Q&A with Stephanie Milton

Stephanie Milton, Olin’s new Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Title IX Coordinator arrived at Olin in January. Stephanie took a few minutes out of her day to answer some questions as she digs into her new role.

The Wire: Welcome! We are excited to have you on campus. Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about your background and how you came to be at Olin? 

Stephanie Milton: My background is in student affairs. A few years ago, though, I decided I wanted to explore theology so I entered the seminary. When I completed my program, I was trying to decide how and where I should help people. One of the ways people do that is through palliative care and bereavement. I worked at Emory Hospital and then moved over to the Atlanta Veterans Affairs Healthcare System (AVAHCS). There I focused on veterans and their history of moral injury and trauma. I have also worked both at small colleges, such as Spelman College, and in the UC system at the University of California Santa Cruz.

The Wire: Tell me what interested you about the work here at Olin? 

SM: I was looking for something student-facing. When I came to campus, I got this art school vibe from the students: they are very creative and that appealed to me. This is a start-up culture and very hands-on and I think that isn’t found just in the curriculum but everywhere.

I really like working in the DEI space because it’s very rewarding to see students and others have those a-ha moments. I have come to realize that the results of my work are not always visible while people are on campus, sometimes it’s only after they have graduated that they reach out and tell me what it meant to them. The Title IX piece is different. I hope people feel comfortable with me because I want people to know I’m approachable: “Hi, I’m here. Let’s talk.”

The Wire: What are you looking forward to at Olin?

SM: I’m looking forward to meeting as many students as possible and hearing what they want and what they are cautious about. I’m looking for a balance between my dual roles in the DEI and the Title IX space. And I can’t wait to experience the whole academic year. I have heard about EXPO and Commencement. I’m looking forward to being a part of this community. 

I also have to learn all the acronyms! Students have been sharing things with me like “MVP” and it took me a while to realize it was minimum viable product.

The Wire: What is coming up? 

SM: We have definitely hit the ground running here. We are planning films and discussions for Women’s History Month. We are planning a restorative justice workshop. I also want people to know there is always dark chocolate in my office. So, come on by.

The Situation in Bolivia

I heard about the unrest in Bolivia on NPR’s Up First podcast while getting ready for class last semester. I hear upsetting news on Up First pretty much everyday, but this stuck out because I traveled through Bolivia with a student program. I don’t have a real connection to the country; I was a strange tourist, but the fact of having physically been there, having stood on the largest salt flat in the world makes it feel more real to me. 

I want to talk about the present, but Bolivia has a lot of past that needs to be addressed. I’m by no means an expert; this summary is an amalgamation of what I learned in classes on my trip, and the Wikipedia article on Bolivia, where I got all the dates. 

The Spanish conquering force arrived on the shores of South America in 1524 and had mostly conquered the Incan Empire by 1533. The area that would become Bolivia was then known as Charcas. 

In 1545 the mining town of Potosi was founded high in the Andes mountains to extract silver from the ‘Cerro Rico’ (meaning  ‘rich mountain’), an imposing peak at 4,824 metres above sea level that contained the largest silver deposit in the world. The Spanish enslaved the indiginous population to mine and smelt silver from the mountain. In 20 years nearly all of the easily available silver deposits had been exhausted, and so more intensive mining approaches were used. In the 16th and 17th century the riches of Potosi were pressed into coin and shipped to Europe.  An estimated 60,000 tonnes of silver were extracted from the rich mountain by 1996. 

In 1781 Túpac Katari led an indigenous rebellion which was put down at the cost of 20,000 deaths.. In 1809 the wars for Latin American independence began with revolution in the city of Sucre, Bolivia. 16 years of war ended with victory over spain, and on August 6 the Republic of Bolivia, named for general Simon Bolivar, was established. 

At the time of its founding Bolivia had over twice as much territory as it now covers. It lost land to all four of its neighboring countries, mostly over the discovery of some newly valuable resources, including saltpeter (sodium nitrate), rubber trees, and underground oil. 

These wars were waged by the spanish descendants who ruled the newly formed countries, and the conditions of the indigenous population remained terribly brutal.

Although Bolivia has nominally been a republic since its founding, before 1982 it was  governed by US backed military dictators with short, unstable periods of democracy following popular revolutions. 

