is Not Terrorism.”

“What was the goal of this?” you might ask.

According to Logan, he wanted to push a button. More specifically, his goal was a weeklong experiment that, on its surface, was very political. But if you stopped for a second and thought about the words that you were reading, the statements could suddenly be read as rather banal.

But even though we know that government can be inefficient, and that Islam is not terrorism, and that literally everyone has bad ideas, a number of community members were made very uncomfortable by the statements..

The first morning of the project, the three poster boards vanished after the administration requested their removal to clean up for a tour group. Later that afternoon (and following a hunt for who and why and how to get them back), the boards were back up.

Phase 1 of the project, Listening, was off to a roaring start.

Despite the fact that no one uses QR codes (Logan’s chosen method for contact), he was able to receive feedback through both his coded form and the Therapy mailing list. Logan said that he, “was trying to put these things out in a very public way and see what people did… and people did interesting things.”

Complaints about the project ranged from the statements being too inflammatory to not being creative enough. Granted, some of the statements were solicited from other sources, such as “self-identifying conservative / right of center” Oliners: Logan says that “Everyone Has A Right To Life”, “Government Can Be Inefficient”, “Corruption Is Not Good”, “Reporters Have Responsibilities”, and “People Needed Coal Jobs” were inspired by conversations with such students.

None of these statements, not the right nor left nor the center-leaning ones, were meant to be attacks. “If any of them were attacks [on an Oliner’s identity], I kind of failed. I didn’t want them to be controversial.”

Regardless of whether or not they felt attacked, Oliners gave feedback, and those that chose to do it anonymously allowed Phase 2 to happen. Logan took a thick red marker and scrawled the anonymous comments about each statement over its respective poster.

Many of us saw this artist-executed graffiti. Many of us stopped to notice what had changed about the posters that had been in our peripheral vision for the past week. How many of us thought about the vitriol behind the red words? And how many of us would have spoken up for or against these statements if they had been said to our faces?

To round off his project for Six Books That Changed The World, here are Logan’s Six Mechanisms of Silence:


  1. Obfuscation and Administration – there is no formal process for putting up signs like this, but the activation energy required to first ask a professor and then go through facilities and StAR and then go find the means of actually displaying posters is a wild goose chase that acts as a rather powerful deterrent.
  2. Literal Physical Removal by the Administration – signs getting taken down from public space, presumably or explicitly by the administration.
  3. Literal Physical Removal by Students – signs getting taken down from student spaces, presumably by students.
  4. Anonymous Directed Feedback – e.g. emails and feedback forms that went to Logan. It’s not a dialogue/conversation if your target can’t respond. It’s bullying.
  5. Anonymous Public Feedback – e.g. the Therapy email thread, because people want to speak their minds but they don’t want to be judged by others for what they say.
  6. The Myth of Olin – the myth being that Olin is apolitical. We don’t show politics on tours. Our students don’t talk about politics, for fear of ostracism and for fear of being the ostracizers. “Being apolitical is just an endorsement of the way things are.”.

So why do we have such an aversion to putting our names on our opinions? And do we actually want silence, or to make it safe for our voices while drowning other opinions out?

Back Pain Included*

Mel Chua ‘07 would have chosen to link her brain to her computer and forgo her body completely. Her fingers couldn’t type fast enough to keep up with what her brain was creating. But there’s a part of this rote engineer mindset that needs consideration: how do we take care of ourselves?

About a year after graduation (I had been a computer geek for many years at that point, and had spent lots of time hunched over laptop keyboards and tinkering with horrible ergonomics), I had a horrible bout of Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI).

When you misuse your body in the same way for prolonged periods of time, the muscles start seizing up in weird ways and you stop being able to have mobility. I couldn’t move some of my fingers, and when I did, nerve pain would shoot up my arm. It was really bad; I wasn’t sleeping, I had to stop working for a couple months because I couldn’t touch a keyboard without occasionally crying.

So I decided, ‘I never want this to happen again, what do I need to learn?’ That’s what spurred my interest in anatomy and movement and muscle care. In grad school, I accidentally stumbled into the dance department when they were offering Modern Dance 1. That ended up with me being immersed in dance classes for the rest of grad school and learning that it’s really hard to start ballet when you’re 25.

One of the things I noticed in industry when I talked with my older colleagues was they said, ‘Yeah, that. That’s normal. It’s completely normal to have crippling pain that’s work related by the time you’re 25, if you’re really serious about this.’ That’s awful, why would we think that this is ok?

