Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering

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Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering
Established 1997
Type Private
Endowment $349.4 million[1]
President Richard Miller
Academic staff
Administrative staff
Undergraduates 350
Location Needham, Mass., USA
42°17′36.48″N 71°15′50.10″W / 42.2934667°N 71.2639167°W / 42.2934667; -71.2639167
Campus Suburban
Mascot Phoenix ("Frank")
Affiliations AICUM

The Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering (also known as Olin College or simply Olin) is a private undergraduate engineering college located 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 currently awards the half-tuition Olin Scholarship to each admitted student.[2]

The college was accredited by the regional accreditation board NEASC on December 6, 2006. Olin's degree programs in Electrical/Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Engineering received accreditation from the Engineering Accreditation Commission of Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)[3] on August 31, 2007.


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

Olin College of Engineering was founded by the F. W. Olin Foundation in 1997.[4] The foundation's trustees were concerned about perpetuating Franklin W. Olin's donor intent indefinitely, so Olin Foundation president Lawrence W. Milas proposed creating a new 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.”[5]

By 2005, the foundation had donated most of its remaining 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 at the school for several years as the President before he was officially inaugurated.

In a program known as "Invention 2000", Olin College hired its first faculty and invited 30 students, known as "Olin Partners," to help them form the first curriculum. The Olin Partners 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.[4]

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 in fall 2005,[4] and currently has an average of 350 students each year.

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

The Olin experiment[edit]

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, Senior Capstone Program in Engineering (SCOPE)[6] student teams are hired by corporations, non-profit organizations, or entrepreneurial ventures for real-world engineering projects. In the Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences ("AHS") or Entrepreneurship ("E!") capstone, students work on a self-designed project relating to their focus.

All accepted students receive the Olin Scholarship, which pays for half tuition. This tuition also covers cross-registration with Babson College, Wellesley College, and Brandeis University. Olin also shares clubs and intramural sports with the aforementioned colleges. Olin College also allows students to receive funding and non-degree college credit for "Passionate Pursuits," student-defined personal projects that the college recognizes as having academic value. In 2009, responding to a significant loss in the endowment caused by the Great Recession, the Trustees decided to reduce the full-tuition scholarships to half-tuition scholarships starting with the Class of 2015.[7] Administration blamed the financial crisis, and argued that it was impossible to cut costs elsewhere.[8] There have been no official statements as to whether the Trustees plan to reinstate the full-tuition scholarship once the endowment has recovered.

In addition to the Olin Scholarship, Olin College provides financial aid in form of need-based grants. These grants are paid when it is determined that the student is in need of more than $3500 a year, a figure which the school expects students to be able to obtain through part-time and summer work. The school reports that it does continue to meet all need-based aid requests.


Olin College offers degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering (ECE), Mechanical Engineering (ME), and Engineering (E). Within the Engineering program, students may concentrate in Computing (E:C), Bioengineering (E:BE), Materials Science (E:MS), Systems Design (E:SYS), or they may design their own concentrations with the administration's approval. Students also have access to an accelerated MS in Technological Entrepreneurship program at Babson College, with the potential to obtain this degree one semester after graduating from Olin College.[9]

Unlike many institutions, Olin College does not have separate academic departments. Consequently, no separate budgets exist for different majors or subject areas.[citation needed] All faculty members hold five-year renewable contracts with no opportunity for tenure.[10]

Classes at Olin College emphasize the importance of context and attempt to take an interdisciplinary approach. 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 College maintains a strong emphasis on practically grounded education, teaching not only the concepts but also connecting them to real-world challenges and projects. Beginning during their first year, students receive training in Olin's machine shop for project-based work. First-year students are required to take "Design Nature," a class that teaches design tools and processes. In this class, students design and build mechanical toys based on biological systems (such as the click beetle's jumping mechanism). Projects often take a "do-learn" approach, with the application of concepts being taught before the formal introduction of the underlying theory.