Evo Morales was born to indigenous Aymara farmers in 1959. He ran for congress and won in 1997 on a socialist and anti-imperialist platform. He won the presidency in 2005 with an absolute majority of the vote. Though most of the population of Bolivia identify as indigenous, Morales is viewed as the country’s first indigenous leader, and was the first to include native religion as part of his official inauguration. Over the course of his administration he nationalized gas, mining, among other industries, alienating multinational corporations which had previously been involved in Bolivia’s resource extraction-based economy. When Morales took office, he had support from idiginous communities, but as time went on his popularity among some of these groups fell.

On November 12th I heard on the news that Evo Morales had fled to Mexico after pressure from the country’s commander of the armed forces following increased protests over the Organization American States found the results of the recent election were tampered with. Bolivia is still in turmoil, with protests, counter-protests, and no certainty of the future. 

Despite the centuries of resource removal and loss, Bolivia remains an incredibly biologically and geologically rich country. Within its borders are some of the highest peaks of the Andes mountain range, rainforests of the Amazon basin, part of lake Titicaca, 20% of the world’s tropical glaciers, large deposits of natural gas, and the largest salt flat in the world. Salar de Uyuni in southwestern Bolivia at 10,582 km2 is vast and beautiful expanse of salt. You should image search it to see what I mean. There are ancient fossilized coral islands that rise from the flats home to giant cacti and lakes with Andean flamingos. In the dry season, people drive across the plains of white salt crystals. My travel group spent a few days there, sightseeing. We had just finished a backpacking trip, the final leg of which brought us through steep foothills made treacherous by landslides caused my strip mining, and we were quite happy to sit back and ride across the stunning flats. On one of our stops, I wrapped up a salt crystal and in a tattered plastic bag and took it with me. 

Geologists believe that Salar de Uyuni contains the largest known deposit of lithium in the world, in the brine under the thick salt crust. Bolivia hasn’t been a major exporter of lithium, partially since the regulations under the Morales administration were so strict, and partially since lithium is fairly abundant and difficult to extract from salt flats. The current interim leader of the country, Jeanine Cháves, hopes to open the country to foreign trade, and with the increasing demand for lithium batteries, perhaps extraction will begin. 

Sat’Day Mornings

Editor’s note: A big thank you to Jordan for submitting this piece so that Frankly Speaking would be exactly 12 pages, a multiple of 4 pages.

He did this piece for his Wellesley Painting Class last semester (taught by Elizabeth Mooney). It was originally titled Saturday mornings, but it didn’t fit so it is now Sat’day Mornings because Sat Mornings was spaced pretty strangely.

Consider that April is National Poetry Month so you should submit poems to us. Art is always cool.

I made this piece because it reminded me of how I spent my Saturday mornings in high school, eating cheap food and drinking tea.

Library Changes with Callan

Callan Bignoli was hired as Olin’s Library Director at the end of July 2019. Since she has started she has been aiming to improve the library with student input. The library has been drastically updated because of the efforts of the library under the direction of Callan. Because of the vast changes, I sat down with her for an interview. 

Callan collected student feedback by conducting focus groups in the fall and surveys both in the fall and spring. She conducted another survey with alums of 2019. To accommodate how busy staff can be, she did several one-on-one meetings with them instead of focus groups. 

To do these surveys, Rebecca Matthews, Institute Research at Olin, was happy to help her make her survey and put them on Qualtrics. Rebecca also helped her organize the results and make reports of how people responded.

Additionally, Callan did an internal survey with the other librarians of 4-5 open ended questions related to what to prioritize and which of these  results they were surprised by.

From the data Callan had collected, she made a 9 page proposal called the Strategic Plan, which outlines the steps she plans to take to respond to the feedback she collected. It proposes a three-year plan that covers from this semester to Spring 2022

Callan says she was overwhelmed when she got here because  she didn’t know how to do what the community wanted. But she was invested in asking what people wanted instead of  just moving forward based on her preconceived notions from working at a different library. There were pretty significant changes that needed to be made, but she didn’t have an idea of where to start.

Callan really emphasized that although she could’ve guessed which actions to take first based on previous experience, it would have been dishonest and self serving.

