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Thought Leader Session: Olin College President Rick Miller

Thought Leader Session: Olin College President Rick Miller

[ Background Talking ]>>Good afternoon. Good afternoon. Good afternoon. [Laughs] You didn’t have to
say that, but I appreciate it. I’m Domenico Grasso, Chancellor here at U of M
Dearborn, for those of you who don’t know me. And thank you all for coming today. As you all know, we are embarking on
a strategic planning effort to decide where we are collectively going to go
in the future of this great institution. And as part of our process, we thought that
it would be helpful to us if we could hear from leaders that have been thinking deeply
about the future of higher education, and innovation in higher education. And as you probably know, higher
education is not a rapidly changing field. [Laughter] So I think we have a
lot of time to think about it. But even though it’s not a rapidly changing
field, we are under such pressure now because things around us are changing that
if higher education doesn’t change rapidly at this particular point in our history, we
are going to face even greater challenges. And one of the things that is really problematic in higher education is we have lost
the trust of the general public. And this is something that has arisen
for a variety of different reasons where the people think that we’re
too liberal, we cost too much, we’re too selective, we’re elitists. There are so many — we don’t
prepare our students to take on jobs. There are so many reasons people have argued for
this abrogation of trust in higher education. But today we’re going to hear from someone who
has thought long and hard about this topic. So Rick Miller is the president of Olin College. Olin College is — for those
of you who listen to NPR, you will hear Olin College mentioned quite
often, because they are a sponsor of NPR. And Olin College is a startup which is only
about 20 — 19 years old or 20 years old. And Rick was starting Olin College at the same that I started the engineering
program at Smith College. So we started our interactions
at that point in time. And since then, I’ve had the
very good fortune of serving on Olin’s Presidential Advisory Board. And what Rick did was he brought in some really
thoughtful individuals from around the country, and he’d bring them in every six months
or so and to talk about some of the things that Olin was doing, and to talk
about trends in higher education. And I found those meetings extraordinarily
invigorating, and always made time in my calendar to attend those
Presidential Advisory Board Meetings. But Olin is a super-interesting
place, and it’s a unique place. And at one point in my career
when I was at Smith College — and I’m going to give you a quick English lesson
here, I said something about being very unique. And for those of you who
have any concept of English, you know that those two words
do not go together. So even though Olin is “very unique”, it
— I am not going to say it in that way, but it is a unique institution, and it is
an institution that is serving as a model for higher education, not just in
engineering, but across all disciplines. Rick, for his part, was raised in a very
traditional engineering environment. He did his undergraduate degree at UC Davis, and then he did his master’s degree
at MIT, and his PhD at Caltech. And then he took on a faculty position at
USC before there was any scandal there. [Laughter] And he rose to the position
of Associate Dean of Engineering at USC, and then became Dean of Engineering at Iowa. And then while he was at Iowa, he was
tapped to start the college at Olin. And he started from scratch. I think Rick was there when they
just had purchased land, right; so there were no buildings, no
faculty, no students, no curriculum. So he really started truly from the ground up. And he has accomplished many,
many great things there. He is now a member of the
National Academy of Engineering. He won the Brock International
Prize for Education. He won the National Engineering — Academy
of Engineering Gordon Prize for Innovation and Education and Engineering Education. He’s a member of the American
Academy of Arts and Sciences, and also a member of the
National Academy of Innovators. He is — and he’s given a number of talks around
the country and around the world on this topic. We’re very, very fortunate
to have Rick Miller today. I’d like you all to help me
welcome Rick to the podium. [ Applause ]>>Well, what an honor to be here, and
especially to watch my close colleague, Domenico, take over leadership of this
very important major state institution. So it’s a real privilege. I do want to try to give you a whirlwind tour
of some of the lessons learned at Olin and some of the things that we’re hearing from the more
than 900 universities now from 55 countries that have been through our place since 2010. So we have — we don’t have
to go very far to hear about the problems, they
show up on our doorstep. So see, it works; good. So this is going to be in two parts. The first one is, “Well, what the heck is Olin?” And the second part is, “So what have we
learned in doing all of these experiments?” So the first part is, you know, “What’s Olin?” So there’s Mr. Olin to begin with; and let
me just say that the Olin Foundation decided to start over in higher education
out of a great deal of frustration about the way engineers were
prepared in the 1990s. And by the numbers, when we graduate students
from college in a month or two nationally, less than five percent of the bachelor degrees
in America will go to students who majored in any kind of engineering at
any university in the country. And that compares with about 12% in Asia, about
30 — 12% in Europe, and about 30% in Asia. And one of the few things that the country
still exports successfully is technology entrepreneurship, which is very
hard to do without engineers. We’re not doing very well at producing them. And our narrative about this is that,
“Well, it’s just very tough when you have to be born smart and maybe you have to
have a dad who’s an engineer or something.” By the way, they’re mostly all
boys, too, which is an issue. So Olin was created out of frustration by
the Olin Foundation to take the excuses away to eliminate the sacred cows, the
things like tenure departments. Everything has an expiration date
at Olin, including the curriculum, to try to get the breakthrough
ideas to make it work. That’s the idea. The Olin Partner year is a really special year. That’s when we brought in 15 boys and 15 girls
to live in construction trailers for a year on a parking lot while the
campus was being built. They didn’t even get course
credit for this, okay, they still had to start over the next year. And we told them, “You know, come — when
people ask you where you’re going to college, tell them you’re building your own. [Laughter] And then come to Olin and,
you know, we’ll do this together.” I just — I was amazed, they
actually came; really bright kids. So we did in that year experiments
that we knew would fail. We did it on purpose so we can watch it fail, so we could actually learn how
people learn and what goes wrong. Being an engineer from the aero industry
— I have former PhD students at Boeing, which may not be something that we love to talk
too much about these days, [laughter] their plan at Boeing — and always has been, before
you put any passengers in an airplane, you take it in your hangar and
you pull the wings off of it. Okay, it’s a very violent test. You do not want to be in that hangar when the
wings come off; it’s like a bomb, it explodes. Why do they do that? They’re checking all the calculations. They want to know what it
actually does when it fails, not what somebody’s predictions look like. What we did in the Olin Partner year is we
pulled the wings off of higher education. Okay? We did experiments to failures
just that we could watch them fail so we could see what kids do when you put
them in crazy, difficult circumstances. And we learned a ton from that. In fact, we learned more from those students
than we ever learned from going to a conference or reading a paper, because we wouldn’t have
believed it if we just read it in the paper. But we knew those kids and we
saw what we were able to do, and it changed our whole way of thinking. So that’s the most important thing. By the way, Mr. Milas was the president
of the Olin Foundation who decided to spend $460 million to start over with
a blank sheet of paper 15 miles from MIT and tell them they were doing it wrong. [Laughter] Okay? And I’m the poor guy that got blamed for
all of this when I showed up on the scene. It wasn’t an informed startup. So some of our early advisors were
Joe Bordonia [assumed spelling], who was the chief operating
officer at NSF during the ’90s, and also John Prados [assumed
spelling], who was the president of ABET, which is the Accreditation Board for Engineering
and Technology, that made the changes in the accreditation criteria
called “Criteria 2000”. And that was in order to break open some of
the barriers to being innovative in education. These — in fact John was
on our board of trustees, and he was also on the Selection
Committee that picked my name out of the hat for being the first person. And Domenico was right, when I showed up at
Olin, it was not yet a place, it was an idea. The Olin Foundation consisted of four people — and me, okay, so it’s a lot more people
in this room than there was [inaudible]. By the way, those four people in the Olin
Foundation, none of them are an engineer, and none of them is from higher education. So imagine your board of regents has 100% of the
money, none of them is from higher education, none of them has a content
background in the fields you’re in. What could go wrong with this, okay? [Laughter] My wife figured that
out much faster than I did. So once you’re in, it’s now what do you
have to do to make this thing succeed? This is from the founding precepts. This is the binding agreement that the
Olin Foundation wrote that requires that the college uses the
money for this purpose. And if you read it, we’re intended to
become an important and constant contributor to the advancement of engineering education
in America and throughout the world. In other words, we are designed
to be an education laboratory. That’s what the purpose of
Olin is from the beginning. We think of it this way. So this higher education, as you pointed out,
is not an easy thing to reorient or to change. Olin is this little tugboat. Now, notice that Olin is pushing at
90 degrees on the bow of this ship. [Laughter] And it’s there for a
purpose, but you don’t want the ship to follow the tugboat; that’s
not the purpose, okay? The tugboat is supposed to
help reorient the main — the mother ship a few degrees
to the left or to the right. That’s all that’s really needed. So we do crazy things, but our partners
do reasonable things; that’s the idea. To make this laboratory, none
of us at Olin has tenure. In fact, nothing at Olin has tenure because
even the curriculum has an expiration. We have no academic departments,
which by the way is a much bigger deal than not having tenure. I think there are a lot of innovative
institutions that have tenure. That’s not — you know, but at the beginning,
they didn’t know what the roadblock was, so they wanted to make sure that wasn’t it. Academic department, though,
really are a roadblock to — and we can talk about that later. And we have $100,000 merit scholarships
for every kid who comes to the school. It used to be free, and then
we had this thing called the “financial crisis”, you might remember that. Now we’re less expensive, but we’re not free. We have now begun to interact
with lots of others. I mentioned all these different schools. Here’s just a tiny little sample of the
ones that have been through and many of which we have partnerships
with around the world. What is it that Olin does now? So remember it’s a laboratory. So we keep trying these experiments. And it changes. So most of the course titles that existed
five years ago are not there anymore. We have very completely different
ways of dealing with it. And a lot of the course titles
at Olin are so confusing that other institutions don’t know what to make
of it, course like “The Stuff of History”, okay, or “Six Microbes That Changed the World”,
okay, that’s a combination of world history and microbiology, and it’s taught by
teams of faculty from humanities and arts at the same time as you have science. So this is what they do, 25
to 35 design build projects and start running business before they graduate. That’s unusual. And when they graduate, by the way,
and they talk to the employer, yes, they do have a transcript, but it’s an appendix
in the back of a three-ring binder with 25 tabs, they have pictures of all the stuff they built. So the employers think that they have a couple
of years of experience, because they have, okay? One of the things that they
do at the end instead of this capstone is this thing we call “Scope”. It’s a corporate-sponsored
project that takes a year. Each company is paying $55,000 for
the privilege of working with four or five students for two semesters. And it’s not 100% of their effort for
two semesters, that’s about a quarter for their effort for two semesters. There are nondisclosure agreements,
