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 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.