As I sat in on an information session Laura gave on Wednesday afternoon, a parent asked an interesting question: "How did you convince 30 young adults to be the first students at a college that didn't exist yet?" Now that's an usual question to be asked during an admission information session, but from the perspective of someone who is also new to Olin College (me), it's unusually thought-provoking.
The parent was of course referring to the story of Olin's creation, which Laura was sharing. I've heard the story numerous times, but never before pondered the decision the original student "partners" made. They chose to be the first students to attend Olin College, and not just for four years but for five! What motivated these students to take such a risk? Upon reflection, the answer appears simple - opportunity.
There are conventional responses to the parent's question - effective marketing, the Olin scholarship, appeal of the small size and geographic location of the school. But it's likely that the true answer is that these students saw an opportunity to be a part of something special. They saw an opportunity to be pioneers. They saw an opportunity to define a community. They saw an opportunity to work hand-in-hand with faculty and staff in the development of an innovative curriculum. They saw an opportunity to be original, and as a result, to be remarkable.
The same opportunity is enjoyed by Olin's current students. Olin is not growing in size, but its maturation and evolution continues. The Class of 2016 (which we've already started working to admit) will offer just as much to the Olin community as its first class of students, who graduated ten years prior. That's not a consequence of Olin's youth, but rather a result of Olin's ideals - the ideals those first students took a risk to be able to instill.