there are often patents developed. We give the IP to the company
because we’re not interested in creating an adversarial
relationship with the company, we want authentic learning
experiences for the students. The students are named on the patents. The company owns the economic
rights, and the students wind up getting multiple job offers
when they’re done. So why do we do that; because
we want them to learn to be an engineer, not to
learn about engineering. You can’t be an engineer
unless you have a client that has skin in the game; and it matters. So in principle, if the client doesn’t want
to come back next year, you fail the class. Nobody has failed, although
they’ve come really close. See how close you can get and still get away. It also took us a while to
find the right clients. Not every client — company is the
right one for this sort of thing. We have another — we have a group of
companies that have sponsored at least one and often two projects every year for 14
years, and they are still going strong. So there’s a lot of companies that
really thrive on this sort of thing. So how do we do — oh by
the way, we have two things that I think are really important,
expo and passionate pursuits. Expo is inspired by a music school. So we think of engineering as a performing art. And if you had a kid in a music school,
you would expect them to have a recital at the end of every semester, right? Every kid would play something, maybe it’s
“Twinkle Little Star”, but they would play it. And we do this at Olin, at the end of every
semester, every kid has to stand and deliver in front of the entire community,
and we open it to folks outside. We have two or three hundred people from
Route 128 that come, and the kids all have to stand right next to each other and demonstrate what they know
about an important project. That turns out, you know, if you learn how to
play the violin and you play it on a recording for your teacher, you’d demonstrate
what you know. But if you play that same piece onstage
at Carnegie Hall, it changes who you are. And this whole business of
learning how to perform in front of a professional audience is
transformative for students. I think if you did nothing but that, had
students stand and deliver in every course, you would find that you’d have
quite the change in their learning. And passionate pursuits; we believe
that engineering can be more engaging than it was when I was learning it. That’s important because
it keeps your attention. But it still has tough subjects to study. So don’t let me sugarcoat this to you, it’s
still — quantum mechanics is still confusing, even — I mean, I don’t think
Einstein believed in it. It’s hard. So you need to have kids do something
they’re passionate about in every semester, so that it sustains who they
are all the way through. So we have a lot of kids who have come
in, for example, the Principal [inaudible] and the State Orchestra when
they were in high school, you might go to other engineering
schools and they say, “It’s time to sell the cello
now and buy a laptop. We’re going to learn about
[inaudible] equations. We tell them, “Don’t sell the laptop
— I mean, don’t sell the cello. You’re going to use it.” And then we have funding for this. And we had a kid couple years
ago who did exactly this. We got master classes at New
England Conservatory and he played in three different orchestras
in other universities through town while he was graduating from Olin. We want them to nurture the things
that they’re passionate about. And not everything that you do in science and engineering will be something
you’re passionate about. So those are just some of the weird things. But on the other hand, if
you come back in five years, this will probably be a different list, okay? Do you really need to do 25 to 35 design build
projects to change engineering, no, okay? I think you could probably do five and get
80% of the benefit of what we’re doing. We’re doing 25 to 35 because it’s our
mission to take things to the extreme. Remember the tugboat; it’s
not the aircraft carrier. So that’s kind of what we do. Olin is producing engineering stem cells. This is observation that a
number of people have made. Rather than taking the mentality that
we’re trying to create miniature PhDs in engineering — so they have the deep
technical background that you would find in a PhD in some major technical university. So they come out being assuming
highly specialized scientists. We prepare them with an engineering mindset
and a broad set of skills where they can do on their own they can adapt almost
any environment and find a way to apply engineering thinking to
solve problems that people haven’t — don’t even know that they have yet. And that’s really the DNA that’s coming
out today; it’s been really quite useful, which is also I think easily transformed to
other disciplines, which I’ll come back to. “For a long time, we wondered how
do you really change education, because it’s really difficult.” I think Mr. Fuller is closer to
this than anybody that we found. He basically says don’t bother
arguing with people about why change is needed,
because that’s not going to win. Just build a new model that makes everything
else obsolete, and the world will find you. And that’s basically what’s happened at Olin. We did no marketing to bring
these 900 universities here. And when they come — by the way, in part of
self-defense we run a summer institute that has between 70 and 100 faculty every summer doing
their own projects from their own university. When they want to try something new, we scaffold
that and we create a community of other people around the world that are doing similar
things so they can learn from each other, and then bring them back as alumni. And they build a whole community of innovation. That’s how we’re doing it,
not to follow what we do, but to learn how to do their own
experiments, their own partner year. Okay, now let’s move to he important part. Okay, lessons learned; so what are
we seeing as you watch this world go by from this really strange perch at Olin? Well, the first thing I would say is
that we can see a very discernible trend. So there’s a timeline here. And the first part of it is
based on what I would call the “assumption of the knowledge economy”. In fact, world banks for 20 years their vision
for improvement of mankind on the planet was to imagine building a knowledge-based
economy in all the developing countries. Why is that; because everybody knows the more
you know, the better your life will be, right? That’s why we send our kids to school. And if they’re good at school,
we keep sending them to school, because the more you know,
the better your life will be. So it’s about knowledge. What does this look like? This looks like making sure you send kids
to school and they’re learning something. Well, how do you know they’re
going to learn something? Well first off, you have to have somebody
standing in front of you who has a PhD who knows something, that’s what
the PhD means, talking to you, and so I’m putting stuff into your head. That’s our model; we’ve been
doing this for 500 years. The efficient way to do this is
to put people in rows and some of them have pencils and
they’re writing things down. So they’re taking notes, okay? This was the model we used. How do you know if it worked? It’s about what you know. So we give standardized tests. Don’t talk to your neighbor. That’s cheating, okay, and it’s all
about multiple choice and so forth, because it’s easy to grade that way. There’s a problem with this;
it’s called “Google”. [Laughter] So for example — maybe you
know this, one of the favorite games that our family likes to watch
usually at dinnertime is Jeopardy. Do you remember that game? We have a clicker and there’s three people,
and they have these trivia questions. And if you know stuff and
you’re fast, you win money. Imagine that if this knowledge economy
education model worked perfectly, everybody on the planet would
be a Jeopardy champion. But when we’re watching Jeopardy now, our younger daughter can Google the answer
before the people on the stage can answer it. You can get answers, you can get knowledge
to things which have almost no cost. It’s like the air you breathe. It’s ubiquitous now. Knowledge of that kind is free,
which has profound implications for your marketplace value, and what
companies are willing to pay for. They’re not willing to pay for people who
have encyclopedic knowledge of things. It’s like how valuable is it that you’ve
memorized the multiplications table now, now that you have a calculator? You may have some educational value, but
it’s certainly not a marketable skill. So what’s the new event? It’s what we call the “maker economy”. You’re beginning to see this
show up all over the world. The maker economy has a different philosophy
about what it means to be educated. Now, it’s not just what you put into
somebody’s head; it’s what comes out of it, too. In fact, it’s learning to imitate somebody
else so that you can produce something. I just came back from Hong
Kong and Shenzhen in China. They call themselves “the
manufacturers of the world”. Boy, are they good at doing this, okay? They started 30 years ago by taking
things apart and reverse engineering it. Now, they’re not reverse engineering it,
they’re creating things on their own. They’re really good at it. Learning to big things is a valuable commodity. But how do you teach this? Well, the teacher’s no longer standing in front
talking with you while you’re writing notes. Now, you’re organized in small groups and
you’re working on some kind of a project. It could be making a robot, but it
could be writing a term paper today, or it could be developing a play. You know, life is a maker project. There aren’t instructions, and you
have to improvise in every step. This is a highly useful skill. It’s a lot more intrinsically useful
than just remembering things, okay, especially when it’s available on Google. What does it mean if you’re successful? It’s what you could do with what you know. It’s not just what you know. By the way, did you know that Google is one of
the most sought-after employers on the planet? It’s much easier to get into Harvard
than it is to get a job at Google. If you talk to their HR director,
which I did couple of years ago, he said one in six employees at
Google does not have a college degree. Think about that. His confidence that the piece of paper that
you have from your fancy university with a GPA, that that represents what he needs in
order to make money at Google is quite low. He thinks that he can find that out by
interviewing people and seeing what they can do with what they know much more valuable to them. So we need to rethink what the purpose of
education is in order to align it and keep it in step with what’s happening in corporations. This is not the end, okay? There’s also the innovation economy, which
is beginning to emerge; what is this about? This is not about what you put into
kids’ heads, it’s about what comes out. This is where the real money is, okay? We don’t know how you teach it. We’re still struggling with that. We’ve tried lots of things at Olin. Apparently, it doesn’t matter whether the
teacher has a PhD or not, people are creative and are innovative, mostly I think
because of peers that they’re in, it’s the culture that they’re in. You can be creative in one
environment and not creative in another. It depends on all of the signals around you. That’s the trick. And we don’t know how you
— what the core issues are. Right now the ideas that are most successful
at Olin are what we call “intrinsic motivation” and “design thinking”; and I’ll
come back to that in a minute. Design thinking is core of that
is at Stanford, you probably know. It’s really about what you conceive. Having a really important idea that changes
the way people live that other people resonate with is really valuable, and
in fact if you look at this, you can almost identify the companies
that do each of these things. The what you know companies for
engineering graduates have a starting salary of about 60K a year [inaudible]
from our placement officer. The companies that hire you for what
you conceive, doubled, 120K a year. And you know that because these guys are
not looking for encyclopedic knowledge with a long transcript, they’re
looking for what you actually create; and it’s about interviewing
and about what you’ve done. So this is a trend which
we’re seeing not just at Olin, but almost at every place around the world. And frankly, this is not completely new, every university produces some
people in each of these all the time. But the percentage of those is increasing,
and you can tell the market demand because the salaries are so much
higher for people in that area. And the salaries in this area,
well, I’ll save that for later. [Laughs] Okay. This is also not new. This whole framing is not new. You know Yeets [assumed spelling] talked
about this long ago about filling a pail versus lighting a fire, and what’s
happening on the right is lighting a fire. This is not the only change. Another big change that’s
happening, human population. Has anybody seen this graph before? This is the population of the human species
on the planet throughout all of human history, you know, starting over here with
