Curriculum, Goals and Outcomes


Our 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 was founded to challenge the models and assumptions of undergraduate engineering education. The traditional curriculum teaches students how to solve problems, but not how to find the right problems to solve, nor how to get their solutions out of the lab and into the world.

At most schools, students spend their first semesters – sometimes years – taking prerequisites in math and science before they do any engineering. These programs discourage many of the students most interested in engineering, people who might have become transformative engineers if they had the chance.

At Olin, students start engineering right away, with three classes in the first semester that provide hands-on experiences in several areas of engineering. Throughout the curriculum, students stay engaged by working on projects connected to real-world challenges. Olin’s integrated curriculum depends upon math and science courses to help students characterize and understand our world and to develop scientific and quantitative analysis tools that facilitate problem solving.

Students also begin to explore the arts, humanities, and social sciences and entrepreneurship in their first year, and directly integrate and apply this learning in all areas of the curriculum. Every student completes an Arts, Humanities and Social Science (AHS) foundation course in their first semester in order to build strong skills in communication and contextual awareness, and continues to develop these skills through self-designed AHS study that might include an AHS concentration and capstone experience. 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 engineering capstone experiences (SCOPE and Affordable Design and Entrepreneurship) that draw upon their prior curricular work.

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 advisors, providing just-in-time instruction and helping student teams find the resources they need.

The curriculum 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. In keeping with this interdisciplinary approach, Olin faculty work and teach together. The faculty are organized as a single department that brings together engineers, scientists, mathematicians, arts and humanities faculty, designers, entrepreneurs, and social scientists.

Olin’s collaborative culture actively involves its students as partners in the creation and ongoing development of the curriculum. Students serve on nearly all curricular and policy development committees; offer frequent feedback that helps faculty shape current and future courses; and exercise autonomy in their own education by selecting project goals, topics, and methods.

Program goals

Olin’s academic programs are designed to support the institutional mission of preparing students to become engineering innovators. From a content perspective, the curricular emphases on engineering, analysis, design, and entrepreneurship are specifically aligned with the mission; through these experiences, students acquire facility in identifying needs, generating concepts that are responsive to people’s needs, turning those concepts into technically realizable solutions, and marshaling the resources necessary to turn a vision into reality. The general education requirements support the graduation of liberally educated individuals who consider the ethical consequences of their work and create paradigms in which they can use their engineering education to effect positive change.

After graduation, Olin students in the Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering programs will demonstrate attainment of the following objectives:


  • Graduates strengthen the teams and communities they are part of by cultivating collaboration, effective communication and leadership.
  • Graduates apply a multi-disciplinary engineering approach to solving important technical and societal challenges.
  • Graduates create value for society through entrepreneurial and design thinking that transforms needs and opportunities into systems, products and solutions.
  • Graduates adaptively and independently extend their learning to excel in fields about which they are passionate.

Learning outcomes

Olin College of Engineering is committed to preparing graduates who recognize the complexity of the world, appreciate the relationship of their work to individuals, to society, and to sustainability, expect to work in diverse and inclusive environments, and are ready to engineer a better future for the world. What follows are the learning outcomes Olin intends to instill in graduates and represents a vision of the key abilities, skills, and mindsets necessary for success, both in the engineering field and beyond. The vision has been constructed through careful research and consideration into engineering practice and competencies necessary to approach emerging technical, environmental, and societal challenges in a global context. Through intentional educational design, the Olin community supports the development of graduates who:


Develop and Apply Knowledge, Skills, Approaches and Methods
Students build the appropriate breadth and depth of content, techniques, and methodologies from diverse fields in order to systematically and appropriately design experiments, gather data, model, analyze, and/or draw conclusions.

Think Critically
Students engage in analyzing, evaluating, synthesizing, and applying diverse information and experiences to support decision-making, attitude formation, action, and expression.

Develop and Apply Creativity
Students generate novel ideas and approaches, taking into account authentic constraints, that lead to innovative outcomes.

Prioritize Doing Good in the World
Students use a holistic approach that integrates diverse backgrounds, perspectives, ethics, beliefs, and values, and considers the individual, social, and environmental impacts of their decisions to produce positive transformations while minimizing unintended consequences.

Develop and Apply Self-Directed Learning Abilities
Students diagnose learning needs, set learning goals, identify learning resources, select and implement learning strategies, and self-evaluate and reflect on learning outcomes.

Collaborate Successfully

Students create and maintain successful working relationships, maintain accountability for contributions, and identify and resolve interpersonal teaming conflicts to achieve a common goal.

Design and Implement Processes to Achieve Desired Outcomes
Students scope, plan, and implement projects, continuously evaluate progress, navigate uncertainty and adversity, and iterate as needed.

Communicate Effectively
Students express meaning successfully through oral, written, and visual media and listen actively to comprehend the meaning of others.

Develop Personal and Professional Identity
Students actively reflect on their backgrounds and experiences and integrate them into their evolving sense of self.

In keeping with Olin's institutional value of continuous improvement, these learning outcomes are fluid, and they are assessed on a yearly cycle.