Olin College

Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (known as Olin College of Engineering, Olin College, or simply Olin) is a private undergraduate engineering college in Needham, Massachusetts, adjacent to Babson College. Olin College is noted in the engineering community for its youth, small size, project-based curriculum, and large endowment funded primarily by the F. W. Olin Foundation. The college covers half of each admitted student's tuition through the Olin Scholarship.[2]

Olin College of Engineering
Endowment$352.5 million (2016)[1]
PresidentRichard Miller
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Location, ,
United States

42°17′36.48″N 71°15′50.10″W / 42.2934667°N 71.2639167°W
MascotPhoenix ("Frank")


Olin College Great Lawn
A view of Olin College. The dormitories are to the right; the Oval is straight ahead.

Olin College was founded by the F. W. Olin Foundation in 1997.[3] The trustees were concerned about perpetuating Franklin W. Olin's donor intent indefinitely, so the foundation's president, Lawrence W. Milas, proposed creating a college. “We always had a bias toward supporting science and engineering schools because Mr. Olin was an engineer,” Milas said. “I was concerned with whether or not this would be consistent with what Mr. Olin had ever considered. I went back and read minutes of board meetings. And sure enough, in the late 1940s, at two or three board meetings shortly before his death, he expressed the idea of starting a new institution.”[4]

By 2005, the foundation had donated most of its financial resources to the college, providing Olin with an endowment of about $460 million. Richard Miller was inaugurated as the college's first president on May 3, 2003. Miller was also the first employee of Olin College, and had been working as its president for several years before he was officially inaugurated.

In a program known as Invention 2000, Olin College hired its first faculty members and invited 30 students, known as Olin Partners, to help it form a curriculum. The students lived in temporary housing and spent their first year after high school investigating assessment and grading methods, jump-starting the student culture, and experimenting with forms of engineering education.[3]

Olin admitted its first full class of 75 students in 2002. This class included the Olin Partners, a group of deferred students known as the Virtual Olin Partners, and recent high school graduates. After admitting three more classes, the college reached its full size of approximately 300 students in fall 2005.[3] It currently has about 350 students.

Olin's campus was designed by the architecture firm Perry Dean Rogers in the postmodern style. The first phase, comprising four buildings, was completed in 2002. The construction of a second dormitory, East Hall, was finished in fall 2005. Future plans include an academic building that would contain additional machine shops and project space. Olin shares many campus services, including health, public safety, and athletic facilities, with Babson College.

The Olin experiment

Olin Center Sunset
Sunset over Milas Hall

Much of Olin College's curriculum is built around hands-on engineering and design projects. This project-based teaching begins in a student's first year and culminates in two senior "capstone" projects. In the engineering capstone,[5] student teams are hired by corporations, non-profit organizations, or entrepreneurial ventures for real-world engineering projects. In the arts, humanities, and social sciences capstone or the entrepreneurship capstone, students work on self-designed projects.

All accepted students receive the Olin Scholarship, which pays for half of tuition and covers cross-registration with Babson College, Wellesley College, and Brandeis University. Olin also shares clubs and intramural sports with those colleges. In addition to the Olin Scholarship, the college provides need-based grants. It used to provide full-tuition scholarships, but in 2009, responding to a significant decline in the college's endowment caused by the Great Recession, the trustees decided to reduce the scholarships to half-tuition for all students as of the 2010-11 academic year.[6] There have been no official statements on whether full scholarships will be restored if the endowment recovers.

Olin also allows students to receive funding and non-degree credit for "passionate pursuits," personal projects that the college recognizes as having academic value.


Olin College offers degrees in electrical and computer engineering, mechanical engineering, and engineering. Within the engineering program, students may concentrate in design, computing, biological engineering, materials science, or systems design, or they may design their own concentrations with the administration's approval. Students also have access to an accelerated Master of Science degree in technological entrepreneurship at Babson College, which they can obtain one semester after graduating from Olin.[7]

Unlike many institutions, Olin College does not have separate academic departments. All faculty members hold five-year renewable contracts with no opportunity for tenure.[8]

Classes emphasize context and interdisciplinary connections. Freshmen take integrated course blocks that teach engineering, calculus, and physics by exploring the relationships among the three subjects. Arts, humanities, and social sciences courses take an interdisciplinary approach to subjects such as the self ("What Is I?"), history ("History of Technology"), and art ("Wired Ensemble" and "Seeing and Hearing").