like two and a half million years ago. You can see 7,000, 6,000,
5,000 blah, blah, blah. There’s a little tiny blip about
1200, 1300; that’s the Black Plague. And then what happens here, it’s a hockey stick. It’s just going berserk. Human population is exploding. What do you think is causing that? What happened about then? By the way, before about 1900 the human
population was always lower than one billion. Now, it’s, you know, seven billion
on the way to nine billion by 2050. And there’s a lot of speculation
about what will happen after that. The most likely explanation
is technological revolution. Technology enabled people to
manufacture food in very large quantities. When I was actually younger, I think
still in college, Earth Day was announced. You might remember that. There was a guy named Paul Ehrlich. Does anybody remember Paul Ehrlich, he
had a book called “The Population Bomb”, how the whole world was going to die in famines. He was a guy at Stanford, he was a
really incredible person; didn’t happen. Why, mechanized agriculture created gazillions
of calories of food at very low costs. It’s probably technology. But I don’t care what the
cause is, look at that trend. This is in fact an existential threat. If you show population biologists
this kind of graph, they’ll tell you, “We’ve seen this before. This is what happens to rabbits in the outback
of Australia when the wolves are gone.” By the way, in one generation, they
breed themselves out of existence. They’re not paying attention to
the amount of resources they have and what it takes to sustain life. You know, that can happen to humans, too,
if we don’t use the stuff between our ears. We need to think differently. We need to educate differently. This is a problem for the global human
species; it’s not an American problem, it’s not an Indian problem
or a European problem. What does this mean for education? Well, in the National Academy of Engineering, we began worrying about this
shortly after the year 2000. And they looked at what they call “the
grand challenges for the 21st century”. What are the big issues that
we as a species need to solve in order to preserve life on the planet? And these are the kinds of things, you
know, make solar energy economical, manage the nitrogen cycle, advance
health informatics and so forth. They’re not the only one. By the way, this is a global problem. The UN sustainable development
goals of mapping is quite similar. They’re not identical, but
there’s an awful lot of overlap. And they’re concerned about
the same sorts of issues. What’s different about these problems? Well, these are complex multidisciplinary
challenges that involve security, sustainability, health, and enhancing life. By the way, almost all teenagers
know about this. You heard about the global climate change? You don’t have to explain — well a chemical
engineer is different from a civil engineer because no, they don’t need to talk
about even what an engineer is, they know about these things
and they’re worried about them. The kinds of skills that it takes to
solve these problems are really critical. You need to have the ability to think
in a system’s way, which means what, if you lack it over here, it pops up over there. There must be a connection, okay, and
it’s not obvious from the beginning. Understanding those connections
and that they have to do with systems problems is really important. The kinds of problems that you
see are so coupled that the idea of having disciplinary boundaries that are deeply specialized is
really called into question. Because now you have coupled problems that
involve scientific, social, economic, political, even religious background, that unless you
have that all in the early formulation, you have the wrong people in the room,
you didn’t formulate it correctly. We’re seeing some of this already
with social media and the problems that social media is generating
with mental health in kids. We know how to make things happen
really on a large scale almost instantly with very little cost in social media. October 2017 the New York Times runs an article. It’s an unprecedented epidemic of anxiety
disorder among teenagers in America today. Has anybody heard of a teenager
that has anxiety disorder? [Inaudible Comment] Then when I talk to the college presence today, every single one of them will tell me the number
one concern is the explosion of the demand of psychological counseling
among undergraduates. The budget has doubled every year
for the last three years in a row. What’s causing it, we don’t know. The next article in the New York
Times a month later there’s this — an unprecedented spike in suicides
among teenagers and [tape skips] number of hours they spend on social media. Then what happens in January of last year,
Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, is onstage pleading with parents not to let their kids use an Apple
iPhone with social media on it unsupervised. And then, of course, last April we had this
meaculpa tour with Zuckerberg in Congress. Well, we didn’t know this would
happen; unintended consequences, okay? Where we’re playing with power tools of
that magnitude, we have a responsibility to make sure we anticipate the consequences to
all of humanity, not just to our bottom line. It’s a whole new kind of engineering
that needs to be broadened. By the way, as you think about creating the
innovators you need to solve these problems, we’re worried that the structure
we have in higher education is part of the problem, not the solution. So let me explain this. Well, at the risk of offending some people,
which has never stopped me in the past, let me point out this could be a map
of the University of Michigan, okay? I’m much more familiar with Ann
Arbor than I am with Dearborn, so I’m not sure how the layout works here. But this blue thing up here is
like the engineering school, the green thing is the business school, and this
red thing, red circle, is kind of where arts, psychology, humanities — so think
of it as where the library is. If you have a kid who graduates from high
school and they have to declare a major, and they enroll at the University
of Michigan in engineering, they’ll wind up spending four years
in the engineering quad, right? And they’ll spend the time
there because in order to get an A better credited engineering degree,
75%, three-fourths of the credit hours you take, have to be in a course that’s
STEM-related, that’s ABED, okay, it’s math, science, engineering, and technology. So everybody that you see in the same
building every day, they go to lunch together, they have a PhD in science,
math, or engineering. And to the exclusion of all
the other kinds of learning, those wind up being very important to you. And after four years without you even noting
it, you’re developing a mindset that everything that is important in life
has to do with feasibility, because that’s what really
engineering talks about. And the kinds of questions we ask
is, “Can you do this thing based on what we know about natural law today?” So if you used, you know, somebody’s
equations, can you make a circuit that does X? Can you build a chemical that does Y? It’s all about what’s possible relative
to what we know about the natural law. But at the same time this is going on, the
kids are up there in the engineering quad, on the other side of campus over in the business
school, they’re studying business and economics. And in fact, to get an AACSB credited
degree, you have to spend half of your time taking courses from
people with a PhD in business. And they have to learn things
like accounting, and management, organizational psychology, all of this stuff. The kinds of questions they
ask are completely different; questions like, “How much money does it make? Does it have enough capital to launch? Is it sustainable over time? You know, what will be the financial and
legal risks of this as you go forward?” Their whole world is about that. Everything that they do is seen
through the lens of viability. “Is this financially viable?” And that’s what they do, okay, to the exclusion
of what you learn in these other subjects. Now, what about this other circle down here,
you know, with the library, which by the way, those guys don’t go there very often. I think it’s two miles, if I
remember correctly, on the campus. There’s a bus, but, you know. What do they study there? They have a different kind of question. They ask questions like, “What
is the meaning of beauty? What is the meaning to truth? What’s the meaning of love?” Okay; by the way, those questions aren’t
easy to analyze with vectors and equations. They don’t apply very well with
things like spreadsheets, either. There are real dollar signs involved. Do you think they’re important questions? I mean, they determine all of human motivation. This is why people do what they do. And on the other hand, people in this
circle don’t have an ABET, or an AACSB, or an outside organization that says, “You
have to take so many credit hours of anything.” They can make up whatever they want in
their own discipline; well, by and large. I know that because I have
a daughter who did it, okay? One of the interesting things is she got a
very good degree from a private university in the Boston area in this circle, and in
four years she didn’t take a single natural science course. And the only math course
she took was statistics, and we did that at the kitchen
table in one semester. So she didn’t have to intersect
with any of these other people. Okay, so why does that matter? Well, it matters for this reason. It turns out if you look at
innovation, innovation is defined as, “The application of ideas in a way
that will change the way people live.” And a really profound idea — really
profound innovation is an innovation that changes the way people live so profoundly that you can’t remember what
the world was like before, okay? My kids can’t imagine what the world was
like before the caveman had an iPhone, okay? We now have the heads-down society, you
don’t know how to look at people in the eye. It’s addictive. That’s what we think of as innovation. Now, defy you to identify one innovation that’s
changed the world and the way people live that isn’t simultaneously feasible
because nothing happens that we know about that doesn’t consist of natural law,
and also viable, it generates more revenue than it costs to make it, and much
more importantly is also desirable. Every innovation that you can
think of has to have all three. But you see the way we’re educating
people is we’re pulling this apart and we’re eliminating the interactions between
the two, and we’re allowing them to leave with the mindset that says, “The only thing
that’s important is this thing that I studied because all the smart people
I know, that’s what they do.” It’s this intersection that we’re missing. And it’s this intersection that I
think that it’s really critical. Now, I happen to have — so I grew up in the
blue circle, and we have our own narrative in engineering about how the world works, okay? When I was a young faculty member actually
at the University of California before going to USC, they said, “Here’s
what you should do in February. You need to go to Washington and
you need to talk to your senator. And you need to tell them, “Look,
you need to support that bill for the increase in funding for NSF. Because the National Science
Foundation will send money for just in case science to my university. I’ll be able to take some of that and publish
something which one of those ideas, surely, some of them are going to be good for something. The university will take those
ideas, they’ll throw them over the fence to the tech transfer office. They’ll have a couple of lawyers
there and maybe a venture capitalist, and they’ll start a tech park
on the side of the university. This is going to change the world. A few of those companies will make money. And if they make money, they’ll generate
jobs and new tech dollars that will go back to Washington so you can
increase the NSF budget.” That’s it. All of innovation is engineering and technology. There’s a problem with this, okay? I happen to be serving on the board of
trustees across the street at Babson College. Now, Babson is a business school,
it’s all about entrepreneurship. And I did that for 18 years. Every member of the board,
except me, had an MBA. I’m being punished by some
former sense, I guess. [Laughter] One of the things that
happened is they constantly used the word “innovation”, all the time. But don’t they see, innovation is
all about science and engineering. How dare they talk about that. And then one day, one of them pointed out, “Hey, do you think that the credit card may
have changed the way people live?” Just the credit card. How many people carry cash anymore? Have you been to China, they
don’t even have cash. I mean, it’s all about your phone. Can’t remember what the world
was like when they had cash. You know, as far as I can tell, the credit
card didn’t involve any Nobel Prize in physics. Maybe there’s another path to innovation beyond
just the idea of some widget that we designed in Silicon Valley our garage
and created a company around it. So maybe you have to broaden
your thinking about it. And then I happened to have a brother
who’s an entrepreneur in Silicon Valley. He’s on his fourth company;