We talk about beautiful soldering, boards that have been very well put together, or the path that a tool takes as it cuts through material. So we have those notions for talking about good mechanics of inanimate things interacting with inanimate things and we value them and we value good craft. But if you’re soldering some through holes and the tip of the soldering iron is moving beautifully and the rest of you is scrunched over, why aren’t we changing this system too?

One thing I wish could happen on campus is if it were more ok to move and sit and stand in classrooms or meetings, like explicitly ok. You can sit on the floor, you can lean against the fall, and if you need to fiddle or go get water, if you want to take your shoes off and walk around in socks, that’s fine. Sometimes not being able to do those things can be more distracting.

Whatever lets you be present in this room, do it.

Notes on Your Capstone

What is the Olin Senior Design Capstone? Officially, it is a two semester project class that is a culmination of the skills that students have learned over their Olin career. The Design Capstone focuses on design, effective communication, and teamwork; skills that, in other college capstone projects, are also taught alongside the capstone itself.

It should be noted that “Capstone” here actually refers to two different paths, not just SCOPE (Senior Capstone Project in Engineering ((this is one of the only times the “O” does not stand for “Olin”))). The two paths that the Design Capstone encompasses are SCOPE and ADE (Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship).

These two Design Capstone directors also coordinate with and inform each other. Benjamin Linder (ADE) and Alisha Sarang-Sieminski (SCOPE) work very closely to provide experiences for students that will meet a broad spectrum of needs, from job preparation to international engagement.

So now, a few facts and dispelled myths about the Design Capstone:


A lot of students think that SCOPE is really rich and ADE is really poor. Actually, both programs have roughly the same amount of funding per student. They just spend it differently.



SCOPE has a big celebratory event at the end of the year. ADE doesn’t. That is in part due to the fact that SCOPE has a beginning and an end, while ADE is designed to keep going for many semesters, trading out students as they graduate.

The other reason for this is that, in Ben’s words, “[it would be] very difficult for [ADE partners] to attend, and they don’t have the resources to do it.  When you do work in poverty, it’s not appropriate to have celebrations where resources could have gone to this specific context.”



This was a personal query, but it’s still a valid fact: you don’t have to travel in order to take ADE (or SCOPE). For example, I would possibly be in physical danger were I to travel to Uganda (they’re very anti-LGBTQ+). Now, I can obviously choose a different team. But let’s assume that I wanted to be on the Mississippi Delta team that I’ve been working with for another class. I don’t feel particularly safe in the deep South either, but I could still be on that team. I wouldn’t travel, and while my experience would be different, it wouldn’t be significantly diminished for not having personally interacted with stakeholders.


Thoughtful Sponsors

Some people say they don’t choose SCOPE is because of the military aspect of it. Currently, the only SCOPE sponsor that has military ties is Raytheon, although they are not solely a defense contractor and do important work in supporting STEM education. SCOPE is aware of students values when it comes to choosing project sponsors.

No, you’re not selling your soul to the Defense Department if you choose SCOPE. And you can choose to not work with a sponsor with defense ties. Bottom line: if SCOPE is a compelling option for you, there are plenty of great sponsors to choose from.


Getting Technical

Once upon a time, there was actually an ADE project that had to be discontinued because no one at Olin had the technical skill to move the project along. “At one point, I sent an email to the entire student body of one semester, saying ‘we are dying for technical expertise here,’ and I listed all the technical challenges that we needed help with.”

Conversely, SCOPE is not purely technical. The Mitsubishi Team is doing a very experience-heavy, UOCD-esque project that isn’t really geared toward a technical solution. That said, if you want a technical role, it can be found in almost any project. If you want a more user-centered role, it can be found in almost any project.


Your Design Capstone will ultimately be what you make of it.


To help you make an informed decision, Alisha and Ben will be holding an info session this Wednesday at lunch (12:30-1:30) in the Crescent Room. Bring your lunch and your questions. You do not need to be a Rising Senior to attend.

Moments of Jon’s Life

Please read in the voice of YOU.

Meet Jon Adler. Jon was a public school theater kid from Newton, MA, who acted in high school plays alongside Anne Dudek and B.J. Novak. His senior year, he was involved in six of the thirteen productions his school put on that year, directing one of them.

After high school, Jon went to Bates College, thinking that he would study English or History because he really liked stories. After taking a class called “Representations of Mental Illness in Literature,” he found that it was really the characters that fascinated him. So he majored in psychology.

