|Established ||1997 |
|School type ||Private |
|President ||Richard Miller |
|Location ||Needham, Mass., USA |
|Enrollment ||219 undergraduate |
|Faculty ||31 |
|Campus ||Suburban |
|Athletics ||Application to local conferences pending, intramural sports shared with Babson College |
|Admissions ||Admission is highly selective  (http://www.princetonreview.com/college/research/profiles/admissions.asp?listing=1037875<ID=1) |
|Homepage ||www.olin.edu |
Olin College is a selective, private college for undergraduate engineering students. Olin is located in Needham, Massachusetts (in the Boston area) in the United States, and is adjacent to the campus of Babson College.
"Olin College prepares future leaders through an innovative engineering education that bridges science and technology, enterprise, and society. Skilled in independent learning and the art of design, our graduates will seek opportunities and take initiative to make a positive difference in the world." - Olin College Catalog
History of the College
Olin was founded by the F. W. Olin Foundation, and chartered in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in 1997. The F. W. Olin Foundation donated all of its financial resources to the college, providing it with an endowment worth approximately 400 million dollars.
The F. W. Olin Foundation charged the college with the challenge to grant full-tuition scholarships to all students. For its first two academic years, the scholarship included room and board for all students as well. Olin admitted its first incoming class of 75 students in 2002 and expects to grow to an approximate size of 300 students by Fall 2005. The class of 2006 also included 30 "Olin Partners", who helped develop and test the Olin curriculum during the 2001-02 academic year, called the "Partner Year".
Construction of the first phase of the campus has been completed, and construction on a second dorm has begun. Because of its small size, Olin has made arrangements to share many facilities with Babson College.
Richard Miller was inaugurated as the college's first president on May 3, 2003.
The Olin Experiment
Olin is very different from traditional educational institutions. Few of these differences were pioneered there, but it is the first one to combine them. They include:
- Project-based learning. Starting freshman year, the curriculum is built around actual design and construction projects. The "capstone" project occupies about half of senior year, allowing students to work as real engineers, providing a solution to an engineering project.
- Group learning activities. Lectures are routinely interrupted to allow the students to break up into groups and solve problems independently.
- Small class sizes and first-name relations with faculty and staff.
- A strong focus on areas of study outside the exact sciences (including entrepreneurship and AHS (arts, humanities, and social sciences).
- "Integrated course blocks" emphasizing the connections between different areas of study.
- Cross-registration with nearby institutions, presently including Babson College, Wellesley College (for both men and women), and Brandeis University.
- Excellent opportunities for undergraduate research.
- An active relationship with the corporate engineering world.
- Emphasis on business and entrepreneurship
- 42 clubs (not including clubs Olin students can join at Wellesley College or Babson College), numerous co-curricular activities, intramural sports, and Passionate Pursuits (with the opportunity to earn college credit and college funding for student projects) allow students to develop their passions and take learning outside of the classroom.
- The development in its students of "relentless pursuit of opportunity beyond the resources they currently control" (Prof. Howard W. Stevenson, Harvard Business School)
- Approximately equal enrollment of men and women
- Five-year contracts for faculty members, with no opportunity for tenure.
- An honor code
- Lack of academic departments. No separate budget exists for different major tracks or subject areas.
- The Olin Scholarship, which pays tuition in full for all accepted students.
The Olin Honor Code
One of the principles that Olin College has based itself on is the idea of trust and honor within an academic community. This trust allows the students a great deal of freedom, both in social and academic issues. The Olin Honor Code (http://www.olin.edu/student_life/honor_code.asp) has six clauses, the first five of which are derived from the core values defined in the founding precepts written up by the F. W. Olin Foundation, and the "Do Something" clause, which requires students to take action when they feel that the Code has been violated, either through official or unofficial means. Students sign the Honor Code upon beginning their freshman year at Olin.
- Integrity - Honestly and completely representing one's work, self, and actions; taking responsibility for one's actions and work.
- Respect for Others - Recognizing all people's inherent dignity and worth.
- Passion for the Welfare of the College - Helping the college through cooperation, concern for others, and responsibility for the community's reputation.
- Patience and Understanding - Striving to foster harmony through empathy and mindfulness of others.
- Openness to Change - Being receptive to change; striving for innovation and improvement.
- Do Something - Acting personally to address violations and potential violations of the honor code.