The Action Plan has two parts. One that focuses on the first year and one that is more long term.

Within the first year, Callan has already started to move books around and will be getting new furniture for the bottom of the library. As mentioned in the email she sent out about book movements, the fiction books are now upstairs, the art books downstairs, and some books removed completely.

The longer term plan is to replace the rest of the furniture and to recarpet but that will depend on her budget being approved. Since presentations and some classes are held in the library, Callan is looking to make the seating more functional to support these activities.

Part of her desire is that the library is one of the first parts that visitors and guests see.

Callan has also put a lot of thought into the bookshelves. The bookshelves upstairs were becoming unstable and from holding at least 700 pounds of art books with heavy paper. Some students had been injured by the shelves making them no longer safe to be moved around as intended.

To combat this, books that hadn’t been checked out in 3 or more years were donated. The textbooks that were now out of date were harder to rehome so they were given to the artists in residence. Those heavy books were also moved downstairs to the static shelves and the lighter fiction books were brought up. Additionally she placed extraneous materials like CDs and some books on carts which the community was allowed to take for free. 

The biggest change to the library will actually be to the software. Callan was able to add us to the Minuteman Library system, and with that comes many perks. For example, the library software will be more stable and allow you to see what you’ve checked out, renew your own books, and do Inter Library Loans by yourself. People would also be able to check out books from the libraries in the system which contain 17 very rich libraries such as Needham and Wellesley Public Library. We will switch over on July 1st of 2020. When students come back in the fall, there will be an orientation that will help us explore the mobile app and give us access to a barcode sticker that will replace the “type-in-your-name” system we currently have. 

The Minuteman Library system also includes local tech support that will be able to help the library as it needs without hiring additional people. Without the student workers a lot of the changes would not have been possible. They helped box outgoing books and worked with Callan quite a bit. With all  the equipment the library has, like the cameras, screen printer, and sewing machines, without the student workers, it would be nearly impossible to upkeep the equipment and run trainings.

Callan has enjoyed that people are always willing and wanting to step in to help. Whether it’s idea generation, getting help making surveys, coding data, or even spray painting shelves, people have been excited to take part in improving the library.

The interview I had with Callan really showed me how willing she is to work with the community. She was excited to schedule time to talk to me and was open to answer my questions. I’m hopeful of how the library will change for the better in the next few years, and I’m happy to share that Callan cares about the Olin community and has already done so many things for us.

Horoscopes by Idiots for Idiots

Editor’s Note: This was done in response to me needing material and my friends being memers. I would like to thank them for doing this and for helping fold the Frankly Speaking articles for the past couple of months. uwu I love you all. 

If you would like to see something different please submit materials.

Aries (Mar. 21–Apr. 19):
The stars will not stand for such yellow bellied actions

Taurus (April 20-May 20):

The stars predict tomorrow you’ll wake up, do a bunch of stuff, and then go back to sleep

source: weird “al” yankovic

Gemini (May 21–June 21)

Take a nap, you bitch.

Cancer (June 22–July 22):
Beware of getting crabs. You just are.

Leo (July 23–Aug. 22):

Purr i cawe about my furiends rawr xD owo cawwy me purr I wuv aw of my furiends Xd uwu.

Virgo (Aug. 23–Sept. 22):
No comment. Your mother would not be proud.

Libra (Sept. 23–Oct. 23):
I will not stop stabbing you because I am not stabbing you. 

Scorpio (Oct. 24–Nov. 21):

Sagittarius (Nov. 22–Dec. 21):
Killing furries is legal on some planets. You and Kenta finally become as strong as pegasus.

Capricorn (Dec. 22–Jan. 19):
Today you earn your horns. Be on the lookout for rites of passage and chances at growth. This is the time for you to focus, Capricorn. All of your energy needs to be channeled to important goals like getting your pubes dyed, or finding out how many chicken nuggets you can forcefully shove into your disgusting gob. Maybe both.

Aquarius (Jan. 20–Feb. 18)

There’s travel in your future when your tongue 

Freezes to the back of a speeding bus

source: weird “al” yankovic

Pisces (Feb. 19–Mar. 20)

You’ll experience deja Vu, the feeling that this moment has already happened. Which is Deja Vu, the feeling that this moment has already happened.