Olin also emphasizes practically grounded education, connecting concepts to real-world challenges and projects. Beginning in their first year, students receive training in Olin's machine shop for project-based work. First-year students are required to take "Design Nature", in which they design and build mechanical toys based on biological systems (such as the click beetle's jumping mechanism). Classes often take a "do-learn" format, with the application of concepts being taught before the formal introduction of the underlying theory.

As part of its mission to redefine engineering education, Olin is continually undergoing curriculum reviews. The goal of these reviews is to ensure that the college maintains a culture of change and continuous improvement. Significant aspects of the curriculum — such as student assessment, course offerings, and student workload — are considered for detailed review yearly.

Olin's academic culture is heavily influenced by its honor code. Students often take exams on their own time, without the supervision of proctors, and are generally allowed to use outside sources on exams, provided that they cite them. In general, the academic culture is highly informal, and some members of the upper administration teach classes.


Olin College is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges and by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.


Residential life

Olin College at Night
The Academic Center at night

Olin students are required to live on campus unless an exception is made by the dean of student life due to personal circumstances (e.g., for married students or students with families nearby). Social conflicts are generally resolved informally; students can approach the honor board with a conflict only in extreme cases. In addition, the Office of Student Life picks student "resident resources" (R2s) to fill the role traditionally played by resident assistants (RAs) at other schools. Unlike most RAs, R2s are not directly responsible for enforcing dorm policies.

Honor code

The Olin Honor Code has five clauses, titled "Integrity", "Respect for Others", "Passion for the Welfare of Olin College", "Openness to Change", and "Do Something".[9] The code and related policies can be amended by a majority of students at a meeting of at least half of the student body. If students voted to abolish the code, governing policies set by the Office of Student Life would take effect.

The honor board — consisting of students elected by their peers, with one faculty adviser — is the main disciplinary structure at the college. When a violation of the honor code is alleged, the board decides if sanctions are warranted and, if so, what kind of sanctions. Penalties must be approved by the dean of student life.

As of 2017, faculty and teachers are not required to sign the Honor Code as first years are supposed to during orientation.

Extracurricular activities

Students can participate in clubs, community service projects, co-curricular activities with faculty and staff (which are noted on transcripts), and "passionate pursuits" (independent projects eligible for funding and/or non-degree credit).

The college has a variety of clubs and organizations that support the arts, including the Power Chords (an a cappella group), the Franklin W. Olin Players, a film club, and a conductorless orchestra.

Olin does not compete alone in the NCAA, and the regional NCAA conference — the New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference[10] — has not given approval for students to compete with Babson's varsity teams. Olin students are, however, allowed to participate in club teams and non-NCAA sports at Babson, and the Babson women's rugby team includes several Olin members. Olin has two soccer teams that compete through a Boston athletic organization,[11] as well as an Ultimate team that competes in the BUDA league[12] and the Ultimate Players Association.[13] Additionally, students participate in Sunday morning football games, intramural sports, pick-up Ultimate games, the Student Martial Arts Club, a fencing club, and other athletic organizations.

Campus clubs form in an ad-hoc fashion whenever a group of students unite around a common interest and apply for recognition. Funding is managed by the Student Activities Organization.

Olin students compete in the Mathematical Contest in Modeling every year. In 2002, a team from Olin received the highest rating in the contest; in 2005, an Olin team received the highest rating and earned the INFORMS Prize. Some students compete in design projects at the Society of Automotive Engineers' Mini-Baja competition and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' Human Powered Vehicle competition. Others are members of the Olin Automatons, a group dedicated to autonomous vehicle technology, which was originally formed to develop an autonomous vehicle for the DARPA Grand Challenge.

The college has no fraternities or sororities. An "underground" alumni group known as the Combs Society works to extend and adapt the Olin culture, brand, and mission.


In 2002, the Olin Partners and Virtual Olin Partners selected the phoenix as the school's mascot. The mascot, sometimes unofficially called Frank, represents Olin's willingness to reinvent itself, just as the phoenix is reborn from its ashes. In 2013, Olin underwent a rebranding, and the original school colors, blue and silver, are now seen together only in the school seal and on diplomas. Everywhere else, the school now uses gradients of bright colors.