An honor board, elected by the students, resolves conflicts within the honor code system and applies sanctions, if necessary, for honor code violations.
History of the Honor Code
The honor code has been part of the concept of Olin College since its founding. The Honor Code was created by a group of Olin Partners in 2001-02, and has since been signed by every Olin student. The code and its related policies can be amended by the majority of the students at a "town meeting" (a quorum (50%) of the student body is required for a vote to take place).
Each amendment town meeting concludes with a vote on whether to abolish the honor code. If the code were abolished, the governing policies set up by the Office of Student Life would take effect. This automatic vote prevents the Code from remaining in effect if students no longer support it, and also allows students to reaffirm the honor code each time it is challenged or changed.
Admissions philosophy and financial aid
Olin College's believes that no accepted student should be prevented from attending due to financial obstacles. As a result, in addition to the full-tuition scholarship, students determined to have additional financial need (beyond the scholarship and $2500 that the student can obtain through part-time and summer work) have the remaining need paid in the form of additional grants. Olin seeks to have all students graduate with no debt.
In addition, Olin admissions maintain a strong focus on all forms of diversity, attempting to accept students from a wide variety of geographical, social, and economic backgrounds. In addition, Olin tries to find students who have a wide variety of interests both related and unrelated to engineering.
"Olin's outstanding educational environment is a unique mix of exceptional students, faculty and facilities, combined with a pioneering approach to engineering education. Olin's faculty consists of nationally recognized scholars and researchers from top institutions with a deep commitment to undergraduate teaching. Our students are some of the most academically gifted and enterprising engineering candidates in the country. Our facilities are state-of-the-art, and built to stay that way. Finally, our curriculum represents the most advanced and innovative thinking about how to produce technological leaders who are both creative and entrepreneurial.
Academic partnerships with industry and Boston-area colleges enhance this learning environment. A strong collaborative relationship exists with nearby Babson College, ranked number one nationally in entrepreneurship, with Wellesley College and with other top-ranked educational institutions. We are also working with Boston's fabled high-tech industry to create additional opportunities for student development. Olin is an innovative, agile learning community that plans to be always on the cutting edge of engineering education." (Olin College webpage)
Olin's academic culture is heavily influenced by the school's honor code. Students often take exams on their own time, and are generally allowed to use outside resources on exams. Students are trusted to adhere to the rules and limits specified for each exam without the supervision of a proctor of any sort. Because of this, honor code violations in an academic context are treated far more seriously and formally than social violations.
In general, however, Olin's academic culture is highly informal, with students talking to professors, staff, and administration mostly on a first name basis. Even the upper administration is very in touch with the student body with several teaching classes. Teachers and administration at Olin are generally very receptive to student suggestions. This is viewed as especially important because Olin is a new school, and the community feels that students should play an active role in shaping the college for future generations.
The dorms at Olin have a strong sense of community. All Olin students are encouraged to live on campus, and the atmosphere in the dorms is open, with many activities taking place in the public lounges and a conscious effort by some students to keep room doors open as much as possible while working in their rooms.
Social conflicts are resolved informally, coming before the Honor Board only in extreme cases. In addition, the Office of Student Life names student Residential Resources (R2s) to fill the role traditionally named "Resident Assistant" (RA) at other schools. Unlike most RAs, R2s are not directly responsible for enforcing college dorm policies. This allows them to fulfill their roles as advisers without requiring them to report every situation they deal with.
Many Olin students prefer a busy schedule. In addition to their hectic academic schedules, most students participate in many non-curricular activities, including clubs, community service, co-curricular activities (which are noted on the transcript) and passionate pursuits (independent projects which can receive college credit and funding). Because of Olin's emphasis on having students with diverse interests, many Olin students are involved in the arts, including writing, visual art, music, and theater. In addition, many students also participate in athletics. While Olin does not (technically) field intercollegiate athletic teams, there is a thriving intramural soccer league, and Olin students are allowed to participate in non-NCAA sports at Babson College. For instance, the women's rugby team (ranked third in New England) includes several Olin members. Additionally, students can participate in Sunday morning football games, pick-up and intramural Ultimate Frisbee games, SMAC (http://projects.olin.edu/SMAC) (Student Martial Arts Club, Olin's martial arts club), WHACK (Weapons Handling and Combat Khakistocracy, Olin's fencing club) and numerous other athletic activities. Students are also highly encouraged to create new activities and organizations.