Jon knew that he wanted wanted to get clinical training as a therapist. Unsure as to whether or not he would want to do therapy full time, he began looking into graduate programs that would allow him to research personality and do clinical work. Through a serendipitous meeting with a current grad student at Northwestern University, Jon found his future graduate mentor, Dan McAdams (who had developed the theory of Narrative Identity as a major player in Personality Psychology).

Looking back, Jon now sees that he mostly put his own personal development on hold during undergrad, in favor of his intellectual development, a strategy he now wishes he could go back and undo. Towards the end of college and the years that followed, he worked hard on his identity and also came out as gay. At the beginning of grad school, he met his future husband. They were married six years later, in Massachusetts in 2008, back when it was the only state in the country to recognize same-sex marriage.

As they were not residents of Massachusetts at the time, Jon and his fiancé were told that it would up to the individual city clerk whether or not they could be legally married. Trying Provincetown as the “safest bet,” the clerks were very excited to fill out their marriage paperwork.

True to the teacher he would become, the marriage was as much a teaching moment as it was a celebration: instead of a traditional rehearsal dinner, they had a “catered conversation,” complete with readings, homework, and flip charts.  They led the guests in a discussion about the history and nature of marriage.

Back in Chicago for the last year of his PhD in Personality and Clinical Psychology, Jon needed to do a year-long residency, which occurred for him at a VA hospital in inner-city Chicago. He worked primarily with veterans coming back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a very intense position that was not the right fit, but still gave Jon a very good breadth in addition to his previous years of clinical training.

After his residency, Jon knew that he wanted a faculty job. He and his husband also knew that they wanted to have kids, ideally close to Jon’s parents in Newton, so location did factor into his job search, though he applied all over the Northeast and in Chicago.

He was mostly applying to narrowly-scoped positions in psych departments at small liberal arts colleges, until he saw the listing for an Assistant Professor of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences at Olin. Having lived in the area, Jon knew of its existence, and thinking that the job and school sounded exciting, he sent in his application.

He came into his faculty “Candidates’ Weekend” excited and he left really excited.

Eight years later, the rest is history.

At Olin, Jon (now an Associate Professor) is the only psychologist on the faculty and there are no psych majors to speak of. That means, “I get to teach the things that I think our students most need to know. I’m not preparing them for a major, so it really is about psychological concepts that are going to be useful to you in life, and not because the concepts are going to be useful to you in the 300-level of your major or because they are going to get you into grad school. So I’ve been able to organize my teaching entirely in around psychological concepts that I think are going to be useful to our students as people.”

Jon also does a lot of research into Narrative Identity, or making sense of the stories people tell about their lives. He collects stories, examines the themes (among other things), and then relates those findings back to mental health. He’s interested in identifying the most productive (for mental health) ways people make meaning of difficult experiences. He also makes the distinction between historical truth and narrative truth. One is the series of events as they objectively, verifiably happened, the other is the series of events as the narrator comes to make meaning of them.  It’s the narrative truth that serves as the foundation of our identity. Jon is also an editor at the Journal of Personality and he’s spoken with the media a lot about his research (this article in The Atlantic gives a nice overview of his field).

When he’s not being a teacher or a researcher, Jon returns to theater, although he personally enjoys directing more than acting. This semester he’s co-teaching a new course called Constructing and Performing the Self (the final deliverable, a fully-staged series of personal monologues written by students, will be April 20 and 21).

Back in 2011, FWOP had a free weekend at Babson’s Sorenson Theater where they weren’t planning on using the space, so they asked Jon if he wanted to direct something. He chose Our Town.

The play was written by Thornton Wilder in the 1930’s, set in the small, fictional town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire, where everyone knows everyone. To Jon, Grover’s Corners was Olin. So he set out to direct the play with two goals in mind: to reflect our community (he got students, faculty (Mark Somerville!  Brian Storey!), staff (Sharon Breitbart!), and even faculty’s kids to act in the play); and to be an example at Olin of how out-of-the-box thinking can be applied to the performing arts.

At the beginning of the show, the audience was actually brought up onto the mostly-bare stage and they never returned to their seats.  They became the townspeople, wandering around the stage as a scene popped up here or there.

Jon will tell you what happened next:

“In the third act, the main character, Emily (played by Claire Barnes ‘15), has died and the action takes place in the town cemetery. We had the actors playing the dead walk out onto the stage with these white picture frames and lie down on the ground. That brought a chill to the audience; all of a sudden, you couldn’t just run around the stage because you don’t want to step on someone. So people sort of stood still and looked down the way you do in a cemetery.  