Rankings and media coverage

As of 2014, The Princeton Review ranked Olin College second for classroom experience, third for dormitories, third for amount of studying, fourth for student opinion of professors, fifth for ease of getting around campus, eighth for LGBT friendliness, 11th for financial aid, 11th for quality of life, 12th for science laboratory facilities, 17th for career services, and 19th for student happiness.[14]

Business Insider ranked Olin first on its "Best 20 College Campuses in the US" list in 2014.[15] It was eighth on Forbes's "Top 25 Colleges Ranked By SAT Score", with an average combined critical reading and math score of 1489.[16]

In the 2014 U.S. News & World Report college rankings, Olin was tied for third for best undergraduate engineering program among non-doctorate-granting institutions.[17] In 2012, it was tied for fourth for best undergraduate engineering program in the "electrical/electronic/communications" category.[18]

In 2006, Olin was selected by Kaplan, Inc. and Newsweek as one of "America's 25 New Ivies".[19]

In 2014, the Boston Globe published an article that criticized the school for poor management of its endowment.[20] The Globe pointed out that despite the abandonment of full-tuition scholarships, Olin's spending remained relatively constant, and payroll costs rose 16% between 2009 and 2011. It also noted that Olin's administrators received "significantly more than the median salaries of executives in comparable positions", and that Moody's had downgraded the institution's bond rating. In an open letter to the Olin community, President Richard Miller defended the decisions of the administration and rebutted several of the points made in the article. The college successfully petitioned the Globe to release an official clarification, which stated that the article had "failed to include the most recent financial information available".[21] The Boston Business Journal also challenged the Globe's assessment of Olin's finances, reporting that revenue and enrollment had "rebounded smartly" in 2013 from recession lows.[22]

See also


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2016. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 Endowment Market Value and Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2015 to FY 2016" (PDF). National Association of College and University Business Officers and Commonfund Institute. 2017. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 15, 2017. Retrieved February 1, 2017.
  2. ^ "Olin College Announces Change to Scholarship Policy". Archived from the original on July 5, 2009. Retrieved June 25, 2009.
  3. ^ a b c https://web.archive.org/web/20100721192517/http://www.olin.edu/about_olin/history/olin_history_detail.aspx. Archived from the original on July 21, 2010. Retrieved September 15, 2010. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Sparks, Evan (Spring 2012). "New U." Philanthropy. Retrieved 2012-06-05.
  5. ^ "Senior Capstone Program (SCOPE) - Olin College of Engineering". Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  6. ^ Beckie Supiano (June 18, 2009). "Olin College Discontinues Policy of Full Scholarships for All". Chronicle of Higher Education.
  7. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20070919042708/http://careers.olin.edu/grad_business.php. Archived from the original on September 19, 2007. Retrieved December 2, 2008. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  8. ^ "Most Presidents Favor No Tenure for Majority of Faculty". The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  9. ^ "Honor Code". Retrieved July 6, 2016.
  10. ^ "NEWMAC". Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  11. ^ "Boston Ski And Sports Club". Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  12. ^ Boston Ultimate Disc Alliance Archived August 24, 2008, at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ USA Ultimate
  14. ^ "Princeton Review".(registration required)
  15. ^ "Best College Campuses - Business Insider". Business Insider. August 7, 2014. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  16. ^ Matt Schifrin (August 4, 2014). "Top 100 SAT Scores Ranking: Which Colleges Have The Brightest Kids?". Forbes. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  17. ^ "Best Colleges Specialty Rankings: Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
  18. ^ "Best Colleges Specialty Rankings: Undergraduate Engineering Specialties: Electrical / Electronic / Communications Rank". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2012-12-20.
  19. ^ "America's 25 New Ivies". Newsweek. August 21, 2006. Retrieved 2007-12-10.
  20. ^ "Acclaimed Olin College bleeds red ink in microcosm of college cost problem - The Boston Globe". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved 2016-01-04.
  21. ^ "Globe issues clarification on Olin article - Olin College". Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  22. ^ Douglas, Craig (Nov 18, 2014). "Olin College is doing just fine, in case you heard otherwise". Boston Business Journal. American City Business Journals. Retrieved Dec 30, 2014.

External links

Coordinates: 42°17′36.44″N 71°15′50.19″W / 42.2934556°N 71.2639417°W

Allen B. Downey

Allen B. Downey (born May 11, 1967) is an American computer scientist, Professor of Computer Science at the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering and writer of free textbooks.

Argosy Foundation

The Argosy Foundation, founded in 1997, is currently based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. It was formerly known as the Abele Family Charitable Trust.

