Designing my own degree at Olin College

| 3 Comments
Well, I'm back as a student blogger for (hopefully!) my final year at Olin College. I went to look through my last two years of blog posts and realized I've never told y'all about my self-designed concentration, which seems quite a gap. So here goes. 

In less than one year from today (again, if all goes to plan), I'll graduate with a Bachelor's of Science in Engineering with a concentration in Cognitive Science. How cool does that sound? To be honest, I don't have a good grasp on what cognitive science is, and I've never thought "Boy, cognitive science, now *that's* what I really want to study in college". Instead, it seems to be the discipline I've arrived at when I tried to create a program that would both prepare me to be an interaction designer and allow me to take all the courses I wanted to, like Visual Cognition, Tangible User Interfaces, Nature vs. Nuture, Consumer Behavior, and Evolutionary Biology. 
After sifting through Olin and its partner institutions' course catalogs, many talks with my advisor, and, admittedly, freaking out about required classes, I came up with my self-designed concentration. Officially, it consists of 7 courses: 2 computer science courses, 2 design courses, 2 neuroscience1 courses, and one psychology course2. Olin allows a lot of flexibility with their degrees; for example, before I set out designing mine, I had no idea that my concentration could have AHS (arts, humanities, and social sciences) credits. One of the unexpected benefits of doing a self-designed concentration is that it really required me to think through what I wanted from my undergraduate education and how what I was doing would achieve that (hat tip to Sylvie '09, E:Design major, for helping me recognize this). I love finding out how good design and usability comes from how our brains work, and I'm stoked that Olin will let me make studying this connection my major. 

1. Computational Neuroscience is not longer being offered this Fall, so I'll have to revise my course plan. Thankfully, that's a possibility -- I just have to find a substitute course. 
2. Olin's individual degrees are relatively small, sometimes comprising of just 6 courses, since we have more courses that are required for students from all majors to take than most schools do.

3 Comments

Go Maia! Nicely done, and thanks for sharing your experiences. I know a self-designed major can take a bit of thought and research here at Olin, but the benefits of a tailor-made major as well as the soul-searching it often fosters seem well worth the ride. Be sure to find me early in the school year so we can work on finding you the perfect *job* or *Grad school experience* once you leave here. Then you can take that self-designed major to the all-important next level!

See you in September, have a great summer.

Sally/Post Graduate Planning

Cool, I'm glad to hear someone else is doing a Cog Sci concentration too! Is Lynn Stein your advisor?
I'll admit, during the post-grad-job-search I started feeling a bit silly: what will I say if employers ask what the heck "Engineering with a Concentration in Cog Sci" means? But (with vital help from the amazing folks at PGP!) it was possible to find companies that valued this kind of coursework background, especially when I could ground it in all my UOCD-like project experiences.
(Since then I've completely switched tracks, from anthro-/cogsci-focused design researcher to mathematical statistician... But hey, I appreciate that my Olin education was both flexible *and* rigorous enough to support work/study in such different fields!)
Good luck in your last year!

I'd like to see you expand on your final thought "I love finding out how good design and usability comes from how our brains work, and I'm stoked that Olin will let me make studying this connection my major." Because I'm thinking that your earlier statement, "I don't have a good grasp on what cognitive science is" isn't true at all!

Recent Assets

  • Snowman_Death.gif
  • snowwalker.jpg
  • cheese-5.gif
  • Spin.gif
  • Doctor-Who.jpg
  • tumblr_inline_n0gjzdiGwC1r79k32.gif
  • tumblr_inline_n0gl525jux1r79k32.gif
  • tumblr_inline_mzubtoiVUB1r79k32.gif
  • well.gif
  • tumblr_m9ohb3w7GL1qa6ipw.gif

Recent Comments

  • Anonymous: I'd like to see you expand on your final thought read more
  • Jerzy '08: Cool, I'm glad to hear someone else is doing a read more
  • Sally Phelps: Go Maia! Nicely done, and thanks for sharing your experiences. read more