I was out there last week. And I showed him this. And he said, “You know, that’s the
secret to really successful innovation.” He says, “If I’m going to start a company, I
would much rather start with an idea that a lot of people really want and start there. Don’t start with a widget that you designed
in the garage and you’re now trying to figure out that you could do something in it. Because you can’t even explain to
people what it does, first of all. Why would they care or invest in it? But if this thing actually cures cancer
or does something really profound, your phone will be ringing off the
hook, ‘Have you got that done yet?’ You know, ‘Do you need some more money? Let’s get this started’.” So he said, “Think about Facebook. Has anybody heard of Facebook? How about Google, you know, Twitter. These companies didn’t exist 20 years ago. They are big on the Stock Exchange today. What does Facebook make? Can you hold it in your hand? Is it a — is it something that
you can touch and transfer?” Maslow, I think, is the answer. What Facebook was designed to do was to
allow people to tell their personal story to somebody else that they care about. Now, there’s been a lot of pollution in
the business model that’s gotten involved, but why is it that your kids are so
revealing, and why do they text pictures that they shouldn’t be texting to each other? What’s the driving force? Maslow, the psychologist, my paraphrase, “The
most important thing in every person’s life, is to be the most important
person in another person’s life.” And the way we have developed our
society, you can’t do that now. It’s very hard to do that. You grew up in the Midwest, and
you got a job in San Francisco, and you left home when you were 23,
you’re far away from your family, your high school sweetheart is now living in
New York, you can’t talk about it at work. Loneliness is one of the biggest
concerns about human health today. So Facebook actually has an appeal. The driving force is psychological, it’s about being the most important
person in somebody else’s life. And you don’t that by just
talking about business; you have to talk about what you care about. If you don’t understand that, you’re not going
to have a viable business in the big areas, and it’s not coming out of the differential
equations in the engineering school. So it’s this interaction
here that’s really important. Bottom line, no amount of
specialization in narrow courses is going to produce the innovators that we need to
deal with the global population explosion, which by the way is the driving force
behind all of the grand challenges, both in the NAE, and also in the UN. So what do we learn about at Olin? Well, we learn really there are three reasons
why we’re not producing engineers that we need. Number one, we’re teaching the wrong people. Number two, we’re teaching them the wrong stuff. And number three, we’re using teaching methods
which are known to be largely ineffective. Otherwise, though, we’re doing a great job. [Laughter] What do you mean “the wrong people”? I’m here today because my math teacher in
high school said I was pretty good at math so probably I should be an engineer. Neither of us knew what that is, okay? She had never met one, and I hadn’t either. In fact, I met my first engineer on the day I
was a freshman at the University of California. He was also the first person
I ever met with a PhD. Engineering is not about math. It involves math, that’s not [inaudible]. What is an engineer? In our view — and this is an engineering
with a lowercase E that I think can work in any discipline, an engineer is a
person who envisions what has never been, and does whatever it takes to make it happen. And that might involve math,
okay; but it might not. It’s a mindset, it’s a way of
thinking, it’s a motivation in life. If you’re studying math and science and
engineering and that’s not what you want to do, there’s probably room for you as an applied
scientist, but you’re not an engineer. This book by Tony Wagner, I think
at Harvard, does a pretty good job of helping you understand what the
role of creativity innovation is in education and how it produces people. The key there is improvisation. Improvise. That’s how jazz music works. That’s how everything that
involves creativity works. We also learned a bit about
the new culture of learning. So one of my favorite books is
by this guy John Seely Brown. Does anybody know who John
Seely Brown is; yes, few people. He was chief scientist at Xerox. He was the guy who built Xerox
Park, Palo Alto Research Center. This is where PC computing came from. And when we finished there, he became very
concerned about the way people learned, and how the Internet is going to affect that. And this book really provides
an interesting contrast in understanding the new
culture of learning [inaudible]. So as you can see, the traditional
way we basically tell you, “You don’t have the prerequisites
for that course. You’re not allowed to take it yet. You have to follow orders. That’s why you’re supposed to be here. Don’t color outside the lines. That’s not going to count.” On the other hand, learning in
class, that’s where we take roll. You have to be there at 8:00.” But that doesn’t work either, right? [Laughter] I mean, kids bring
their laptop, and they — it’s way more interesting to watch YouTube
than it is to see what you’re saying in class. Unless you can compete with those ideas in a
more engaging way, they’re not going to come. Learn alone. Don’t talk to your neighbor, that’s cheating,
okay, as opposed to learning in a team. This is the new culture of learning. The old method is problem-based. Why; lecture-based is the least engaging. I’ll bet you 50% of you right now are having
trouble keeping your eyes open, I can see; or else you’re thinking about, you know, what’s
on your phone, or what you’re going to do after this class, and why did
I come to this thing anyway? Aside from a lecture, having people involved
in a project where you actually have to talk to each other, you have to express
yourself, and it comes from inside out, you will remember it, it’s much more engaging. Okay? That’s why projects are
more successful than lectures. There’s a better — it’s
called “design-based learning”. So what’s that about? Aren’t they the same? Almost, but they’re different
in a really important way. So project-based learning is what
happens when an instructor plans out before you get to class a project. It’s a kit. Think of it as a model airplane kit or an art
kit where you have all the pieces you need and you have to figure out
how to put them together, and you have the experience of building it. Okay? Think of it as paint by numbers. Remember paint by numbers when you were
a kid, sort of like a coloring book, and it has a number in there and you
paint this one red and that one blue? Design-based learning is learning to
paint from a blank sheet of paper, okay? There are no guidelines. You have to decide what to paint first. It exercises a different
part of your brain, okay? You have to take responsibility for the
whole idea that you’re going to paint first. If you do that 25 to 35 times before
they graduate, it changes who they are. I can tell you, we’ve watched that. All of this, though, is it
in John Seely Brown’s book. So that’s the new culture of learning. But it’s actually not new. This is the same kind of pedagogy that I had
in graduate school, and I bet you you did, too. You didn’t learn in class, you learned 24/7. You had to come to your instructor
with the idea that you wanted to do, you were passionate about. You talked to the other graduate
students constantly trying to figure out do you have any idea of
how to solve this problem. It’s not new. Okay, “So but what difference does that make,
Rick, because if it’s a graduate school, it’s not going to work for undergraduates.” Have you ever heard of Montessori?>>Yes.>>Okay. It actually works at K-12,
and it works in graduate school. It will work in the middle, too, if we adopt —
if we abandon our dogmatic commitment to courses with structures within lectures and with
multiple choice tests, and think differently about what it means to be educated. Okay? My favorite quote from this book. “For most of the 20th century, our educational
system has been built on the assumption that teaching is necessary
for learning to occur. You can’t learn unless you have the teacher. You should rethink that. We’re probably the most expendable
part of the learning culture. The teachers are maybe the resource like the
librarian; they’re not necessary for learning. Okay? And we need to understand how that works
and develop a system that makes use of it.” Now, let me move on to what
I think is the new frontier, which is we’re all just trying to learn. It turns out that knowledge is not enough,
okay, that innovators require much more than specialized knowledge, okay? More often than not, your attitude determines
your altitude in life, not your aptitude. This guy doesn’t even have legs
and he’s going to climb much higher on that granite wall than I will. Have you seen this film —
this movie out lately, it’s a National Geographic
documentary, I think it’s called “Solo”.>>”Free Solo”.>>”Free Solo”, absolutely stunning. This guy is climbing El Capitan — I think
it’s El Capitan in Yosemite with no ropes and no safety nets at all,
like 3,000 feet straight up. But he has legs, okay? Attitudes, behaviors, and motivations, this is really much more important
than content knowledge now. Content knowledge has a very short shelf
life, and you’ll have to replace it quickly. Attitudes, behaviors, and
motivations, though, shape identity, agency, and purpose, who you are. And if you can get this right, the content
knowledge will take care of itself over time. What is this? If we talk to a bunch of employers, as we have over the last two
decades, you’ll hear this constantly. “We’re looking for people who
have an entrepreneurial mindset. We’re looking for employees who have ethical
behavior, we don’t have to teach that. We’re looking for employees who are good
at teamwork and they’re natural leaders. You know, we’re looking for employees
who have interdisciplinary thinking and a global perspective,” and blah,
blah, blah, blah, blah, goes on and on. So where are we hearing this? Okay, we’re hearing some of them the
National Academy of Engineering Study. There’s also a Council on Competitiveness
Study, which is the National Engineering Forum. STEMconnector; has anybody
heard of STEMconnector? This is a relatively new group, 6,000 companies. Okay? They have a taskforce on the
characteristics of the workforce of the future that they need; really interesting. The most important characteristic is
what they call “employability skills”. What does that mean? This is not rocket science, folks. This means if you say you’ll be there
8:00, you’re there at 8:00, okay? You come ready to work. You don’t have this attitude that
everybody’s there to serve you. You’re there to make value for the company. It’s a whole new set of mindset skills that we’ve been not paying much
attention to that are really important. And of course, innovation excellence, and
of course finally, the IBM T-shaped person. Has anybody heard of the
T-shaped person from IBM? This has been out there for about 30 years now. They’re basically saying the vertical
stem on the T is the depth of knowledge in some content like electrical engineering. The horizontal bar on the T is your
ability to work across disciplines and talk to people who are very different from you. And they’ve talked about teamwork, and
collaboration, and the ability to work in your disciplinary for 30 years at IBM. That’s not the way we educate, though. Do you see the mismatch? This is all about mindset. And our summary of what that is are
five mindsets that you can teach. Collaborative mindset, these are people
who would just not ever want to eat alone. Okay, they’re just curious. They like to eat with somebody new. They like to find out, “Where did you
come from, what is your work about today,” constantly engaging with
people in a different field. This is hard to do at a big
state university because, you know, you live in the same building. So my question is, “Who do
you have lunch with every day? Do your business faculty members have lunch
with the arts and humanities faculty members? Do they have lunch? I mean, where are they?” [Laughter] This is really
critical; it’s a mindset. And of course, there are
entrepreneurial mindsets. So what is an entrepreneurial mindset? It guess, you know, I’ll take
a second to talk about this. The most vivid and I think accurate picture
of entrepreneurial mindset that I’ve run into recently is a quote
from [inaudible] who was until very recently the president
of the Technion in Israel. This is from a Wall Street Journal article. It’s about the new Cornell Tech campus
in Roosevelt Island in New York. Have you heard of this? Cornell is building this new campus. So Cornell has chosen the Technion from Israel
as its partner, which is very confusing. So Wall Street Journal guy decided,
“I’m going to go to find out why.” He interviews Peretz [inaudible],
“Why did they pick you?” And he says, “Well, the reason is the Technion
is an absolute singularity in its success at producing startup companies, startup
