A Candid Conversation with Ursula Wolz

Ursula Wolz is a visiting professor from The College of New Jersey (TCNJ). She began her education in Linguistics, Philosophy, and Psychology, then transitioned over to a master’s in Computing Education and finally a Ph.D. in Computer Science at Columbia University. It is no wonder, then, that her experience and acclaim are in computer science education, interdisciplinary computer science, and “interactive storytelling,” all of which involve combining narrative with computer programming.

She is teaching two sections of Software Design and one of Game design this semester at Olin.


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A Perfectly Polite Proposal

No doubt you are familiar with the tragedy of the commons (1) —the idea that multiple individuals with access to an unregulated public resource will gradually use it up or ruin it (2). It is with great sadness, increasing cynicism, and frequent exclamations of profanities (3) that I have come to the conclusion that the East Hall kitchen constitutes one such situation.

In the hope that positive change might yet be effected in this state of affairs, I propose the institution of a set of kitchen training procedures, akin to the training anyone who wishes to access and use the machine shops must undergo (4). The primary reason for such a training program would of course be the safety of all kitchen users; but, as is the case with the machine shops, an important secondary concern is the maintenance of clean, well-organized facilities. Relevant to this situation are no fewer than three core values of the Honor Code—Integrity (5), Respect for Others, and Passion for the Welfare of the College—though I am sure arguments could be made relating it to the other principles as well.

If at some point I believed that anyone able to attend and progress through engineering school would naturally also be able to make use of an oven; a stove; a microwave; a blender; an electric mixer; or a drying rack; consider me disillusioned. If I thought the process of washing a dish so that food would not still be stuck to it was common knowledge, I now realize I was flabbergastingly naïve. But just as we have learned to take integrals and derivatives, to design from nature and for users, I believe it is within the power of every student at Olin to master the skills of proper kitchen use.

The kitchen training procedures I would propose need not be complicated or time-consuming. At the outside, I envision the current kitchen czar demonstrating, for the interested individual, the proper use of the aforementioned devices and giving a general description of what the kitchen should look like when clean, while at the same time impressing upon them the shared responsibility of keeping it that way. However, more than any training, the key to keeping the kitchens safe, clean, and in working order is a principle Carter Chang or Ben Tatar could easily understand and explain:
Clean up after yourself.

Perhaps it is optimistic to the point of foolishness to imagine that we might implement, in the kitchen, the machine shops’ ideal of leaving the area nicer than when you came in; but surely cleaning up our own messes is not beyond a group of college-trained engineers.

1. Not to be confused with my Harry Potter fan fiction detailing Charlie Weasley’s adventures in Romania, The Comedy of the Dragons.

2. As Wikipedia puts it, “a dilemma arising from the situation in which multiple individuals, acting independently and rationally consulting their own self-interest, will ultimately deplete a shared limited resource, even when it is clear that it is not in anyone’s long-term interest for this to happen.”

3. Mostly invocations of the male offspring of female dogs

4. Indeed, people can and have hurt themselves pretty badly in the kitchen because they didn’t know how to properly use the equipment therein.

5. “Each member of the college community will accept responsibility for and represent accurately and completely oneself, one’s work, and one’s actions.”

SCOPE: to Infinity and Beyond!

The SCOPE administration team has put out a call for applicants to a highly secretive new project for the 2012-2013 school year. Among those present for the announcement were Professor Stephen S. Holt and former Olin parent Dr. Daniel Barry.

Although the project’s sponsor has not been officially disclosed, inside sources indicate involvement in administering exploration of and experimentation in the atmosphere and beyond on a national level.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Ever wondered what The Silence of the Lambs would have been like if Hannibal Lecter had been a 24-year-old 4’11” hacker girl with Asperger’s? And if Clarice Starling had been a fifty-something financial journalist convicted of libel? And if—

Aw heck, I’ll just come out and say it. If you liked The Silence of the Lambs— or any murder mystery, or novel with any degree of suspense or mystery, really— you’ll like The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

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