A great deal of creative work is produced by Olin students, either working independently, in groups such as the Olin Vocal Ensemble, FWOP (Franklin W. Olin Players), F.I.L.M., and the Olin Conductorless Orchestra, or as part of the classwork for interdisciplinary art classes such as "Seeing and Hearing" and "Wired Ensemble".
Olin students are encouraged to combine their creative and technical skills in competition that might bring notoriety to the school. Every year, students have competed in the Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM). In 2002, one Olin team received the highest honor in the MCM. Some students compete in design projects such as Mini-Baja and the Olin Automatons, a group developing an autonomous vehicle for the DARPA Grand Challenge). One fledgling Olin tradition is an unofficial monthly Mechanical Design Challenge, where an unusual challenge is posed and teams are given two days to complete it.
Another major aspect of Olin culture is the emphasis on spontaneity. The small size of the Olin community and quick communication (facilitated by email lists and Olin's policy requiring all students to purchase identical laptops at the beginning of freshmen year), allow many organized events to be set up on a spontaneous basis. Although Olin students care about academics, they try to keep a sense of perspective and not to allow academics to prevent them from enjoying college and participating in other activities.
Because of this hectic pace, the stress level at Olin is occasionally very high. Organized "Study Breaks" with fun activities, run by the R2s and the Olin Student Activities Committee (SAC), are designated to help deal with high stress levels. Despite this, student happiness at Olin is surprisingly high, especially for an engineering school. The Princeton Review ranked Olin as #11 on it's list of happy students (http://www.princetonreview.com/college/research/rankings/rankingDetails.asp?CategoryID=7&TopicID=43) for 2004. It was the only engineering college to make that list.
Olin College chose a Phoenix (unofficially named "Frank") as its mascot in order to represent the college's willingness to change: Like a Phoenix is reborn from its ashes, Olin College attempts to be open to change and willing to reinvent itself. Olin's colors are blue and silver.
Architecture and design
A view of Olin College. The dorms are to the right; the Oval straight ahead.
Olin currently has three main buildings, arranged around a central oval courtyard, which is perched on top of a hill adjacent to Babson college. The Academic Center (AC) houses all of Olin's labs and classrooms. The Campus Center (CC), contains the cafeteria, the Office of Student Life, Student Accounts and Records, and acts as a meeting and storage space for a variety of clubs and organized activities. Finally, the Olin Center (OC) holds the library, the offices of administrators and teachers, and the Olin auditorium (which serves as a location for various events as well as being the one lecture hall on campus. Off to one side of the Oval, the Olin dorms stand across a wide path from the Campus Center.
Sunset over the Olin Center.
The architecture of the college was designed by architects Perry Dean Rogers & Partners. Outside, the design reflects the juxtaposition of technology and nature, with the impressive steel, brick, and glass facades contrasting with the grass and trees that make the Oval a more natural seeming place. The outside geometry of Olin architecture around the Oval is highly structured, but focuses on curves rather than more traditional right angles, giving the space an ordered but informal feel.
The base of the Campus Center is a brick and tile atrium with potted plants around the edges, which flows off into hallways and offices colored by white paint, maple paneling, and carpet and upholstery in blue and gray (reflecting the school's colors). The slight contrast between the light-peach colored walls and the white tile (on the ground floor) and gray carpet (above) prevents the long halls of the academic center from having an "institutional feel" (Eisen). Small clusters of couches and armchairs around circular coffee tables and tall, movable whiteboards turn the AC halls into informal, practical workspaces.
The Academic Center at night.
Another major focus of the architectural design of Olin was light. During the day, the large panel windows on all three main buildings allow ample natural light. During the night, the light emanating from the buildings creates a dramatic effect of light and shadow on the courtyard and the columns outside.
The dorm immediately adjacent to campus, West Hall, is full to capacity, and the construction of a second dorm, East Hall, is in progress. To alleviate housing problems, Olin has purchased some temporary housing (placed across a soccer field from the main part of campus), where some Olin students volunteered to live. It is possible that construction of the second residence hall will be finished in the spring of 2005, but more likely that the new dorm will not be usable until the following fall.
- Eisen, David (January 4, 2004). "Campus Embraces Bold Thinking". The Boston Herald, p. 43.
- Murray, Charles (August 30, 2004). "If I'm happy, can this be EE school?" EE Times.