“And when the narrator of the play invites Emily to go back and visit her life, what happens in the play is she picks her tenth birthday. She goes back to her tenth birthday and she can only stand to be there for a few minutes because she realizes how little people appreciate all the details of their daily lives while they’re living.

“So the narrator takes her up out of her grave and walks to the upstage curtain, which I assume the audience thought was just the back wall of the theater, but in fact it opens to a very elaborate 1901 kitchen set. The Olin students built us a cast iron stove and there was Emily’s Mom (Kate Dramstad ‘13), in period dress with early morning stage lighting, cooking bacon, and you could hear it sizzling in the pan and you could smell it as soon as the theater curtains opened. She pours coffee that you can smell, and each of us in the audience has this experience that Emily is having. They’ve been in this imaginative space in their heads and all of a sudden, real smells and real sounds are hitting them, and it’s intense. So they’re having the experience Emily has and she can only stand it for a few minutes. Then the curtain closes and we’re back to the cemetery for the last thirty seconds of the play.”

The play was a wonderful community experience, one Jon would like to create again someday. But, for now, he plans to hold off anything big like Our Town until his kids get a little bit older and he has more time to devote to it (they’re 2 and 4, so sadly we may have to wait a while).

While we’re waiting, Jon thinks we could all benefit from working on our own personal narratives.  His field of research suggests that in adolescence we start to become the author of our own lives, rather than being a character in a story told by someone else (often our parents).  The first steps in self-authorship ask us to simply parse the flow of our lives into the key moments that make us who we are.  These “self-event connections” are the building blocks of Narrative Identity.  If you want to write it, great, but this is the kind of thinking we should all be doing as we start to live our own stories.

Everyone’s a Charmander

The following are the positive and enlightening thoughts from Graham Hooton ’14.

I feel like everyone, especially in college but just in life, has a sense of urgency. Every time you have an idea, you need to go and implemented immediately, you need to go to change things this cycle. If you have the idea that you can do better then you have to start doing that right away, and it has to become a habit right away. You have to change your life because you had that idea.

Then we’re disappointed when we fall short of those goals in our New Year’s resolutions or things don’t change. We wanted that something to change and we talked to people about it and it didn’t change. OK.

Let me point about that [falling short] is totally expected, that’s what happens time and again. Why should you be surprised? It always happens that way, be surprised if it does [work the first time], be happy when you succeed and then if you don’t succeed take that as a lesson.

I have dozens of different notebooks and apps and organizations systems. It’s funny to go back and revisit [them] because it’s like, “Oh OK, well I’ll use this for tracking my workouts or use this for tracking reading,” and I go back and I see these lists and I thought of all these great list, but I never went back to it because I didn’t stick to it.

Can you imagine if I kept up with all this? That’s all I would be doing. I’m an ideas guy. I have great ideas about myself, about the world. I don’t have to act on all these ideas; in fact, I need to pick and choose, decide what I want to do. What to do as opposed to what can I get what can do.

Instead of looking at how to change yourself, accept yourself and the community and everything around you. And if there are things that need changing, figure out how you can do those while not actually taking on more work, more labor, more time, because you don’t have it. [We] always fill ourselves up to the brim. If you’re going to take on something else, be explicit about what.

(Graham is getting his teaching certificate for high school science, more specifically physics)

It’s amazing and it’s actually quite liberating because I feel like I can just teach them anything and everything and they’re learning something. And if “this” is the concept, I literally have to talk about the words that are associated with this concept; they’ve never even heard them before, so you have to learn those words.

It’s fundamental but that’s what the difficulty of teaching is. Figuring out what people don’t know and trying to remember what it’s like to [not] know. You can’t teach it from a position of knowing and that’s why a lot of college professors struggle because they know so much. There’s a saying, “The more that you the more you know the more you see.” So you see the connections that students aren’t seeing, oftentimes things make sense to you because of a higher level concepts that you’ve already grasped.

Because of that higher level thing I understand this more basic thing more completely, but [the students] have never seen a lot of [concepts] so they can’t use that.
I thought it would be strange to be called Mr. Hooton but it’s… I think it would be very strange if they call me anything else because they are Charmanders, running around and they’ve got their little stubby arms, big eyes and everything and they’re so far from evolving into Charmeleons. Or at least, they have a little bit of self awareness. That’s my grade elevens, I think, they’re the Charmeleon level.

You’re never going to know everything so. And sometimes, you get really good at the stuff you’re doing, you don’t really realize that you’re getting good at a certain thing. [You might be] keeping track of shipments or something and [you] get really good at keeping track of [shipments]. And that’s a little tool in your toolbox that you never really knew you needed and maybe you never do need again. But maybe it does come in handy.