businesses out of technical research. On a pound for pound basis, Technion outperforms
most any other university you can find.” Now, the guy from Wall Street
Journal is even more confused. He says, “This doesn’t make any sense. How in the world — I mean, I can
see Silicon Valley, it’s a rich area. But why the Technion in Israel? Don’t you guys realize, the people
all around you don’t like you. I mean, they have guns pointed at you. How could you possibly be inventive here?” So Peretz says, “Well, you
have it exactly backwards.” He says, “Here’s the deal. You can’t live in Israel unless you’re an
optimist, or you would be insane, okay? You have to innately deep in your bones believe
that there could always be a better world. And it’s not hopeless. On the other hand, because you live in Israel, you know it’s up to you to
make it a better world. Don’t count on other people to do it. So you take the initiative without the
resources to create that better world that you envision in your heart.” That’s the essence of an
entrepreneurial mindset. It’s a positive way of looking at
the world, “It could always be better and it’s up to me to make it happen.” Those are the employees that
corporations are talking to us about. Okay? And I would say a global
mindset and an ethical mindset, it’s not just about knowledge content anymore. And I think that’s what we as a
— in the Academy have to realize, when we walk into a classroom,
it’s about shaping a mindset, it’s not just about transferring
content knowledge. So when I first started running
into this, I began to think, “Mindset, mindset, what is this?” It sounds like one of those latest
fads, you know, self-help books. You can find them in the airport, and you
read this, and your life will be better by the time you land in wherever you’re going. And then I ran into Carol Dweck. Has anybody heard of Carol Dweck at Stanford? Carol’s amazing, okay? For 25 years, she’s been doing
research on the way kids learn. And what she’s discovered is that you
can characterize kids into two buckets, depending on what they believe about themselves. And the lens that she’s using is your
intelligence, which is a surrogate for, “Do you believe you’re capable of learning?” Okay? If you believe that your intelligence
is part of your DNA, it’s like your eye color, it’s something you inherited from your
parents, and you know, it is what it is and you can’t change it, then you
have what she calls a “fixed mindset”. On the other hand, if you believe that
your intelligence is like a muscle, it’s something you can grow if you take — if
you have challenge and you have the opportunity to work on harder and harder problems,
you can get better and better at it, and there’s no limit to what you can learn. That’s a growth mindset. These are beliefs about yourself, okay? And then she’s learned how to cue
these beliefs in the classroom by having teachers bring certain
attitudes and behaviors of their own. By the way, I believe you
could only teach what you know. If you don’t have a growth mindset, you’re going to have a really hard time
transmitting it to the next generation. Okay, it’s a big issue. So Carol has been watching this, and
that the people who have growth mindset and that you feed it in K-12 with the
right sort of scaffolding in the classroom, produces sustainable, measurable
improvement in learning, okay? This is her — for this — that’s her
book, by the way, which I highly recommend. This one is quite good. And for that, she got the Yidan Prize, which
is a $3.9 million prize from China for ideas in education that change the world. Think of it as four times the Nobel Prize. She’s also won the — and that’s what
this thing is for; the Atkinson Prize at the National Academy of
Science a couple of years ago. You might have heard of Angela Duckworth. Angela’s at Penn. She’s working with “Grit: The Power of Passion
and Perseverance”, how that changes lives. And her book is quite interesting. That’s the Yidan Prize for Carol. Well, it turns out that if you look at
Carol’s work on fixing growth mindsets, it’s now being applied in the university. One of her former PhD students, Mary
Murphy, who is a professor of psychology at Indiana University, just published a
paper a couple months ago on 15,000 students in a major university and 150 different faculty
members, parsing the faculty into two groups, the faculty members who have fixed mindset, versus the faculty members
who have a growth mindset. Did nothing else. Look what happens to the
students in those classes. Turns out that the students who had
a teacher with a growth mindset, that’s this group over here, had higher
test scores, had higher academic achievement in the same courses than those students who
happened to get a faculty with a fixed mindset. And in fact, for underrepresented
minorities, this is even more important. Okay, the gap between white and Asian kids
and underrepresented minorities in a teacher with the fixed mindset is cut in half when
you have a teacher with a growth mindset. So there’s something to this. There’s some real signal in here. It’s not just, you know, a feel-good book. If you look at the real deepest
research in this area — and I think it’s by James Heckman who
won the Nobel Prize in 2000 at Chicago. And he looked at that question that
I brought up earlier, remember, “The more you know, the better
your life will be.” Turns out that’s a testable hypothesis. You could do that. So he went to the IRS and he got all
this data from millions of people. What’s their educational achievement,
you know, what’s their lifestyle later? Turns out not so much, okay? Having a PhD in sociology does not lead to you being the wealthiest or
the happiest person in life. The correlation is not very high. But other things came out
that were really interesting. What he found out is a better predictor
for success in life than intelligence or academic achievement is what he calls “grit”. Okay, perseverance and passion
are not going to give up. “I’m going to do whatever it takes to win.” That’s what really correlates best. So and that’s actually what got Angela
Duckworth on the whole issue of grit, can you teach grit, where does it come from? And Olin’s best bet at this point in time,
grit comes from intrinsic motivation. You don’t give up on the things you care about. So if you’re teaching, look for
the things that people care about and build your entire course around that. So I’ll tell you about this one
course we have where we have students in small groups, in groups of five. On the first day of class, we ask them,
“Identify a group of people whose lives you want to change, not someday but in four months. Okay? Now, we’re going to scaffold this so you
can go meet ten of them in the first few weeks and interview them for two hours. Ask them about their life. Come back from that with two or
three ideas about what you could do that would really change the way they live. I don’t care whether it involves
math or science; it’s people, okay? And then once you know that you
have something you could do — ” and I’ll give you a real quick example. One of our kids had a grandmother
who came down with Alzheimer’s. She was in assisted living. They interviewed ten Alzheimer’s patients
in assisted living near our campus. In two weeks, they did 20
hours of structured interviews. And they came back with answers to the question, “What does it mean to be
elderly in America today? What is their lifestyle like? What is it that keeps them up at night?” You know what they found; it won’t surprise you. Everyone had a friend that had fallen and broken
a hip sometime in the last couple of years, and sometimes it didn’t heal, and
they’re now confined to a wheelchair. And these folks were terrified of that outcome. And they learned that the reason is because when
you’re in the wheelchair, you can’t look people in the eye anymore, you only
look at their belt buckle. It’s dehumanizing. They come and visit you in group,
they gather above your head and they talk about you in the third person. It’s — you know, changes their life. In fact, not only that, but they can’t walk
anymore, so they can’t control their metabolism so they have trouble managing their weight. They can’t even determine their weight because
it’s a big ordeal to have somebody hold you up on the scale because you can’t
stand, so they just don’t even want to care, they just want to give up, okay? What are you going to do about that? So the kids looked to each
other and said, “Look, we’re 18. I don’t think we’re going to
fix the aging thing today. Maybe we can do something about the weight.” All right, so what does that mean? So they said, “Well, maybe we could — for
example maybe we could imagine a little carpet that has pressure sensors on it underneath
and you could drive your wheelchair right onto this carpet, and there would be an RFID
radio transmitter that transmits the data to your iPhone and there’s an app on
your iPhone, and it interprets it, and it says Domenico, you
weigh 150 pounds today.” Okay; be cool, right? I wish I weighed 150 pounds. “Wouldn’t that be cool?” And they went back to these patients and
they asked them, “Would this matter to you? Would you think this would be cool?” So what happened? The patient said, “You could really do that? Man, if you could do that,
that would change my life. That would be amazing if you could do that.” They said, “We’re not really sure we
could do that, but we think we can.” So they came back to campus
and they were on fire. Who on this campus knows anything
about pressure transducers now? Who knows anything about
radio transmission of data? I don’t care, I’ve had a class in
it, I want to talk to that person. In four months, these 18-year-olds
built a prototype, okay? Now, they had one. The next course in the curriculum,
“How to Start and Run a Business”. Now, they have a client group,
they have a prototype, they know exactly what they want to build. They don’t know what it costs to manufacture it. Are there any sort of, you
know, product liability issues, what about marketing and managing? They put together a business plan, they
completed across the street at Babson, and they won the competition,
and they came home with $10,000, they started a business in their dorm room. They’re selling these little carpets. They’re called “Lilypad Scales”. Okay, you can still buy them,
they’re on the Internet today. Two of the kids turned down graduate school
and working for the company for two years to ride this out to see what happens
when you start a new company. That’s the power of intrinsic motivation. If you work with people — this
is the human-centered engineering, if you start by interviewing people
and asking them about their lives, two things happen you can’t get
from the flat screen anywhere. Number one, empathy. You build empathy when you hear what the
world feels like to somebody else firsthand when you make eye contact with them
and you have an interaction with them. And the second thing is when you solve a
problem and you come back with something that would really change their
lives, you build a sense of purpose. “Even though I’m only 18, I don’t have a
PhD from MIT, I changed this person’s life. I did something that could make a difference.” And you should bet that will change
their determination, and their passion and perseverance to continue to do
other things in the rest of their life. They don’t drop out, they
don’t quit; they’ll continue. That’s what we think is the best route to grit. I have to put this up here. This is my undergraduate mentor, Mel Ramey. He’s the first engineer I ever met,
and the first person with a PhD. The interesting thing about Mel is —
and I learned so many things from him. He passed away about a year and a half ago. He’s been a mentor for 40 years. Turns out I learned from him, “Hopeful faculty
members spread hope among their students. And cynical faculty members spread cynicism.” You never met a cynical faculty member have you? Okay, every faculty I’ve been involved
with in four different universities, that’s the dominant culture, right,
you impress everybody else by being, “Naw, can’t possibly be good enough. This person doesn’t deserve tenure. They didn’t do as much as I did.” It’s all about cynicism. It’s a culture. By the way, if you spread that cynicism to
your students, you’re not doing them any favor. Look at those mindsets that the companies
are looking for; it’s not cynicism. By the way, startup company — startup
campus is allergic to cynicism. You have to be almost naively optimistic
that you can make things happen when you have no resources and all
these headwinds in front of you. Cynicism does not work, okay? And so I also learned from him that every
time you walk into a classroom and you pick up a piece of chalk, you’re
not just teaching calculus, you’re spreading a mindset;
you’re shaping a mindset. You may not be paying attention to that, you
may not be deliberately wanting to do that, you can’t avoid it; you’re
doing it every time you walk in. So I think it’s time we took responsibility
for the mindsets that we are transmitting. We talk about this. We do research in this. We cultivate it in our graduates because
[inaudible] more for their long-term career than teaching them how to
integrate by parts in calculus. By the way, I didn’t know until very late,