So you want to be a MechE?

You may have noticed the lack of prerequisites in the Olin curriculum. How, then, are you supposed to know when to take your MechE classes? Seeing as many of you declared a major recently, and I’m an old senior who’s seen it all, I figured I might give some general advice. Take it or leave it; not the same thing works for everyone, and not everyone would agree, but it’s a reasonable starting point if you’re planning your time. 

Additionally, the MechE curriculum, as any curriculum, is in flux, and not everything I say will be the same when you get to that particular class. Things change a lot here. 

My general recommendation, with MechE core required classes with asterisks*:

1st Year Spring:

(QEA, P&M)

Mechanical Prototyping

2nd Year Fall:

(QEA, PoE)

Take an AHS for the love of your sanity

Dynamics* (ESA?)

2nd Year Spring:


Partial Differential Equations 

Mechanics of Solids and Structures*

3rd Year Fall:

Mechanical Design*

Dynamics* (ESA?)

3rd Year Spring:

MechE Depth* or Thermodynamics*

4th Year Fall:

Transport Phenomena*

4th Year Spring:

MechE Depth* or Thermodynamics*

Let’s go from the beginning then, shall we? 

I highly recommend taking Mechanical Prototyping as a first year. It is NOT a MechE requirement; however, it gets everyone to the same base understanding of SolidWorks and throws you into the prototyping world. Would highly recommend. Plus, it’s a ton of fun. However, if you already have a ton of prototyping and SolidWorks experience, consider taking SoftDes (Software Design) instead. Having basic programming skills will help use computational tools needed for mechanical engineers. No, you cannot be a MechE and avoid ever touching code. If you don’t do it, then any time when you have the space is good. I would not generally recommend taking MechProto after sophomore year, as by that time, you’ll have cobbled those skills together elsewhere.

Second year in the fall used to have QEA for 8 credits and PoE for 4, but I believe QEA might only be 4 credits second semester now. It’s important here to keep the ratio of projects to p-set/lab classes in mind. I would recommend getting your Stats class or a foundational science class in there, to shake things up, and getting started on AHS.

If you’re interested in taking FOMSO (Fundamentals of Machine Shop Operations) and learning all the tools in the machine shop, take it as soon as you can. The longer you wait, the less you can use those skills. 

I’ll be honest, I don’t know what the new Dynamics/ESA situation is like. I trust you to figure it out. Somewhere sophomore or junior year would be ideal. 

Spring second year is an important one. It’s a good time to take MechSolids (Mechanics of Solids and Structures), which is the foundation of mechanical engineering. The content is often what recruiters will ask in interviews, so I would take it sooner rather than later. If you have the space in your schedule, it’s also a great time to take Partial Differential Equations (PDEs). As someone who is taking PDEs as a senior, I very much wish I had taken it earlier, ESPECIALLY before taking Transport Phenomena. If you don’t take PDEs before Transport, then most of Transport is learning PDEs. 

Junior year, take Mechanical Design (MechDes). Everyone would get more out of it if everyone has taken MechProto beforehand, but that’s being worked out separately. 

Studying abroad in the spring junior year is pretty common. It’s very possible to plan around, just take MechDes your senior year.  

This year would also be a good time to take your Mechanical Engineering Depth class. I’ve actually taken 5 of those so far, and you get more out of them if you’ve taken MechSolids and Dynamics (ESA?) first. The specific class you take will depend on your interests. My general suggestion is to wait until one comes up that interests you during junior or senior year. 

Alternatively, take Thermodynamics (Thermo). If Transport and Thermo get offered at the same time again, don’t take them the same semester. Both of them have new and completely different concepts from the traditional structures classes, so don’t put those two in the same semester. However, Thermo is rather standalone, and can go before or after Transport, regardless of what the course website says. 

The important thing about Transport is to try to take it after learning vector calculus (in QEA) and after PDEs. 

As for Stats, Bio, and MatSci, I would sketch out your schedule with the MechE classes as the backbone and fill in with those when your semester promises to be project-heavy, as they tend to be more predictable in workload. 