College Puzzle Challenge

College Puzzle Challenge is an annual puzzlehunt hosted by Microsoft, inspired by the Microsoft Puzzle Hunt or the MIT Mystery Hunt. However, several key features differentiate College Puzzle Challenge from these events. College Puzzle Challenge is a timed event, and while it does have a meta-puzzle, if no team has solved the meta-puzzle at the end of the allotted time, the event is declared over and alternate means are used to determine winners. Registration is limited to current undergraduate and graduate students and those who have graduated in the last year before the event, and team size is strictly regulated to four students. Instead of the winning team hosting the next event as with the Microsoft and MIT hunts, the event is always hosted by Microsoft employees. Since College Puzzle Challenge takes place at multiple locations simultaneously, events are coordinated by a puzzle control team at Microsoft's corporate campus in Redmond, Washington. Ground teams consisting of school alumni who are now Microsoft employees manage on-site issues such as holding opening and closing ceremonies and distributing puzzles. During the event, participants work on a number of puzzles and submit the answer to each one. The solutions to these puzzles are fed into a meta-puzzle, and the first to solve that is determined to be the winner.

Debbie Chachra

Debbie Chachra (born 1971) is a materials scientist and a professor at Olin College. She specialises in biological materials and infrastructure. She is interested in innovations in engineering education and was one of the founding members of the materials faculty at Olin.

F. W. Olin Foundation

The Franklin W. Olin Foundation was founded as the Olin Foundation in 1938 by Franklin W. Olin. It was an independent grantmaking foundation from its founding in 1938 until it spent down its corpus and closed down in 2005.

Franklin W. Olin

Franklin Walter Olin (January 9, 1860 – May 21, 1951) was the founder of the Olin Corporation.

He was born in Woodford, Vermont, and his father built mills and waterwheels. He studied civil engineering at Cornell University, where he also played baseball; he would play as an outfielder in the American Association for two seasons. After graduating with the class of 1886, he worked in several jobs before founding a blasting powder mill construction business; his first opened in East Alton, Illinois, in 1892.

He formed the Western Cartridge Company in 1898 to manufacture ammunition, and during World War I diversified into brassmaking for use in cartridge shells. In 1931 Olin acquired the Winchester Repeating Arms Company. After World War II, Frank Olin retired from management of the firm, leaving it to his sons John and Spencer.

He married Mary Mott Moulton of Toledo, Ohio on May 28, 1889. They had three sons, Franklin W. Jr. (predeceased), John, and Spencer, all three of whom also graduated from Cornell.

He died in St. Louis, Missouri, in 1951. A portion of his fortune was willed to the Franklin W. Olin Foundation, which endowed numerous buildings and professorships in his name at college campuses across the United States. In 1997, the foundation established Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts.

Gordon Prize

The Bernard M. Gordon Prize was started in 2001 by the United States National Academy of Engineering. Its purpose is to recognize leaders in academia for the development of new educational approaches to engineering. Each year, the Gordon Prize awards $500,000 to the grantee, of which the recipient may personally use $250,000, and his or her institution receives $250,000 for the ongoing support of academic development. Although the Gordon Prize is relatively new, within engineering education, it is viewed by many to be the American equivalent of the Nobel Prize.

Helen Donis-Keller

Helen Donis-Keller is the Michael E. Moody Professor and Professor of Biology and Art at Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts. She earned her Ph.D. at Harvard University under the direction of Walter Gilbert. After employment at biotechnology companies Biogen and Collaborative Research, she joined the faculty at Washington University School of Medicine. During her time at Collaborative Research, her research group created the first genetic map of the human genome. Donis-Keller was unable to secure either NIH or venture funding for generating the RFLP map, but convinced Collaborative Research's management to fund the project.

Kevin Tostado

Kevin Tostado is an American documentary filmmaker. He founded the independent film company Tostie Productions in 2004. Born in San Diego, CA, Tostado received a B.S. in electrical and computer engineering from Olin College in 2006. In addition to his work producing films, Tostado has written articles for New Jersey Lifestyle Magazine and has been interviewed by NPR's "More Than a Game", The Independent, and several other television and radio stations regarding his film career and projects.

LeMessurier Consultants

LeMessurier Consultants is a Boston, Massachusetts firm, founded by William LeMessurier in 1961. It provides engineering support services to architects and construction firms. They focus on advanced structural techniques and impacts to construction materials. They are known for their modular construction techniques including the Mah-LeMessurier System for precast concrete in high-rise housing, the Staggered Truss System for high-rise steel structures, and the tuned mass damper used to reduce tall building motion. One of the best known uses of the damper is the John Hancock Tower in Boston. In addition to new construction, they also work with retrofitting buildings and historic preservation.

