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Leaders


Olin College


Given what you know about Olin College, what do you think should be included in a college that has as its mission the preparation of technological leaders? How do you think you could help us invent a new kind of engineering college?

     If a school is looking to prepare true leaders in today’s technological world, we first need to define what characteristics leaders must have to thrive in their fields, and go on from there.
     Technological leaders have to stay on top of what’s going on in the current developments. This means they have to be willing and eager to learn new things, and not confine themselves to sticking with old ways simply due to tradition or because they are better known. Students learning to become leaders in their field must learn how to cultivate this fire for learning and fearlessness in the face of the unfamiliar.
     No one nowadays can accomplish much by working alone. While twenty years ago a knowledgeable person could build their own computer and hack together the software they needed single-handedly, technology has progressed to the point where even a simple word-processing program contains thousands of lines of code. If a college means to prepare its students for this environment, it must promote the abilities essential to teamwork: communication, organization, and self-motivation.
     While the capacity to learn new things and a keen sense of teamwork are both important skills to have, I am certain Olin is looking to graduate engineers who are more than merely skilled. From the very beginning, Olin has been aiming for nothing less than the exceptional. An exceptional leader is one who goes beyond expectations, who truly innovates. An exceptional leader gives one hundred percent, not just the minimum to get the job done. An exceptional leader asks the question, “Why not?”, planning for more than present needs, anticipating the future. It is the extra inch that nudges the adept leader into the extraordinary
     Olin’s extra inch lies in the passion and excitement of its students and faculty. Anyone could answer this essay question with professional statements cut and pasted from surveys and editorials anywhere from science magazines to Olin’s website itself, but the spark present in the people at Olin defies any objective measurement. Each individual, either teacher or student, has a thirst for discovery, a curiosity, an intense enthusiasm that brings them above and beyond standard expectations. I believe I share this thirst. Flourishing in the face of the unknown and unsure is something I do well. Less motivated people might not have stood up to being the only girl in a class full of guys, just to have a chance to learn about Windows NT and computer troubleshooting. Less curious people wouldn’t bother researching quantum-level physics if they didn’t have to know it for class. Less daring people might believe the only way to learn how to program a computer is by taking a class.
     The builders and founders of Olin already know the importance of communication and learning to the leaders of the future. They also know what they’re looking for to make their student body truly exceptional — the elusive spark that inspires the extra inch in every effort. For me, the extra inch is the best part.

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Copyright 2001 Katie Rivard <> Web Services available, email katie@rivard.org for info.