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 because we believe that there is a problem with 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 advisers, 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

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 society and to the environment and are ready to engineer a better future for the world. What follows is a statement of 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:

Acquire Knowledge, Skills and Approaches

Build the appropriate breadth and depth of content, techniques and methodologies from diverse fields.

Apply Analytical Methods

Systematically and appropriately apply qualitative, quantitative and critical methodologies and approaches to design experiments, gather data, analyze, model and draw conclusions.

Think Critically

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

Develop and Apply Creativity

Generate novel ideas and approaches, taking into account authentic constraints, that lead to innovative outcomes.

Consider Context

Use a holistic approach that integrates across all relevant contexts and perspectives to identify and address needs and opportunities and consider impacts on individuals, society and environments.

Prioritize Sustainability

Consider the social and environmental systems impacted by engineering and design decisions, aiming for the greatest positive transformation while minimizing unintended negative consequences.

Communicate Effectively

Express meaning successfully through oral, written, and visual media and listen actively to comprehend the meaning of others.

Collaborate Successfully

Create and maintain successful working relationships and identify and resolve interpersonal teaming conflicts to achieve a common goal.

Plan and Execute

Scope, plan and implement projects, maintain accountability for contributions, continuously evaluate progress, navigate uncertainty and adversity, and iterate as needed.

Become Self-Directed Learners

Identify and address learning needs through setting goals, selecting resources and maintaining self-accountability to develop and support intellectual curiosity.

Develop Personal and Professional Ethics

Define and apply one’s own beliefs and values to inform one’s approaches while considering and respecting the perspectives of others.

Foster Identity Development

Identify and reflect on key moments in life and connect them to the development of one’s sense of self.

In keeping with Olin's institutional value of continuous improvement, these learning outcomes are fluid.  They are reviewed and enhanced yearly.