Mel Ramey wasn’t just a structural engineering at the University of California, he was a coach. I mean a real coach. He coached Olympic jumpers. In fact, two of his former mentees have
gold medals in the Olympics for long jump. Then I began to connect the dots. What does a coach do that a teacher doesn’t do? He builds a growth mindset, okay? Yes, you grew up on the south side of Chicago,
you didn’t have a father who was in the NFL. I think you can win a gold
medal in the Olympics, okay? But you have to believe in yourself, and you have to stretch yourself,
and you have to never give up. And I’m going to be your toughest
enemy in your corner telling you — ” in fact, when he did this, he
wanted to know what your schedule was. “When did you go to bed on Saturday night? What did you have for breakfast on Sunday?” This is like really intrusive. That’s because he was building
confidence and discipline in yourself. That I think is the direction
we need to go with education. So I’ll skip over this. This is the Gallup data, which Gallup
did this largest survey in history of, “What really matters in higher education?” A hundred thousand alumni from hundreds of
universities, two questions jump off the page. “Did somebody care about you as
a person as an undergraduate?” And the second question was, “Did you have
an opportunity to apply what you learned in a real world context while
you were still a student?” It’s not just about books, it’s about people. If you answered yes to both of those questions, doubled your positive life
outcome, according to Gallup. By the way, people with a high —
what they call “wellbeing index”, are employees that employers are clamoring
for because they make a very low use of health insurance; they
have a low absentee rate. They are the first people in
line who want to be promoted. It’s got a lot of legs to it. But the heartbreaking thing, only three
percent of the population in America says that — yes to both of those questions. And the data will surprise you if
you look at which universities do it. The universities that do the
worst at producing this — that the alumni have the lowest
rate to this, Ivy leagues. The universities that do the best,
historically black institutions; because they know if you don’t get to this
point where you’re changing the mindset, you’re dealing with a growth
mindset, there’s no hope. And so they build the whole institutions
to support people who do that. This is — you know, hang on,
I’m almost done, all right? [Laughter] There’s a big narrative out right
now, particularly in public institutions, that the only reason we have higher
education is to prepare you for a job, and if you’re not producing
people for the job at the end, then we should cut off all the funding
for your institution completely. I think it’s completely wrong. I’ll bet you most of you feel the same way. Our job is not just to produce knowledge
and skills, it’s also to add mindset. And if you do that, they will have
jobs when they come out the other end. We must set the bar higher, not lower. And it’s not a competition between either
being educated or get a job, it’s both. Every student has a reasonable expectation of
being employable when they come out at the end. We need to make sure that happens. If you look at the way we structure higher
ed, the two ubiquitous in every continent, we think that higher education is about
academic disciplines, and it’s about research. Okay? The PhD is for the person
who does the research in that area. The bachelors degree is the person
that has like the baby research in that area; and that’s what we do. This is not going to get it. So my feeling is that the whole idea
of academic disciplines is obsolete; it needs to be replaced. And the whole idea that the
most — the highest form of human intelligence that’s ever
existed is a person with a PhD who finds things out and wins the Nobel Prize. I mean, that’s nice. It’s not the only or the most important
thing now for human contributions. So what do you replace it with? Well, finding things out is still cool,
right, I’m not saying don’t do it. It’s not, though, the most valuable thing. Making sense of the world now is a much more
difficult thing than it’s ever been before. And finally, envisioning what has
never been and doing whatever it takes to make it happen is how we’re
willing to change the world to deal with that population explosion
that’s going on in spite of this. So what does making sense of the
world — what does that mean to you? A little story. I think this is how we have Donald Trump. I think this is why there’s fake news. I think this is why there’s a lot
of confusion about what truth is. There is a really important course at the
University of Washington in Seattle now. It’s a new core course for, “What does
it mean to be an educated person?” It’s called “Calling Bullshit”, okay? It’s how to navigate through this
polluted water of just information. What’s really true, and what do
you do about it when it’s not true? Very important course; I would
recommend taking a look at that, so making sense of the world in research. When I was in about the fifth
grade in a farm community, I decided to do a research project on penguins. I mean, I lived on a chicken
farm and the whole idea of a bird that could swim just didn’t make any sense. So how did you do this? I went to the school library and I
waited my turn to check out the P volume of the Encyclopedia Britannica;
do you remember that? I took it home at night and I copied
down the whole page on penguins and I drew a little freehand drawing of a
penguin in the corner and I turned it in and expecting I’m going to get a good grade
because I know how to find things out. That’s what research is about;
most important thing in life. So I have a grandson now. And he’s seven. When he does his project, it
will work out differently. He’ll borrow his mom’s iPad and
he’ll Google the word “penguins”. Now, I did this a couple weeks ago. Do you know what happens; 55
million articles instantly come up. His problem is actually not finding things
out, his problem is making sense of it. How do you make sense of this? What does it mean to make sense of this? I don’t know, I think there’s a pattern
to it, and you need to teach it. It means surveying the mountain peaks
of the things that are really important, weaving them into a narrative that
makes sense, it’s coherent in your life, so that you can relate to it as something that
makes sense to you for the rest of your life. That’s a skill that’s really important. And that’s what teachers do, right? But that’s not what we pay people the
most for; we pay the people the most for getting the NSF grant that
won the biggest prize in research. We’ve got to fix this. If we don’t figure out how to really improve
finding — I mean making sense out of the world, we’re going to lose more than
just the next generation. Academic disciplines; I think we
should just do away with them. I like an experiment at Olin where we
brought in, say, 25 new kids every year who are not engineers, and they took
a core program which had the same sort of basic science, math, and English,
and history that the other kids do. And they don’t do any technology projects. They’ll do projects on things
like, “What’s the cause of poverty? What’s the cause of, you know,
depression in teenaged kids,” and let them complete their degree without
designation, just a bachelors degree. And I’ll bet you five years after they graduate,
you will not be able to see a difference in their employment pattern, in
their income, in their life wellbeing than the ones who had an engineering degree. I don’t think the label matters. We’re seeing kids at Olin graduate
with mechanical engineering degrees who were bought instantly from
Google to go write software. Olin does not have computer science. Okay, and 20% of our graduates went to
Google and Microsoft for several years. Why are they doing that? They’re being bought. That’s basically what’s happening. But the discipline background
does not matter really. But what does matter is this, four things; this
is what’s happening in those 25 to 35 courses that they’re taking, the projects,
they’re learning things that matter, learning things that matter to somebody that
you care about, like those elderly people who were worried about living in the
wheelchair, learning things in context. Learning things in context
means that you don’t take them out of context to fit the theory of economics. You have to have multiple disciplines
in the room at the same time. So you get to figure that one out. But you have to have a sociologist,
and a microbiologist, and an engineer in the same room, or
you can’t diagnose the problem right. Thirdly, you have to learn things in teams. Forget this business of, “Don’t talk
to your neighbor; that’s cheating.” No company told us that that was
what they were worried about. What they told us what they were
worried about is [inaudible] team into building [inaudible] in a group. And finally, making things that change other
people’s lives, that’s what’s really important. We have this coalition for life-transforming
education that I’ll tell you about. University of Michigan at Dearborn is
part of it, but I’ll save that for Q&A. My last quote is from Chuck
Vest, the former president of MIT and the National Academy of Engineering. And when he was asked about education, this is
basically what he said, “Making universities and engineering schools exciting,
creative, adventurous, rigorous, demanding, and empowering millions is much more
important than the curricular details. Don’t copy our course syllabus. Develop that culture and you’ll get it right.” If you’re still awake, I’ll let you go. [ Applause ]>>I just wanted — before everybody
asked question, I just wanted to point out that Chuck Vest before
he was president of MIT, he was provost at the University of Michigan.>>You’re absolutely right. [Laughter] In fact, he’s almost the only
president from MIT that didn’t come from MIT. And look at what impact he made. He’s amazing.>>Could I point out [inaudible]
of engineering at Ann Arbor first? [Laughter]>>Yes.>>Go Blue.>>Yes.>>Anybody else still awake? Yes.>>So if you’re proposing
doing away with disciplines, what does the structure look
like at the university then?>>Yes, that’s a really good question. I’m not sure. Obviously, this is an embryonic idea. It does not mean that you don’t have people who have specialized learning
as part of your faculty. I mean, there’s a couple
of quick reactions to this. Have you ever heard of Oxford and Cambridge? Their first two years don’t have disciplines or
courses, you have a tutorial with an instructor. It’s — and the most rigorous
and the most authentic way of assessment I’ve ever found is an oral exam. You remember your PhD exam
that’s like burned into your head with a hot iron; you there’s no place to hide. That’s the way they do that for two years. And the original plan for Oxford and Cambridge
is they’re residential colleges with people with different disciplines who
live there with the students. That’s one model. We actually looked at that
quite a bit in the beginning. I just last year happened
to have the responsibility of leading the NIAZ accreditation team
for Hampshire College in western Mass. Does anybody know Hampshire? Hampshire was one of the five schools
[inaudible] Mount Holyoke, U-Mass, Amherst, Amherst College in, you know,
Hampshire and so on.>>And Smith.>>And Smith, yes, yes; can’t forget Smith. [Laughter] So it was the experimental
college; it does not have majors. And the students didn’t graduate with majors. It’s an absolutely marvelous learning model. They do miniature theses. So at Hampshire, there’s a
core program in the first year. The second year, you begin to define
the question that you want to look at. You put together a multidisciplinary
team, usually two faculty members from some other field, and you write a
thesis in your senior year on that question. And their library is filled with
the bound theses of all the students who have ever graduated from Hampshire. They’ve produce people like Ken
Burns; do you know who he is? Amazing, when we interviewed those kids, they
were the most articulate, self-confident. They knew what they knew, and they knew what
they didn’t know, and they were very good at it. And it doesn’t seem to have mattered to their
employer that you couldn’t say a bachelors in what, chemistry or was it English, didn’t
matter, it was defined by what they learned. I don’t know what the structure is. I don’t think it matters. I do think what matters is the community and
the culture within the academic institution that enables the students to
freely learn from everyone else. One of the problems with the academic
[inaudible] we have now is it prevents that. You only learn the specialized
stuff from the small group of people in the same building that go there every day. Other questions? Yes.>>So you were commenting on
feasibility, viability, and [inaudible].>>Yes.>>So if you take those and you apply them
to the product that you’re innovating, which is college education, right, which of
those do you see as being the hardest, and why?>>That’s a really good question. No one’s ever asked that question before. So you know, there are — and
it depends on the college. Some of the things that were feasible