Here’s the last bit of advice. Join a project team or a research group. There are some analysis skills and decision-making skills that can only be developed on a longer term project. Throw yourself into at least one. Some would argue that a MechE education is not complete without the experience that a project team gives you, especially on the analysis side. 

If you want to go over your plan with a seasoned MechE, most of us are happy to help. Feel free to email me at hkolano@olin.edu if you have questions or want to run your plan by me. 


A quick update on what PInT (Olin’s Public Interest Technology* team) is up to. <3

Accessible Communication Button

This subteam of 8 has been working on a mechanical-electrical prototype for an improved Big Mack button. The Big Mack button is a communication device used by students at the Crotched Mountain School to control devices (such as a blender) and associate that action with a message. We have also been thinking deeply about our next steps and how we can potentially create greater potential for impact.

Community Rideshare Program

This subteam of 6 has co-designed and prototyped a functional platform to assist nonprofits with coordinating transportation for people with accessibility needs. In order to make this program easy for non-software engineers to use and maintain, we have coerced Google Sheets and AwesomeTable into bending to our will, via custom scripts and black magic. Up next: conducting user testing, and killing our darlings!

Human Trafficking Prevention**

This subteam of 5 wrapped up a project by turning it down, then writing an in-depth letter and delivering a presentation on why. We wanted to share how we weighed our values and made a difficult decision that could have had a significant impact on vulnerable groups of people. 

Fellowship Creation

What if you could spend one summer doing whatever you wanted to work on, to make the world better? The PInT 2020 Summer Fellowship will give three Oliners a chance to focus entirely on public interest organizations they care about, without worrying about money. The faculty selection committee is currently choosing fellows, whose entire summer will be funded (including project resources, travel and housing). They could partner with nonprofits, community-based organizations, advocacy campaigns, government offices, public institutions, foundations, environmental organizations, or any other form of public interest organization.

Space Renovations

PInT is redesigning the third floor endcap of the AC on the Lot A side to serve as a public interest technology hub on campus (not exclusive to PInT!). The space is called the PARC, which is an acronym for Participatory Action Research Collaborative, a term invented at Olin that is better than ‘Welcome to the PIT’. Currently the space is home to (free!) tea***, a kettle, modular walls to mount things on, and tons of sharpies, post-its, and expo markers. Coming soon is a board for scheduling events happening in the PARC.

Conference Preparation**

Three of our members will be flying to Austin, TX to present about PInT at the Public Interest Technology Undergraduate Informatics Education Conference. Education is the honey to our PITea, so we will be sharing why we believe student-driven learning is important for public interest work, and what unique conditions at Olin helped PInT emerge as a possibility.

*For reference, PIT = Public Interest Technology as a concept, and PInT = us, because that’s way cuter than pit :)

**Shameless plug: the videos of these presentations can be found on our facebook page!

***Yes, you heard that right. Sometimes we do deserve nice things. Just clean up after yourselves, return our mugs, and don’t be heathens.

Horoscopes by a Sober Contributor

I hope that you all had a great February (or at least you were prepared for how February treated you). After a month spent carefully computing the locations of the planets and pretending that reading niche astrology books count as having a hobby, here are some general and sign-specific notes for the upcoming month. 

There are a few major astrological events of note this month that will affect all of the signs. 

The sun is currently in Pisces, and it will enter Aries on the 21st of the month. While Pisces season  provided some moderately uplifting energy, the combination of the Spring Equinox and the boldness associated with Aries in general promises new beginnings and opportunities at the end of the month. With that, remember that novelty requires sacrifice of previous holdings, especially those that cause harm to you. 

As you might already know, Mercury is already in retrograde, and will continue to remain in this state until March 10th. However, its worst effects (miscommunication, problems with technology, etc.) will lighten starting on March 4th, when Mercury enters Aquarius. After March 10th, your communication and technology will start to stabilize, but recall that there will be a brief period of retroshade immediately following the end of the retrograde. 

Lastly, there will be a full moon in Virgo on March 9th and a new moon in Aries on March 24th. Virgo’s meticulousness suggests that this first lunar event will give you the chance to get organized, but be sure to relax as needed. The second will give you a chance to boldly move forward. 

