Page 29 - American_Higher_Education_V4

Basic HTML Version

29
adding more. The faculty will eventually number about 60.
Three thousand people applied for the first 15 advertised
positions. Only three of those who were offered jobs declined
them, two after being promoted by their current universities
to discourage them from leaving, according to Miller. Olin
has hired faculty away fromMIT, Cornell and Vanderbilt;
one, Stephen Holt, was director of space science at the NASA-
Goddard Space Flight Center. Another faculty member was a
professor of mechanical engineering and director of the new
products program at MIT, and former host of the PBS series
Scientific American Frontiers.
Many faculty gave up substantial seniority to come here,
and most agree with the idea that doing away with tenure is
“a bulwark against mediocrity,” as one put it. The dean of the
faculty is Michael Moody, who came fromHarvey Mudd
College, where he chaired the math department. Provost
David Kerns was lured away fromVanderbilt, along with
his wife, Sherra, vice president of innovation and research.
DuncanMurdoch, vice president for external relations and
enrollment, came from the University of Southern California.
When the second five-week module began, students
were encouraged to undertake community service projects.
Some collected used computers and refurbished them for
low-income families. Others went to a nursing home for
practice serves to “iron out the peaks and valleys,” Hunter explained.
“The 12-quarter average works for us in bad times, and a little bit against
us in good times. We feel that we are going to ride this out pretty well.”
Another advantage Olin enjoys is an unusually committed group
of alumni. “The students see themselves as the co-founders of the
institution,” Hunter said. “They are the most involved alumni that you’ll
find anywhere. They were pioneers, and now they are our ambassadors
in the world, getting good positions in companies, going to graduate
schools. We are counting on them to talk up the Olin experience.”
MatthewHill was a member of that pioneering first class (which
graduated in 2006), and is now pursuing a Ph.D. inmechanical
engineering at Stanford. “The fact that I went on to Stanford and won
a fellowship there sort of puts the stamp of approval on Olin,” Hill said.
“Having the Stanford name also opens a lot of doors.”
The decision to participate in the first class at Olin “was definitely a
risk,” Hill said. “At first it was like going into the deep end, not knowing
if your feet will touch the bottom. But by my second year I was getting
offers for internships, and I was
feeling a little better about it.
I’m glad I took the risk of going
to a small school that was so
engineering focused—not like
going to Stanford, were you can
take anything you want. I think
for almost everyone in our first
class it turned out well.”
Two of Hill’s fellowOlin
alumni, Kate Blazek and Polina
Segalova, are also at Stanford.
They were awarded National
Science Foundation graduate
research fellowships, along
with Susan Fredholm and Que
Anh Nguyen. Two other graduates, Jay Gantz and Joy Poisel, accepted
Fulbright Scholarships for study in Europe.
About one-third of the class went on to graduate school, while the
rest found positions in engineering or related fields. A few pursued other
interests as varied as the Peace Corps and an acting career.
“We’re extremely pleased at the exciting postgraduate plans of our
first class of students,” said Olin President RichardMiller, in the summer
2006 issue of
Innovation
, the campus magazine. “The prestigious
offers our graduates are receiving exceed our expectations—and our
expectations were high.”
Perhaps because of the influence of students at Olin, the college has
been rated very high in national surveys of campus amenities. In recent
rankings by the
Princeton Review
, Olin placed seventh on the list for
best food, and second in the category of “dorms like palaces,” just behind
Loyola College inMaryland. “When they built the new dorm, we pushed
to have the rooms be suites—so everybody had a little bit of privacy, but
shared common amenities,” Hill said.
“In that first year, we learned the value of involving students,” Hunter
said. “They are very smart. They are on all the important committees,
and we feel like it is very important to get their voice on things.”
Currently about 40 percent of the students at Olin are women—less
than the target of 50 percent, but still considered a favorable ratio for an
engineering program. “The national average for women in engineering
programs is about 20 percent, so we are about twice that,” Hunter said.
The college’s faculty-student ratio is admirable as well. “We have about 35
faculty members—about nine-to-one. We feel that that’s about right for
the kind of faculty-intensive programwe have here.”
Hill has no regrets about his choice to attend Olin. “It was somewhat
limited in terms of some opportunities that you would have at other
schools,” he said. “But I felt that they did things really well…I left with a
good skill set and a job offer.”
—Todd Sallo
Olin College will occupy a 70-acre site next door to Babson College, which
specializes in business and management. The first permanent buildings will be
finished this summer.
About one-third of
Olin’s first class of
students went on
to graduate school,
while most of the
rest found positions
in engineering or
related fields.
patients with multiple sclerosis and devised a way to install
inline-skate wheels on the corners of their wheelchairs to
help prevent them from becoming stuck against the walls.
Two students were cast in the Babson College theatrical