for Olin to do would not be feasible for the University of Michigan to do, okay? Some of the things that are feasible for
Michigan to do would not be feasible for Olin. So you have to look at the
boundary conditions that are real. You do have to live within the real world. A viable thing is becoming a big issue
[inaudible], how much you generate revenue. I don’t know if you folks have been
following, it’s really to see in the Northeast, something like six or eight liberal arts
colleges have gone bankrupt since January. I mean, there are — this is [inaudible]. You might know Clay Christensen and his
coop, Michael Hurd [assumed spelling], and they are predicting that half of liberal
arts colleges will be bankrupt in ten years. There’s a problem with —
there are four problems, okay, that the public has of what we do. One of them is tenure, they
don’t understand why we have it. If it’s such a great idea, why
doesn’t Ford have it or Google? Secondly, they’re concerned about
the monotonic preference for research over teaching, “Why is that good for my kid?” They’re also worried about — and this
is where the liability comes from, the spiraling sticker price in higher ed. Why does it not correlate with
anything, it just goes up. It’s ridiculous. I mean, the starting sticker price
now is like 70K per year in most of these private schools around the country. Four years, that’s over a
quarter of a million dollars. Most people don’t have a house that’s worth
that much, so they don’t even bother to apply. I mean, it’s hopeless, right? And then the last one, which we’ve
seen explode since election in 2016, and that’s the perception of
political bias in higher ed. And I could talk about that for a long time. So those are all challenges as well. Desirability thing is also an issue. It’s not clear that everybody
wants to go to college. And it’s also not clear that what they think
they’re getting is producing the result that they thought when they went int. We have a lot of noise in the
system that needs to be fixed. I’m personally — I’ve been head for the
last three years of the National Academy of Science Board on Higher Education
and Workforce, and I’ve been suggesting that we do a deliberate research
study on each of those four questions. And this means a panel of, you know,
15 university presidents with a group of commissioned researchers
to do an evidence-based report with ten recommendations on what [inaudible]. If tenure is really the right answer, then
let’s prove it, and let’s all say the same thing when CNN comes with a microphone and
puts it in your mouth, “Mr. President, why do you have tenure at this university?” “Well, here’s why, okay, it’s beneficial
for your kids for these reasons.” And if it’s not, then let’s
start talking about fixing it. By the way, nobody has run
up to say, “I’ll fund that. I’d like to do that tomorrow.” [Laughter] And the other university
presidents are saying, “Go back to Olin, you know, we don’t want to hear that. That will get us in big trouble at home.” Okay? Other questions? Yes.>>Hi. You shared with us how your community
and your culture has impacted your students. Can you share how that’s impacted the alumni
network and possibly the fundraising component?>>Yes, yes, really important question. So Olin doesn’t have very many
alumni because we’re small. I don’t think I ever told you exactly, but
we have 350 students, period, whole thing. We’re small for a reason because we want to
be able to reinvent the school, you know, on short notice if something goes really
wrong, which has happened more than once. So at this point in time,
we have about 1,000 alumni. If — one of the metrics in terms of how this
has affected the alumni is the percentage of the alumni who bother to write a
check back to the school every year. And every year since our — since we’ve
started, except for one, we have had over 70% of alumni write a check each year. Now, to put that in context, when I
was dean at the University of Iowa, which I think is a really
good public university, our alumni giving rate was seven percent, okay? So having 70% with another
zero there is a big deal. Now, these are young, okay, so I
mean, our oldest alumnus is 36, so we’re not getting $100 million gifts yet, but
we think that this has really made an impact. The other thing was because the school is so
small, my wife and I have been able to invite for years every student to our
house for dinner in small groups; so like 30 dinners a year,
and we cover the whole thing. By the time they graduate, they’re like our
kids, which means that we start getting invited to go to weddings, all right, [laughter]
it’s just like too many weddings. And now they’re starting
to have kids of their own. Turns out that they’re — this is dangerous. When you put that many people — by
the way, to go to school at Olin, you have to live there on
campus for all four years. And this enables the 25 or 35 projects if we
— if they lived anywhere, they couldn’t — the logistics of getting back on
together at night wouldn’t work. But here they’re all living there, so they can
do that; which means they wind up being closer to their roommate than their
siblings by the time they graduate. So we have a lot of weddings
between people at Olin — by the way, Olin is 50% women so the
gender balance works pretty well, too. They are, of course, like Michigan alumni
would be, too, very passionate advocates for their school wherever they work. And a very odd thing — and I still
don’t understand this entirely, 50% of Olin’s alumni — and they all come
from 50 states and [inaudible] countries, 50% of them live in two cities,
San Francisco or Seattle. And they didn’t come from there. Okay? Olin is in Boston. So there’s something interesting going
on there; we’re still trying to learn. That’s about all I can tell you
just off the top of my head. Yes. Yes?>>[Inaudible] just listening to it. And they talked about the
growth component of it, and it talked the character of the individual.>>Yes.>>They give examples about
Michael Jordan as a matter of fact, and if he was [inaudible] a
really good basketball player, but because of his determination and
his character, he actually became one of the best players in the world.>>Right.>>And since character is one of the components
to help you to become that growth mindset, and you can change to become a growth mindset,
when we look at the younger generation nowadays and how people are being raised
nowadays and building that character, and so many different social media
and everything that’s happening — and like I know that there’s a lot of situations
where kids are not really spending that time with their parents or siblings, and it
appears to be able to grow in that mindset, has there been any studies for the
earlier school ages where it talks about how the students are being raised,
you know, like for that growth mindset so when we get them they come
with that growth mindset? [Laughter]>>Yes; wouldn’t that be nice if there — Stanford is doing a lot of work
in this, as you probably know. Carol has a whole team of faculty that are
working on K-12 education in that area. And the whole area of character
education has become quite large. There are a number of people
who are doing good work in that. One of them that comes to mind is
Howard Gardner’s group at Harvard. They have a group called — it used
to be called the “Good Work Project”. It was about ethics and character
in the workplace. And now it’s just called the “Good
Project” because it’s like it’s just about work, man, this is bigger than that. He has a really, I think, telling op-ed in
the Washington Post in September of 2017. And it’s — the title is something like
“What We Are No Longer Teaching Our Kids”. Okay, it’s a — and they’ve been doing
this 40-year longitudinal study at Harvard. One of the things that he found — and it’s a
societal culture thing, he said — and I’m — this is rough paraphrased because
I can’t remember it exactly. But he said, “Today, if your child in the
third grade gets the highest grade in the class on the math test, the parent is likely to,
you know, rent a bouncy castle and a pony and invite — bring the whole
community together to celebrate, ‘My kid is on the way to Wall Street’.” Okay? On the other hand, if your kid
wins the citizenship award, you know, the most appreciated student in
the third grade, a parent is likely to say, “Go do your math homework.” It used to be more important in America
to be seen as a builder of community, somebody who cared about others, not just self. And there seems to have been an erosion
to that all over to one edge that all that really matters now is that
you outperform the other person and you get the honors, not them. It’s a societal concern. What to do about it, I’m not sure. I know there are people who are
doing really good work on it. I guess I would recommend one more book
for you to read, which is really good. It’s a project happening at Stanford,
which is called “Designing Your Life”. Has anybody heard about this? It came out of the Evans and Burnett are the people who did it. They started out by dealing
with graduates at Stanford who had not thought about,
“What do I do when I graduate?” Okay? In fact, he had video of these kids
who are practically collapsing with worry now that they’re — they know how to do school, but
they don’t know what to do when they get out. At any rate, what they did is they
took the principles of design thinking and applied psychology and research, and
they applied it to the problem of trying to identify a career path and a
life path for you that makes — that addresses all of your
desires and your needs. So you have think about who you are
first, and what it is you want to become. And then there’s this whole process
of how you make those decisions. And this has been expanded and
implemented at Wake Forest University, and I would highly recommend that
you could talk to Rogan Kersh there and their provost who’s really quite good at it. And they took — in fact, they hired
the person from Stanford Business School who was using this method to
become sort of the architect of a campus-wide program
on character and purpose. And they look for — in the admission
program they look for students who have a desire to build a life of purpose. Okay, they have — so in the essays it’s
like, “This is why I want to go to college. I want to become this kind of person.” And then when they get there, there’s this whole
business, “Now you know what you want to become, what kind of an education is the best thing
you should look for in order to get you there?” And then when you get to the end and
you’re starting to look for employment, now you have this designing your life book
that comes out of Stanford for how to do that, how to make that sort of decision. There’s also some people in England
that have done a lot of this. There’s the Jubilee Center
at Birmingham University, and Sir James Arthur is the guy’s
name that’s done a lot of work there. And afterwards, I could talk with you
more if you’re interested in that.>>Thank you.>>Have I exhausted you yet? [Laughter] I’m amazed, you’re still here. I thought for sure I’d lose half of you; huh. Yes?>>Where would you start; so how do
you begin a transformation like that?>>Where would you start?>>We’re about 9,000 to 300 students.>>Yes, that’s a really good question. How do you make –>>Understanding yourself, I
imagine would be a first step.>>I — let me just answer that. I think you start with strategic planning. [Laughter]>>I wouldn’t disagree with his answer on that. Yes. I mean, I’ve seen other institutions
try to do things on a smaller scale, like what Olin does just
in the engineering school, and I can tell you what some
of the experiences have been. It’s not at all a certainty that you can
pull off change in an established university. In fact, the more secure, the more respected,
the higher prestige an institution has, the harder it is to make any
sort of significant change. If the institution is desperate financially and
you’re willing to do anything to just survive, people are willing to try
other things; so that’s one. And I’ve seen — well I won’t mention
names, but I’ve seen some universities say, “Well the reason we’re not doing this better
is because we don’t have the research.” I mean, we’re a research university, right? So if we had research, obviously,
we would slap our forehead with our palm and say, “There’s a better way. I’m going to start doing it on Monday.” So since there is no research,
there isn’t any better way, so we’re going to keep doing what we do. Okay, we’ll fix that; we’ll create the research. And I know of a school that created
the Department for Education Research in their discipline to create the scholarship
that would show you that there’s a better way. I wouldn’t bet the farm that that will
cause the change you’re looking for. I’ll tell you what happened when they
create that department, the faculty members who were interested and concerned
about education raised their hands and they relocated to the Education Department. And the other faculty said, “Well, good, now
we don’t have to worry about education anymore; we can get back to the things that
matter with science research.” Okay; didn’t result in the change they wanted. It did create some good scholarship, by the way. But an absence of scholarship is not
