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Able Scholars

Able Scholars


Present Position: VP for Innovation and Research, and F.W. Olin Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering, Olin College of Engineering (Needham, MA)

Degrees: A.B. in physics, Mount Holyoke College; M.A. in physics, University of WI; Ph.D. in physics, University of NC

What was your role as a founding member of the college? I was one of three academics on the leadership team who had the audacious assignment of answering the question: If we give you four years of a young person's life, how would you prescribe the education? And the only boundary is that it is a four-year engineering education. We had to decide on everything from how to buy staplers to how to create a full curriculum.

Explain the curriculum. We are devoted to the theory of learning in context; it's a philosophy of repeatedly do, then learn. We base the curriculum on the Olin triangle. At the apex, we have superb engineering, while at the vertices we have entrepreunership/ philanthropy and creativity, innovation, and the arts. We also see knowledge of business as essential to bring ideas to fruition, so all students must take some business courses.

What is the role of research at the college? Each semester, our faculty members post information on what they are researching, and students may then sign up to work on these projects, earning either credit or money. Independent study also allows students to work on their own ideas and we help match them with faculty and resources.

What mark will Olin students make in the working world? By providing students with problems that do not have single answers and embedding that in the educational process, we have people who have a level of self-reliance and maturity in dealing with problems they have not seen before. I expect this to be the hallmark of Olin students.

To read a Design News article on Olin College after its first year in operation, go to http://rbi.ims.ca/3858-535. To visit the Olin College website, go to www.olin.edu.

Contact Kerns at [email protected].

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