Lois Juliber

Lois D. Juliber (born 1949) is an American businesswoman.

Needham, Massachusetts

Needham is a town in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, United States. A suburb of Boston, its population was 28,886 at the 2010 census. It is home to the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering, an engineering school.

Perry Dean Rogers Architects

Perry Dean Rogers is an architectural firm based in Boston, Massachusetts. Founded in 1923 as Perry, Shaw & Hepburn, the firm became notable for its designs for educational institutions. The firm was responsible for the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg. The firm asserts their expertise in creating the context of university environment. Perry Dean Rogers recently completed designing an entire college campus, masterplan and the individual buildings for the Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering in Needham, Massachusetts. William G. Perry was also hired to transform the Endicott Estate into a Governor's Mansion.

Price of Weed

Price of Weed (or priceofweed.com) is a user-generated database of marijuana prices. Users may submit prices and quantities for transactions and their location is geolocated in order to generate a price index for states and cities. While user-generated prices have no inherent check on accuracy, the criminal status of marijuana in many countries means a formal price index may be difficult to construct.In August 2011, Matthew Zook, a professor of geography at the University of Kentucky, generated a detailed heatmap using data from the site. The map was included in an issue of Wired and drew attention to Price of Weed from Barry Ritholtz's Big Picture and Flowing Data. In 2014, Allen B. Downey, a professor from Olin College utilized data from Price of Weed in his book Think Stats: Probability and Statistics for Programmers (Second Edition). In May 2015, Frank Bi of Forbes published a piece title All 50 States Ranked By The Cost Of Weed. In June 2015, The Washington Post generated a detailed infographic portraying pricing data from 8 major US cities. This marks the first data shared publicly portraying a time series of data by city from Price of Weed. In August 2015, Mingshu Wang from The Department of Geography at University of Georgia generated a detailed graphic portraying the crowdsourced data from The Price of Weed. In October 2016, David Floyd of Investopedia published an infographic in a post titled What Does Weed Cost in Your State?

Richard Miller (Olin College President)

Richard Keith Miller is the founding president of Olin College since 1999. Previously he was Dean of the College of Engineering and Professor at the University of Iowa.

Miller received a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering in 1971 from the University of California, Davis and an M.S. degree in Mechanical Engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1972. In 1976 he received a Ph.D. in Applied Mechanics from the California Institute of Technology.

UC Davis College of Engineering

The UC Davis College of Engineering is one of four undergraduate colleges on the campus of the University of California, Davis. One of the largest engineering programs in the U.S., the UC Davis College of Engineering offers 11 ABET-accredited undergraduate engineering majors. The college offers majors from a broad scope of engineering disciplines, including aerospace science, biochemical, biological systems, biomedical, chemical, civil, computer science, electrical, materials science, and mechanical engineering.The college attracted more than $87.4 million in research grants in fiscal year 2013-14.

Wellesley College

Wellesley College is an elite private women's liberal arts college in Wellesley, Massachusetts. Founded in 1870 by Henry and Pauline Durant, it is a member of the original Seven Sisters Colleges. Wellesley is home to 56 departmental and interdepartmental majors spanning the liberal arts, as well as over 150 student clubs and organizations. The college also allows its students to cross-register at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brandeis University, Babson College and Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering. Wellesley athletes compete in the NCAA Division III New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference.

As of 2018, Wellesley was ranked the third best liberal arts college in the United States by U.S. News & World Report. As of 2017, Wellesley is the highest endowed women's college in the world, with an endowment of nearly $2 billion, and had a Fall 2018 first-year student acceptance rate of 19%.The college's robust alumnae base has been widely viewed as the "most powerful women's network in the world", and its graduates are often recognized as among the most accomplished of any institution and most responsive to fellow alumnae. Notable alumnae include Hillary Rodham Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Katharine Lee Bates, Cokie Roberts, Diane Sawyer, Nora Ephron, Pamela Melroy, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Soong Mei-ling and Bing Xin.

Woodie Flowers

Woodie Claude Flowers (born 1943) is an emeritus professor of mechanical engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. His specialty areas are engineering design and product development, he holds the Pappalardo Professorship, and is a MacVicar Faculty Fellow.

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