the reason why we’re not doing things. We have another group that actually did succeed. This one — I can tell you about this
because they wrote a book about it. This is the University of
Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. They didn’t say, “Let’s create a
department to create scholarship,” they had a cross-cutting program
which they called the “I Foundry”. Which any faculty member could join by
raising their hand and say, “I have an idea. It’s going to — it takes more than
what I can do in my department. I have a partner over here. I’d like to have like a one-course reduction
teaching next year, maybe a month of summer pay, and some students who are willing
to try things that are new, and the ability to bypass the committee that
doesn’t allow you to try new courses, okay, experimental courses, so just try it.” And that worked, okay? There’s a book called “A Whole New Engineer”. A senior faculty member who was
an endowed chair, David Goldberg, was on the coauthors of this book. So it worked there. We’re working with the University
of Texas at El Paso, the largest Hispanic engineering producing
school in the country, completely different. Their admission criteria is
they’re an open university. You need to have a pulse rate and a
high school diploma, and that’s it. And it’s doing amazing things. But the problem is it takes a clever dean, okay, because the dean had sequestered resources
enough to create this new department, and then he was very careful about
appointing people in that department who had the commitment to
make this change happen. Another really good friend of mine at the other
U of M at Ann Arbor tried to do this there, and when the department chairs found that he
actually had resources to put faculty members in a new department, they said, “No, no, no,
no, just give each one of us one of those, and we promise we’ll make the same
change happen in our department,” which, you know, we’re still waiting. It’s not easy to make change happen. I think — I mean, look at MIT; so MIT has
a lot — MIT as far as I’m concerned has — there’s a sample on the MIT campus somewhere
of the best practice in engineering, education, research, and anything that you can think of;
the problem is the united nations of higher ed. There’s a joke in MIT, it says, “Where in
Cambridge can you locate yourself to be in the farthest distance away from MIT?” You know what it is, the Media Lab. And it’s right in the middle of MIT, because it
has nothing in common with the rest of the — so they created the Media Lab to
inspire interdisciplinary research. And it does, but the other
departments didn’t change, okay? How did the get started at Stanford? It’s a really interesting story. It was not at all through
knocking on the front door. They essentially were told, “No, we don’t need
a,” and David Kelley, the founder, hasn’t had a faculty appointment until just
very recently; he’s been there for 30 years. He said, “Fine, I will do
everything that you can’t affect. I will offer courses that have no course credit. I will not pay the faculty members, okay? We will not look for disciplinary
degrees at all. Now, try and stop it, okay? You can’t cut off my budget
because I don’t have one.” Students came out of the woodwork, because
what they were doing was transformative. And it eventually became so popular that I
think their “Designing Your Life” course now is like one of the most popular
courses that Stanford has ever had. And it sort of happened in spite of
the organization of the university. Now, they’re kind of proud of it,
so they’re sort of moving it in. They actually have a couple of
faculty positions now in the Change is a very unusual thing. The easiest way on principle
is to start with a blank sheet in an institution that doesn’t make exist. That’s what I thought, okay? Turns out that’s fraught with a lot of
dangers, too, that you had never seen. So I’m seeing this happen
in lots of other countries. And so there isn’t a guarantee. I still think [inaudible] Fuller is
right, the way you make change is that you create a model somewhere on your
campus that works, that works so profoundly that people can come and kick the tires and you
just can’t believe it, it’s actually working. They don’t have miracles, the people are
normal, they have two hands and two feet, they walk on the ground, they eat like
everybody else; but look what they can do. And then people will begin to believe. So I wish I had the formula. Yes?>>So you talked a lot about how faculty with this growth mindset really
impacts students with growth mindset. I’m curious about Olin, how do you
integrate the staff in this transformative?>>Yes, that’s a really important question. How do you integrate the staff into this? Well, number one, we’ve decided
that all of these titles we have in this pecking order for
faculty is a bad thing. So when we have a faculty meeting, we
call it an “academic life meeting”. And all of the faculty and all of the
staff, including the people in the shop, anybody who touches students, people in
the library, the dean of student life, residential life, the dean of admission,
all of them are in a room at the same time. And we don’t have academic departments at
Olin, so we don’t have the physics group over here and the English guys over there. The only thing they have in common is the
educational experience of the student. We have two retreats a year,
one in January and one in June. And the only thing that the retreat is about is to learn what is working well
and what is yet to be done. We just had a retreat in January. And the faculty after two days of
handwringing and then talking about this with the staff concluded that the problem was
we’re not putting enough emphasis on character, as somebody had pointed out before; we need to
start talking about doing good in the world. And actually, we were a bit intimidated
by the problem that Facebook is having with producing software that’s so
powerful it’s addictive for your kids, and it may have a role — we don’t
know for sure, but it may have a role in mental health for our young people. How — do you feel good about that, spending
your whole life doing that if you left Olin? Maybe we should have some psychologists in
the room when we’re designing the software. Maybe we need to think differently about
what it means to do good in the world. Maybe we should just not do some
things if they’re going to not do good. Where are they going to learn that? So we now have a new initiative at this school
embedding character and ethics in everything in all four years; but it’s very nascent,
so I don’t know how it will work out. Staff are really critically important. I’d like to see more staff actually teach,
and not just be people who take notes. Yes.>>How did you attract and maintain
that 50% of women as your student body; and [inaudible] the demographics of your faculty
to be women [inaudible], stuff like that?>>Yes. Yes; so our student body
has been 50/50 from the beginning. Our faculty, who are almost all — out
of almost 50 faculty, we have maybe five that are not science, math, or
engineering; and they’re at least 45% women. It’s not easy. It comes with a lot of deliberate intention. It’s not that different than I think you
would say if you were at Amherst college or at a liberal arts school that would like
to have roughly gender balance the community. You don’t get exactly gender balance people. Our admission — in applications; and
our admission process is quite different. We’re guided a lot by Howard Gardner at
Harvard, the multiple intelligence guy, who basically says, “Everybody has at
least seven different intelligences, only two of them can be measured on the SAT,
so what do you do about the other five?” and we decided you can’t — they’re really
important, interpersonal intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, creativity, and
so on, that actually has a bigger impact on your career than what your math score was. So you have to meet them; and that’s
what we concluded, you have to meet them. And it’s the same thing you do when you
hire a faculty member, you don’t just look at the resume, you actually meet them. Why do that if everything you
need is just on their test scores? That’s — logistically, though, it’s hard. So what we did is we wound up with
creating what we call “Candidates Weekend”. Every student that’s admitted to
Olin go through Candidates Weekend. So I’ll just march you through it, about 1,000
applications, we’re going to take 65 kids, okay, because there’s some that did a gap
year and so they’re coming in anyway. The incoming class size is 84. We weed it down to about
200 who are amazing kids. I mean, there’s a lot of
self-selection that goes on now. I mean, these kids have the test scores. So in fact the kids on the
waitlist that don’t get invited to the Candidates Weekend often have
perfect 800 math scores on their — and so they’re on the waitlist,
they didn’t get in. So once they come to the Candidates
Weekend we seal the records and we have no idea now what
your grades were, or what you — you know, it’s about an interview. And it’s actually not an interview in
the sense — when I think of interview, I think that you put on a tie, you sit
across the table from the chancellor, and I talk about thermodynamics, okay? No, that’s not what we do. We put them in teams of five,
as soon as they arrive. They’ve never met before, and they
stay together the whole weekend. The first thing they do is
design and build things together. There’s a project that our kids invent
that’s silly, that usually is impossible, that they have to do for four hours in
a kind of a contest, breaks the ice, gets across the point, “It’s about
teams, and it’s about making thing.” The next thing we do, that same team now that
they kind of know each other, put them in a room and we test their ability
to deal with controversy. Like a couple years ago, our project
was we do a question out of a hat, “What do you think about the Iraq war? Okay? It’s not that there’s a right answer,
but every member of your group has to speak and you have 15 minutes to
develop a five-minute presentation. Go.” And we sit in the back
of the room and watch. A lot is at stake in this, right, whether
you get this $100,000 scholarship. Then there is a final thing, which
individual questions, you know, bringing you in for an oral thing one at a
time, with three people of our community. That’s really about what does
it mean to live a good life? And we’re looking for passion. We’re looking for something that matters. Nobody gets into Olin who doesn’t have a passion about making a positive impact
somewhere in the world. It’s not about money. And by the way, one of the things
that I’m really proud of at Olin, unlike other engineering schools that I’ve
found, in all the years I’ve been doing this, a total of two percent of our alumni
have gone to work on Wall Street. They’re not interested in that; they want
to make things that change people’s lives. At the end of that two days, the three
people that we bet in the group of five for the whole weekend, huddle and they have
to independently assess them, you know, are they a one, a two, or a three? If they’re a one, you know, why
bother with the college degree, let’s just hire among the faculty,
and these people are amazing. [Laughter] If they’re are
three, what were you thinking? I mean, this is like never going to work. And so all of the discussion
goes around the twos. You know, “There are some strengths and
some weaknesses; what do you think?” That’s how you balance the class. And gender is one of the
things they take into account. First generation, another
thing to take into account. Underrepresented minorities is another big push that we’re pushing forward
at this point in time. Geographic diversity, you have a couple of
kids from Alaska, we’ve had some from Wyoming, Montana, one of our first groups. So they come from rural America,
they come from all over the place. That’s basically how our admission
program works at this point in time. And it’s a wet cement thing, too,
we’re talking about changing it. One of the problems with it that
I really am disappointed in, we have a hard time getting a critical
mass of underrepresented minorities, right? It’s like 12 or 13 percent now. There’s program — there are a
lot of programs that really work. One of them is called “Posse”. You know about the Posse “Program? I bet your admission person does. This is where you bring about
ten together from the same town, from the same neighborhood,
and they support each other. Because one of the things that’s
missing is coming from a family that doesn’t have any background
or understanding of higher ed. And it’s awfully easy in a cynical
educational environment to give up. And this — they — so you bring
their family with them, is the idea. We can’t do that. We can’t bring in a posse because [inaudible]
is a big bite out of our incoming class. And they wouldn’t be going through
Candidates Weekend with individual. So it’s a work in progress.>>Guys, I just want to thank [inaudible]. If there will be other questions, you can send
to me and I’d be happy to pass them on to Rick. But I do want to thank him very, very much because this 45-minute
presentation went two hours. [Laughter] [Inaudible], and I want
to give him a big round of applause. [ Applause ]

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