Faculty and Staff Describe Jobs

Last month, we did a twist on our regular column. Instead of asking open ended questions to students, we had students submit and vote for questions that we asked faculty and staff. Three questions came out on top. You will find the responses to these questions in articles titled “Least Favorite Part of Olin,” “What You Do Saturday Nights,” and “Coolest Project You’ve Done.”

First however, we asked: What do you do at Olin?

Alyson Goodrow: Marketing

Peter Antognoni: Instruct in the Fabrication shops.

Rae-Anne Butera: Dean of Student Life

Alison Black: Assistant Dean of Student Life

Susan Johanson: Administrative support to Dean of Admission and Admission office in general

Jessica Townsend: Associate Dean of Curriculum and Academic Programs

Michelle Davis: Marketing

Drew: Muck about with robots

Sarah Spence Adams: Faculty Member

Oscar: Learn, sometimes I say useful stuff

Anonymous A: Work

Anonymous B: Admissions

Anonymous C: Teach

Anonymous D: (not specified)

A special thank you to our Faculty and Staff contributors for taking the time to answer these questions, and a super special thanks for all you do beyond that.

Least Favorite Part of Olin

The open ended question for faculty and staff that received the most student votes was: What is your least favorite part of Olin?

Peter Antognoni: The commute (2.5 hr./day)

Susan Johanson: The lack of an ombudsman for staff and faculty.

Jessica Townsend: We’re all too busy all the time.

Drew: There are too many things to do, and not enough time.

Alison Black: I wish the Olin community was more diverse, especially in terms of race and ethnicity.

Rae-Anne Butera: I wish we had a snack bar/coffee shop. Maybe we should start one in OSL…. Would more students come up to OSL just to hang out if we did?

Oscar: The lack of diversity and will to engage this.

Anonymous A: People abusing “working from home”

Anonymous B: Lack of empathy or understanding of one another’s viewpoints. So many disagreements or struggles at Olin (and in the world) arise from two people with mildly incompatible views thinking the other is wrong, unintelligent, and being intentionally difficult. Meanwhile, we aren’t aware of the influence our own blind spots have on our actions, and the impact that we have on others based on our assumptions.

Anonymous C: When students remember to criticize parts of a course but forget to mention the good parts (on course evaluations, for example)

Anonymous D: Getting to know students personally. Y’all’s interesting.

What You Do Saturday Nights

The second most popular Open Ended Question was: What do you do on Saturday nights?

Alyson Goodrow: Most recently, watch episode after episode after episode after episode of Homeland… or go out for dinner/drinks with friends, go on a date with my hubby, watch a movie, host 7 and 9 year olds for sleepovers, etc.

Peter Antognoni: I gather with friends and family to break bread, talk, watch content in our family projector room with the wood stove going ( or if left to myself just tinker in my machine shop :<)

Sarah Spence Adams: Sleep

Susan Johanson: Make and share supper and the evening with my husband, take a late walk with our dog, read, listen to music or the radio.

Jessica Townsend: Cooking dinner with friends

Alison Black: I’m usually on my couch reading, watching TV, and recovering from a long run/walk.

Oscar: Sleep

Anonymous A: Out for dinner, show, movie

Coolest Project You’ve Done

This month, three Open Ended Questions were posed to the faculty and staff. The third question was: What is the coolest project you have ever worked on?

Alyson Goodrow: Redesigning Olin.edu. Hands down!

Peter Antognoni: Without a doubt volunteering with home building through Habitat for Humanity.
That’s where the saying “It is more blessed to give than to receive” comes alive!

Susan Johanson: It would have to be Project INTREX (information transfer experiments), an MIT-based project proposed to the National Science Foundation to put the entire contents of the MIT engineering library onto microfilm and microfiche, so it could be remotely accessed. At the time, we had no terminals, personal computers or internet – what an imaginative, remarkable idea!

Jessica Townsend: Testing rocket engines at Blue Origin.

Michelle Davis: One time I organized a headache sufferers art show to demonstrate the pain, suffering and visual auras that people with headaches experience, and to also show the creativity that can also accompany headaches. We received photos, prints, paintings and sculptures of people with spikes in their heads, dramatic visual apparitions and representations of the sense of isolation that people felt when experiencing an episode. It was very empowering for our patients (I worked at a hospital) but it also generated tons of attention for our headache treatment facility, which was my job as a PR director at the time.

Drew: PackBot! A mobile robot that’s fast, tough, easy to use and has actually saved people’s lives. I’ve worked on other great projects, but knowing someone didn’t die because of my robot is the best.

Sarah Spence Adams: Solving a really hard research problem with two of my first Olin research students. We worked together for many years to solve the problem, solving lots of other problems and including many other students along the way. It was an incredible journey and a highlight of my professional life.

Oscar: 1. Vibration-to-electric energy conversion using MEMS.
2. MIT microengine (a turbine the size of a dime).
PS: You asked for coolest, not most meaningful or important…

Anonymous D: Space, when it was new, when nobody knew just what would work & wouldn’t. You had to REACH — both with imaginings and with products — and only delivering counted. The fundamental P/F (NR just wasn’t) was launch and all that sci/pol stuff it took to get to the pad, then data & the satellite-filled world as we now enjoy it. I have lived in the best, most fun & challenging times, methinks & me hopes u feel the same at yours as you find your contributions.

Valuable Lessons from Summer

This month’s short answer question was: “Describe the most valuable thing you learned this past summer.”

