The Olin curriculum is based on the idea that engineering starts with people -- understanding who we’re designing for, what they value, and where opportunities to create value exist -- and ends with people -- appreciating the social context of our work and making a positive difference in the world. At Olin, students learn how to envision positive change and also how to realize and deliver that change.
Olin College was founded because we believe there is a problem with undergraduate engineering education. The traditional curriculum is too narrow; it teaches students how to solve problems, but not how to find the right problems to solve, or how to get their solutions out of the lab and into the world.
At most schools, students spend the first semesters -- sometimes years -- taking prerequisites in math and science before they do any engineering. These programs discourage many of the students who are most interested in engineering.
At Olin, students start engineering right away, with three classes in the first semester that provide hands-on experiences in several areas of engineering. And throughout the curriculum, students stay engaged by working on projects connected to real-world challenges. In their first year, students also begin to explore the arts, humanities and social sciences as well as entrepreneurship, and are able to directly integrate and apply this learning in all areas of the curriculum. Every student completes an “AHS” (Arts, Humanities and Social Science) foundation course in their first semester in order to build strong skills in communication and contextual awareness, and may continue to develop these skills through advanced self-designed AHS study. All Olin students also take an introductory entrepreneurship course in their first year, where they begin to develop an entrepreneurial mindset and learn the tools that are essential to realizing true and sustainable positive change. By their senior year, students are ready to solve real problems for companies and communities through the senior capstone engineering experiences (SCOPE and Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship).
The academic culture at Olin is collaborative. Many of our classes are taught in a studio environment where students have dedicated space, and all classes emphasize classroom activity (not just listening) and cooperative exploration. Students have flexibility to choose projects that align with their interests; faculty act as coaches, mentors and advisers, providing just-in-time instruction and helping student teams find the resources they need.
The curriculum at Olin is interdisciplinary. Students in all majors take a common set of classes that connect areas of engineering and integrate math, science, humanities and social science.
Olin faculty work and teach together, bridging multiple disciplines. The faculty are organized as a single department that brings together engineers, scientists, mathematicians, arts and humanities faculty, designers, entrepreneurs, and social scientists. It is not unusual to take a class co-taught by faculty in two or more different disciplines -- a true integrated academic experience.