As part of Olin's mission to redefine engineering education, Olin is continually undergoing a curriculum review. The goal of these reviews is to ensure that the college maintains a culture of change and continuous improvement, and constantly working to reinvent itself. While the college no longer will throw out its entire curriculum and start from scratch, significant aspects of the curriculum are being considered for detailed review. Notably projects, student assessment, AHS/E! course offerings, experimentation within Olin, student workload are being targeted specifically for detailed review. These areas of detailed review were selected after significant student and faculty feedback was solicited from the Olin community.

Olin College's academic culture is heavily influenced by the school's Honor Code. Students often take exams on their own time and are generally allowed to use outside resources on exams, provided that they cite which sources they used. Students are trusted to adhere to the rules and limits specified for each exam without the supervision of a proctor. Because of this, Honor Code violations in an academic context are treated far more seriously and formally than social violations.

In general, the academic culture at Olin College is highly informal. Unlike most colleges and universities, some members of the upper administration teach classes alongside other faculty members. Teachers and administrators at Olin College are generally very receptive to student suggestions and feedback. This is viewed as especially important because Olin College is a new school, and its students play an active role in shaping the college for future generations.


Olin College is accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). The college became eligible for accreditation after it graduated its first class on May 21, 2006. On August 31, 2007, Olin received accreditation from the Engineering Accreditation Commission of Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). The accreditation applies retroactively to all degrees issued by the college.


Residential life[edit]

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. married students or students with families nearby). As a result, much of the social life at Olin occurs in the lounges on each floor of the residence halls. Olin College does not regulate the dormitories, except where required by law or for the safety of the college.

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 filled by the Resident Assistants (RAs) at other schools. Unlike most RAs, R2s are not directly responsible for enforcing college dorm policies.

Honor Code[edit]

The Olin Honor Code is a set of core values held by all Olin students. All students choose to sign the Honor Code during first-year orientation. Currently, the Honor Code has five Clauses: Integrity, Respect for Others, Passion for the Welfare of Olin College, Openness to Change, and Do Something. The subtext of these clauses are somewhat broad, in order to avoid imposing on any students who may have different interpretations of a word. The existence of the Honor Code has often been cited[by whom?] as the reason Olin's students are very open and trusting of each other. For example, take-home tests are very common[citation needed] and cases of property theft or other crime are extremely rare.[11]

This current Honor Code was created in 2013, after a year-long review of the previous Honor Code. The original Honor Code, written by the Olin Partners in 2002, had been called into question in 2012. Students wanted to be sure that the Honor Code still reflected the student body's values, since it was written ten years ago. Among the changes made to the Honor Code by the students in 2012-2013 include the removal of the clause Patience and Understanding, as well as a full redefining of Do Something and a rewording of the other four clauses. These changes were voted on by the student body in a process outlined by the Student Handbook.[12]


The Code and its related policies can be amended by a majority of students at a "town meeting" of at least half of the student body. Each such meeting concludes with a vote on whether to abolish the Honor Code. If the code were abolished, the governing policies set up by the Office of Student Life would take effect. This automatic vote prevents the Code from remaining in effect if students no longer support it.

At the May 2012 Town Meeting, the student body voted to instate a Sunset Clause, placing an expiration date on the original code at the end of the next school year. Thus brought about the Honor Code Review of 2012-2013, explained above.

Honor Board[edit]

The Honor Board is the main disciplinary structure for Olin College, consisting of students members voted on by other students. Whenever there is a social or academic violation of the Honor Code, the Honor Board first decides if sanctions are necessary and, if so, what sanctions are appropriate.

The Honor Board is notably different from many schools because it is solely student-run, with one faculty adviser. The sanctions for any case are decided on by some members of the Honor Board and a randomly selected panel of trained peers, and must be approved by the Dean of Student Life before they are put into place.[citation needed]

Extracurricular activities[edit]

Students can participate in multiple extracurricular school activities. These include student clubs, community service projects, co-curricular activities with faculty and staff (which are noted on the transcript), and "Passionate Pursuits"—independent projects eligible for funding and/or non-degree credit.

Olin students are also involved in writing, visual arts, music, and theater. Olin College has a variety of clubs and organizations that support the arts, including the Power Chords (a cappella), the Franklin W. Olin Players (FWOP), Film Club, and the Olin conductorless orchestra.

