Franklin W Olin College of Engineering Top Questions

Is the stereotype of students at your school accurate?




Well, let's start with the love of engineering thing--I think it's fair to say that the students who are getting the most out of Olin are really unshakably engineers. However there is a good portion of our student body that leans towards something else. The largest alternate calling I've seen is applied science and abstract mathematics plays a close second. But there are a surprising number who go on to completely unrelated fields--fields such as law and medicine where I think the relationship soured between them and engineering in general and made their last few year a very difficult struggle. Next, the jobs: I think that post graduate planning does a good job of lining up the Seniors with entry level jobs in large engineering companies, but this is really a backup plan--our best and brightest go on to graduate school, unless they are entrepreneurially inclined in which case they seemingly go all over the place. We've had a few start businesses, but only the solar trash compactor really took off so far. Actually, the entrepreneurs are a pretty visible subset of the student body, and every year they try to start a few businesses to moderate success, but then again--whose first couple businesses are really instant successes. A group of my friends came up with an idea about commercial lighting, but to capitalize on their idea they would have to patent it and then force a large company to pay them for the patent (rather than just applying their idea). Since no one wanted to do a bunch of legal work it kind of fell apart. As for the math--it really surprised me when I came here that so many of the class had not taken calculus in high school, or had taken one of the simplified versions. The math program has been suffering here since the academic dean and favorite math professor died of cancer. We had a very inexpert teacher for a long time--kept on his adjunct position far longer than intended originally. And another math faculty was widely unpopular before he quit this past winter, so the past few classes have been rather neglected math wise. Not that we haven't learned calculus, but where I would expect that linear algebra would be the foundation of all engineering classes, most people here didn't learn it well and don't use it. I took it in high school. We have a lot of variation in that regard. Anyway, the suboptimal professors are both gone at this point, and we have a new one, so things are looking up. The real moral here is that with as few faculty as we have, one or two really makes a big difference. Finally, the women: It seems to me that our culture has worked very hard to prevent male domination of the reward scheme, and this has worked--our women seem to develop the same personal identity within engineering that men develop, though they do seem a little less secure in it than the men (but this is a comparison of medians, major overlap is occurring) It is really striking though, that the men have more variance in this trait and that there are some men who go really deep into engineering. None of the women do that. But overall I think that the culture has been well honed to maintain a good gender balance.

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