Here are some sign-specific notes for you all. Remember that just judging by your sun sign is not a very holistic way to read your horoscope. For some more insights, also consider your moon sign (which rules your emotions and inner self) and your rising sign (which rules the way you present to other people). If you don’t know what your moon and rising signs are, you can use an online calculator, assuming you can first find out the time you were born at. 

Aries (Mar. 21–Apr. 19): 

The sun will enter Aries in the second half of the month, offering you an opportunity to consider your individual needs and boldly push forward. Leverage the spirit of the spring equinox to take control of your time and energy and move forward accordingly. If you need to drop a project (or feel ready to pick up a new one!), now is the time to do it.

Taurus (April 20-May 20): 

Your ruling planet, Venus, enters your sign on Thursday, March 5th. With Venus in Taurus, you can feel empowered to take risks, especially in your relationships. Remember that while you may be experiencing this boost, others may not be, so stay grounded – not everyone’s reference voltage is the same as yours. 

Gemini (May 21–June 21): 

Mercury is your ruling planet. Along with going direct (exiting retrograde) on March 10th, Mercury will enter Aquarius on March 4th and then Pisces on March 16th. These changes will not create additional drama – in fact, you ought to feel more stable with each change, so feel free to take on more responsibilities.

Cancer (June 22–July 22):

Cancer, you are ruled by the moon, so this month’s lunar events are most relevant to you. There will be a full moon in Virgo early this month and a new moon in Aries towards the end of March. Take this opportunity to leverage the power in each sign – use the full moon to reflect and organize your priorities as spring break approaches, and then get ready to act as soon as it ends.  

Leo (July 23–Aug. 22): 

You will strongly feel the effects of the sun entering Aries at the end of the month. Enjoy the spirit of novelty and well-intentioned action that arrives alongside the spring equinox, especially since the Mercury retrograde will help you reconnect with your personable spirit. Stay open-minded, but also communicate what you are thinking – people will listen. 

Virgo (Aug. 23–Sept. 22): 

There is a full moon in your sign this month – this is a great opportunity to take personal risks and manifest your goals. Enjoy the confidence boost and the outcomes of your hard work – projects you start now may pan out nicely in the future. 

Libra (Sept. 23–Oct. 23): 

Libra, you are ruled by Venus. Venus will be in Taurus for most of the month, which will bring additional energy (and potentially also drama) to your relationships. Enjoy this, but be sure to take time for yourself and set (and stick with) your personal limits. There’s nothing wrong with taking an evening off of your usual responsibilities and spending some time alone.

Scorpio (Oct. 24–Nov. 21):

The combination of the Mercury retrograde and the full moon in Virgo has left you especially reflective, likely to the point where it is causing more stress than it is benefitting you. While this will plague you for most of the month, try to leverage the new moon and the transition of the sun into Aries as a chance to start over – sometimes it’s better to embrace the deltas instead of just listing them out and moving on. 

Sagittarius (Nov. 22–Dec. 21): 

Both you and Pisces are ruled by Jupiter, so you may feel some of the side effects of the end of Pisces season and the movement of Mercury into Pisces on March 16th. Enjoy this chance to embrace your own individuality and personal spirit, but be sure to check yourself before you get too far ahead of yourself. 

Capricorn (Dec. 22–Jan. 19): 

Your ruling planet, Saturn, enters Aquarius on Sunday, March 22nd. This eccentricity may conflict with your essentially pragmatic nature, but give yourself a chance to try to grow as a person – learning opportunities are everywhere, even if they look like a waste of time. 

Aquarius (Jan. 20–Feb. 18):

Mercury will move into Aquarius on March 4th, giving you an opportunity to bring some of your logic and rationality to the otherwise confusing season. Furthermore, you will also see improved communication with those around you, and this also ought to manifest in smoother travel plans and engineering projects. Enjoy the season, Aquarius, but be careful about overcommitting – things will not always be like this. 

Pisces (Feb. 19–Mar. 20): 

Pisces, the sun exits your sign towards the end of the month. Enjoy the rest of Pisces season, and remember that even though Mercury is in retrograde, you have total control over your sense of self. Your own power will feel especially relevant after March 16th, when Mercury enters Pisces. This is your time – use it to plan and reflect, and get ready to act boldly when the sun enters Aries at the end of the month.