Saturday, November 04, 2006

Building Olin, the interlude

Whoa.

The last week's been a whirlwind of Olin-building, and I'm amazed by the people (and the sheer magnitude of the people) who have stepped up to help. I should have written this in the middle of the actual events because I'm leaving out the magic of things as I write this post now, but imagine

  • in the space of one night, covering the entire back wall of the cafeteria with feedback post-its
  • multiple prolonged debates in the 3rd floor lounge of West Hall that started at 7 and ended past 2am - individual conversations didn't carry through all that time, and the people at the end were not the same as the ones at the beginning; it was a hotbed of discussion
  • first-years spontaneously organizing to come together, multiple times, and create proposals to revise their own courses (which, mind you, they've been taking for all of two months)
  • staff members drifting into animated conversation about the curricular revision with Olin students they might not have spoken to before
  • a white paper written by President Miller that proposes radical things, crazy things - things even on the order of "let's restart the whole school"
  • couches, hot chocolate, and David Soo and Gill Pratt spontaneously appearing on the far end of the academic center, when some of us cut classes for a day to sit back and reflect on the whole process (I'm sure there were more people but I was only able to hang out there for part of the time)
One of the biggest things to emerge from the feedback was that almost every comment given was contradicted by at least another comment - that is to say, we're a diverse community, and should embrace that. One size doesn't fit all, and we shouldn't try to make it. I know the things I do don't work for everyone, and I don't expect them to. Problem-set lovers and textbook-haters need to be able to work in the same classroom. Engineers build bridges. It's up to us to figure out how to connect ourselves to each other despite being very different people, and by learning how to do that, we'll also be learning how to connect very disparate things in the rest of the world once we get out of school.

I wish I had a more eloquent way of phrasing that last paragraph. If anyone has a different way of saying it, let me know; I'd love to hear.

2 comments:

Cheryl said...

And I'd like to add that you're probably my best source of Olin news. I'm so glad to hear that this is happening. I remember as my time neared, that I somehow almost wished for a crisis or a calamity, anything to shake us up and renew the energy. I think I'll visit soon.

Sarah said...

Hey Mel, could you forward President Miller's paper to the class of 06? I'll be I'm not the only one who would like to read it.

Thanks