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Olin College Awarded Grant to Expand Public Interest Work

Olin College received a grant from the Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) to expand its work in public interest technology. With the funds from the grant, Olin will launch a student-led Public Interest Technology Clinic named PInT. The work of the clinic will include: supporting students to work with outside stakeholders on PIT projects, providing summer fellowships for students to pursue in-depth PIT work within partner organizations and communities; and convening a series of events and conversations about engineering, policy, and society, and the responsibility of engineers.

Olin student Emma Pan stands with Professor Erhardt Graeff at Georgetown University

Olin student Emma Pan '21 stands with Assistant Professor of Social and Computer Science Erhardt Graeff at Georgetown University where the pair received a Public Interest Technology Grant to launch PInT at Olin

PInT co-founders include Olin College students Emma Pan, Sam Daitzman, Shreya Chowdhary, and Arwen Sadler, who developed a working model for the Clinic this past summer with Assistant Professor of Social and Computer Science Erhardt Graeff.

Olin College is a founding member of the Public Interest Technology University Network, which is a partnership between 21 universities and colleges committed to encouraging interest in civic-minded technology. The PIT-UN partners focus on “the development of curricula, research agendas, and experiential learning programs in the public interest technology space, these universities are trying innovative tactics to produce graduates with multiple fluencies at the intersection of technology and policy.”

The Network is supported by the Ford Foundation, the New America Foundation and Hewlett Foundation.

"This grant has helped us form a growing community of students, faculty, and staff, who are passionate about making good on Olin's 'Do Something' clause. My hope is that this community will spread beyond Olin and shift the 'technologist' culture towards prioritizing awareness, empathy, and social impact," said third year student and PInT co-founder Emma Pan.

Public interest work builds on Olin's institutional commitment to transforming engineering education and educating students to better the world, as well as Olin’s established strengths in practical engineering education and student-led educational innovation. Students at Olin are increasingly interested in integrating social and political dimensions with a technical education.

"Olin students have a profound opportunity to influence the design of our world through technology, policy and organizational culture. This grant offers us an opportunity to engage a significant percentage of our student body in the practice of public interest technology, featuring student-led experiences through which students will grow their understanding of the roles and responsibilities of engineers in society. I'm excited to be working with the next leaders of public interest technology here at Olin, helping them chart the future course of engineering," says PInT faculty advisor Erhardt Graeff.

The impact of the work of the Clinic will generate awareness of PIT on campus, engage students in PIT-related engineering projects year-round, and create opportunities for PIT career paths for students during and after their time at Olin. Ultimately, the students would like to develop a toolkit that could be shared by students at peer institutions so that they can create their own PIT clinics.

The group is also exploring ways to integrate Public Interest Technology into the Olin curriculum on a broad scale.