Being Deliberate
Align your actions with your intentions. If you want to be a certain way and you immediately start acting that way; if you realize you’re not acting that way, just start acting that way. Take that moment of realization to kickstart you again. And then you eventually build it into habits.

Also, leap at whatever opportunities that you have to do the things you want to do. That’s an instinctual thing, you say, “All of this seems like something I want to do. And I just follow it and see where it goes.”

Do your best at things. If you’re going to be doing something, really dive in, lean into it. Make sure you’re getting most of it, and you’re putting the most into it.

Find something you can give to people that’s really easy for you to give but that makes them feel so special, because you’re amplifying your positivity that you bring to the world so much. If what you’re doing makes their day, and for you that was just ten minutes. Whatever it was, if you’re amplifying your impact, I think you’re putting your own efforts to really good work.

For the first two weeks of my teaching, what mattered to me was that maintaining a life outside of it. And then the process stepped up, so I was teaching every other day, and then it stepped up [again] so I was teaching every day. And I realized that at that point what I valued was doing a really good job. So I dropped [everything else]. I was getting [to school] at seven and staying until nine pm. And then that’s when they kick you out of the building, that’s when the engineer comes around and says that it’s time to go.

But you realize what you have to do what you value, you have to decide what to do and what not to do.

Engineer Adjacent

Mitch Cieminski ‘16 on his plans for after Olin, and the things about his college experience that led him to the path he’s exploring now.

I was working at Insper in Brazil halfway through my sophomore year. And I think the reason I decided to leave Olin and do that wasn’t because I was some great engineer educator. I didn’t feel like I knew anything. But I just needed something to change and I didn’t really know what it was. That was coming off of a summer of research that was interesting but I didn’t totally love it.

The opportunity to go to Brazil just kind of presented itself. I went and it was awesome, I’m sure anyone at Olin can attest that I didn’t stop talking about it for almost three years. Why I liked it is because really what I was doing there was being an engineering education consultant. And consulting is like a really broad term, but basically I was a collaborator and designer and people respected me by virtue of my position.

Insper professors would ask me questions and seriously want to know my answer because it would seriously affect what they would decide [to do]. I very much felt like my position was not tokenized while I was there, even though we were all kind of worried that it would be. But we really did real work there, so I loved being this engineering education consultant. ‘OK, how can I do this for the rest of my life?’

And that is where I started.

I [figured] I would probably want a degree so people would believe I know things. So I started looking at engineering education programs. And I came across one at Purdue University. And that’s where Mel Chua was going at the time. I didn’t know her at all. I kind of just like emailed her out of the blue and said, ‘Hey I’m thinking that maybe I might want to study engineering education. And you’re doing it right now and you’re an Oliner, so maybe we should talk.’

We had a conversation while I was still in Brazil; that was the first time I ever met her. It was a weird conversation, in part because she told me to not go to grad school. She said to get some years of experience as an engineer and then think about it.

That was like pretty decent advice. But I spent the next two years trying to say, ‘Well if I’m going to be an engineer what kind of an engineer am I going to be?’ I was trying to find jobs within engineering that I liked and it turned out that all the ones that I tried I didn’t really like.

My SCOPE project went really well, and I think that was the best engineering experience I had after it came back [from Brazil]. But in general I realized in being back at Olin that I like engineering but not as an engineer. More as an engineer adjacent.

At first I wanted to be the socially engaged engineer who cares for the world. But now I want to focus way more on the social engagement than the engineering. And slowly that became, ‘I want to be a social scientist who studies engineering.’

Now I’m on the Alumni Council and there are a lot of Oliners who do not identify as engineers. Given that so many Oliners aren’t engineers, what is our rallying cry at this point? Who are you, fundamentally?

I think that in the world there’s a lot more flexibility than people acknowledge. I can make a big decision about where I’m going to grad school right now and the truth of this that in two years I could leave with a master’s degree and do something else or at the end of five years I could have a PhD, and just say, “actually I just want to be an engineer,” and I could go back to that. Or I could just decide to do something totally different; I actually do have a lot of flexibility.

And I’m young so that’s useful and. I have skills, so those are useful as well, but I’m in a very privileged position to be able to have that kind of flexibility. Right now, I’m living with my parents in between college and grad school and that’s because they can support me through that and they’re willing to as well.

If I make the wrong decision I can probably deal with it. And I’m pretty confident I can do that. Most people I’ve met in my life, especially at Olin, can definitely do that as well. Switch and figure things out.