At Olin, the opportunity for interaction is handed to you on a silver platter. We’re in a world where you have to talk with your peers, which really greases the wheels of friendship. In real life, you have to make an active, forward effort to establish and maintain friendships – they won’t just happen to you. – Greg Eddleston

That PAC-Bayes is learning. – Anonymous

Just do it. Don’t wait for people to tell you it’s okay. – Anonymous

Some people are not worth your time, your energy, or your motivation – no matter how long you have known them or whatever loyalty has been established. Broken relationships require both parties to invest. But if you are the only one bowing your pride, you’re just going to be shoved further down as an ego boost for the other. It solves nothing and is not worth the tax on you. – Anonymous

If you put on a bathing suit and cover yourself in honey, no one will want to give you a hug, and everything around you will become sticky. (Maybe not the most personally valuable thing I learned this summer, but I don’t want anyone else to learn this lesson the hard way.) – Anonymous

You can always find something useful to do on your project. Most of the time, I would be waiting for an answer to a decision I’d made from my boss, but I found that even when I ‘had nothing to do’ there were a bunch of small tasks I could perform like sending emails or documentation, cleaning, etc. – Anonymous

Things can be traumatic without necessarily being immediately life threatening. Also, not all sexual assault is rape. Those two things have really changed the way I view my past and myself, and explain a lot about me that I had never understood. I spent a good portion of the summer in group therapy at a mental hospital, and heard a lot of people describe things as abuse that have also happened to me that I just considered part of life being unfair, or blamed myself for. – Anonymous

How to use git – correctly. – Anonymous

Being “busy” is just an excuse I use to put off things I don’t want to do. I realized that over the summer my self-imposed business of cooking, working out, reading, etc. was preventing me from doing little things like calling my sister. If I can’t make time for tasks as simple as that over the summer, how can I possibly thing that I will make time for it in “real life” later on? – Anonymous

Look out for next month’s short answer question: “What is one thing you regret not doing?”

People Who Make a Difference

The question posed last time was: “Who is someone at Olin you appreciate a great deal, and why?”

I appreciate the people who go out of their way to smile at you every time they pass you between the dorms and the dining hall. There are a few of them around campus, and they always brighten my day. – Anonymous

Jean Huang. She has so many students under her wings at her lab, helps students get started in research, and shares with them the amazing world of microbes. She also shares this passion through the pickles and jams co-curricular, in which she and students make pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, jams, butter and chocolate sauerkraut cake. Lastly, as busy as she is, she doesn’t let that keep her from smiling and laughing, and I want to be like her when I get older. – Anonymous

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Making Olin a Better Place

From last time: “What is one thing you think could be done to make Olin a better place?”

I really like Gui and Eric Van Wyk’s seminars this semester. I hope we see more low-commitment “come and learn for fun!” classes like these in the future. – Forrest Bourke

Removing the credit system. Credits are outdated and inaccurate; they hardly represent how much effort each students puts in to a certain aspect of his/her lives. If we are a truly innovative college, we would find other ways that make validation for success more logical. This way, budgeting for time spent during a semester would not be as unbalanced, and people could make better choices that shy away from over-commitment. – David Zhu

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Clubs and Student Activities

“Why do you choose to participate in the clubs and student activities that you do?”

They’re fun. I learn a lot. They’re great for my resume.
Also, at this point, I’m a bit too invested in them to get out. – Anonymous

Olimprov spawned partially from selfish reasons. I have experience with miming, role play, voice impressions, etc. I was a bit famous for them when I was a kid. I lived my life according to predetermined conversations and predictable actions, and I could barely talk to people in person if I had not known them for years. Humor became a cover up for feeling socially awkward and nervous. But, in some ways, it was also a salvation. When I saw my friend doing improv, I knew it was something I wanted to and should do. And if you make a person’s day brighter with a joke or little bit of silliness, there is no better possible affirmation that you are doing something right. – Kai Austin

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Being a Great Teammate

This month, Frankly Speaking posed the question “What qualities or characteristics make someone a great teammate?” to the student body of Olin. The following are the responses we received.

Doing good work on time, accepting feedback, always making sure the team is on track and actively making sure the team meets deadlines, not showing up late for meetings, never assuming that someone else will do the work for you, being open to learning new things for the team but not to the extent that it holds back the team (so if it would hold back the team, you learn it on your own time, not during meetings). – Anonymous

Be communicative and responsive. Let me know how your work is going, if there are any setbacks, if you need more time, if things are done, etc. Don’t leave your teammates in the dark until your meeting – it kills meeting productivity when no one knows what to expect. – Brett Rowley

Honesty about what they will and won’t be able to do. Clear communication. Showing up to meetings and to class, and staying on topic during meeting. Calm under pressure, and a focus on fixing the problem rather than casting blame when things don’t work. Caring about the project. – Anonymous

Someone who is patient and diligent. – Anonymous

The ability to listen. The concept of “ideating” is huge at Olin – but in the process of generating ideas, it’s very easy to drown out quieter team-members and to shut down a weird or wacky concept. A successful team that has everyone invested precedes a successful project. We need to remember to foster serious listeners as well as visionaries. – Liani Lye

Not wanting to meet except when actually necessary or helpful.
Doing tasks that are helpful.
Doing the tasks quietly and not asking for things in return.
Gives feedback in a considerate way, but still gives it.
Doesn’t judge.
Accepts they can be wrong and that the team’s idea is most likely better than his or her own.
Likes the project.
Understands that scheduling should happen with consideration and with as much fore planning as possible.
Understands that people work best in different ways and helps people work in a way that works for both that person and the team. – Anonymous

Plans things early.
Reacts to difficulties with humor, not anger.
Expresses clearly the facets of a project that are interesting to that person, and enquire about their teammate’s preferences.
Clearly willing to put time and effort into the project – “cares about it.”
If they don’t care about it, express that early and still do an acceptable minimum amount of work.
Don’t waste meeting time, though a certain amount of having fun is acceptable. :) – Anonymous

Next month’s question: “Why do you choose to participate in the clubs and student