There are several different athletic teams at Olin. Olin does not plan to compete alone on the NCAA stage and NEWMAC,[13] the Regional NCAA conference, has not given approval for Olin students to compete with Babson's varsity teams next door. Olin has two soccer teams that compete in the fall through a Boston athletic organization.[14] Olin also has an Ultimate team that competes in the fall BUDA league[15] and in the spring through the Ultimate Players Association (UPA).[16] The team placed 10th in sectionals during the spring of 2008 just behind regional powerhouses at Harvard, Brown, and MIT. In addition, Olin students are allowed to participate in club teams and in non-NCAA sports at Babson College. The Babson women's rugby team (currently ranked first on the East Coast for Div. III, and moving up to Div. II in the 2006 season) includes several Olin members. Additionally, students participate in Sunday morning football games, intramural sports, and pick-up Ultimate games, the Student Martial Arts Club (SMAC), the Weapons Handling and Combat Kakistocracy (WHACK) (Olin's fencing club), and other athletic organizations.

Olin 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 (SAO), which oversees both the Caucus of Clubs and Organizations (CCO), and the Student Activities Committee (SAC), which is in charge of all large on-campus events. The Council of Olin Representatives (CORe) is a group that focuses exclusively on representing student views and serving as an advocate to the administration.

Olin students are also encouraged to combine their creative and technical skills in competitions. Every year, students have competed in the Mathematical Contest in Modeling (MCM). In 2002, a team from Olin College received the highest rating possible in the MCM; in 2005 an Olin team received the highest rating and earned the INFORMS Prize. Some students compete in design projects for organizations such as the Society of Automotive Engineers' Mini-Baja competition, the American Society of Mechanical Engineers' Human Powered Vehicle competition, and the Olin Automatons, a group interested in autonomous vehicle technology (originally pursuing the development of an autonomous vehicle for the DARPA Grand Challenge).

Spontaneity and student happiness[edit]

At Olin College, organized events are often arranged on a spontaneous basis. This is due in part to Olin's small size and in part to the popular use of email lists in the Olin community. To illustrate the importance of email lists, one may observe that, with only 350 students, Olin College has over 180 public mailing lists. To some degree, this sort of communication is possible only because of the high level of trust placed in the student body. For example, Olin allows any student to send email to all students or all faculty without any sort of permission or moderation.

Organized "Study Breaks," fun activities run by R2s, student organizations, or informal groups of students, can help students cope with high stress levels caused by work and disparate responsibilities. The Student Activities Committee (SAC), part of Olin College's student government, funds and organizes recreational events.

Student societies[edit]

Due to its small size and non-exclusive student culture, Olin College has few groups and societies outside of clubs and mailing lists. Olin has no fraternities or sororities, nor does it plan to introduce them. An attempt to establish a chapter of Tau Beta Pi was defeated by the Dean of Student Life in 2007.[citation needed] An "underground" Alumni group, known as the Combs Society, works to extend and adapt the Olin culture, brand, and mission.[citation needed]


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

Rankings and media coverage[edit]

In the The Princeton Review's college rankings, Olin College scores highly in many academic and extracurricular categories. As of 2014, Olin ranked #2 in Best Classroom Experience (up from #10), #3 in Best College Dorms (up from #4), #3 in Students Study the Most (down from #2), #4 in Professors Get High Marks (up from #19), #5 in There's a Game? (up from #10), #5 in Easiest Campus to Get Around (down from #4), #6 in Their Students Love These Colleges (up from #18), #8 in LGBT Friendly (down from #4), #11 in Great Financial Aid (up from #17), #11 in Best Quality of Life (down from #10), #12 in Best Science Lab Facilities (new to list), #13 in Town-Gown Relations are Great (down from #10), #14 in Stone-Cold Sober Schools (unchanged), #17 in Best Career Services (new to list), and #19 in Happiest Students (new to list). Absent from the 2014 list is "Lots of Race/Class Interaction (previously #19).[17]

According to Business Insider, Franklin W. Olin College ranks #1 in "The Best 20 College Campuses in the US".[18]

In August of 2014, Forbes ranked Olin #8 in "The Top 25 Colleges Ranked By SAT Score", with an average CR & Math score of 1489.[19]

In the 2014 U.S. News & World Report college rankings, Olin tied for #3 for Best Undergraduate Engineering Program among non-doctorate granting institutions[20] and in 2012 tied for #4 for Best Undergraduate Engineering Program in Electrical/Electronic/Communications.[21]

In 2006, Olin was selected by Kaplan, Inc. and Newsweek's 2007 guide as one of "America's 25 New Ivies".[22]

Not all coverage of Olin College has been positive. In 2014, the Boston Globe published an article titled "Losses soar at acclaimed Olin College", criticizing the school for poor management of its endowment. The Globe pointed out that despite abandoning its pledge to provide full-tuition scholarships, spending remained relatively constant, and payroll costs rose 16% between 2009 and 2011. It pointed out how Olin's administrators receive "significantly more than the median salaries of executives in comparable positions", and that Moody's downgraded the institution's bond rating.[23] In an open letter to the Olin community, President Richard Miller defended the decisions of the administration, and argued several of the points made in the article. The College successfully petitioned the Globe to release an official clarification, which stated that the article "failed to include the most recent financial information available". Other media outlets also pointed out errors in the article. The Boston Business Journal pointed out in a blog post that the Globe article's negative assessment of Olin's finances was not accurate, and that revenue and enrollment had "rebounded smartly" in 2013 from recession lows. [24][25]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ As of June 30, 2013. "U.S. and Canadian Institutions Listed by Fiscal Year 2013 Endowment Market Value and Percentage Change in Endowment Market Value from FY 2012 to FY 2013" (PDF). NACUBO-Commonfund Study of Endowments. National Association of College and University Business Officers. 
  2. ^ "Olin College Announces Change to Scholarship Policy". Retrieved 2009-06-25. 
  3. ^ "Accredited Programs". ABET. Retrieved 2014-08-08. 
  4. ^ a b c[dead link]
  5. ^ Sparks, Evan (Spring 2012). "New U.". Philanthropy. Retrieved 2012-06-05. 
  6. ^ "Senior Capstone Program (SCOPE) - Olin College of Engineering". Retrieved December 30, 2014. 
  7. ^
  8. ^ Beckie Supiano (June 18, 2009). "Olin College Discontinues Policy of Full Scholarships for All". Chronicle of Higher Education. 
  9. ^[dead link]
  10. ^
  11. ^ "Olin College Crime Data 2013" (PDF). Retrieved 2015-07-09. 
  12. ^ "Honor Code". Retrieved 2013-08-08. 
  13. ^ "NEWMAC". Retrieved December 30, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Boston Ski And Sports Club". Retrieved December 30, 2014. 
  15. ^ Boston Ultimate Disc Alliance
  16. ^ USA Ultimate
  17. ^ "Princeton Review". (registration required)
  18. ^ "Best College Campuses - Business Insider". Business Insider. August 7, 2014. Retrieved December 30, 2014. 
  19. ^ Matt Schifrin (August 4, 2014). "Top 100 SAT Scores Ranking: Which Colleges Have The Brightest Kids?". Forbes. Retrieved December 30, 2014. 
  20. ^ "Best Colleges Specialty Rankings: Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
  21. ^ "Best Colleges Specialty Rankings: Undergraduate Engineering Specialties: Electrical / Electronic / Communications Rank". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved 2012-12-20. 
  22. ^ "America's 25 New Ivies". Newsweek. August 21, 2006. Retrieved 2007-12-10. 
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Globe issues clarification on Olin article - Olin College". Retrieved December 30, 2014. 
  25. ^ 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. 

Further reading[edit]

  1. Murray, Charles (August 30, 2004). "If I'm happy, can this be EE school?" EE Times.
  2. Wessel, David (December 20, 2005). "Building a Better Engineer" Wall Street Journal.
  3. Guizzo, Erico (May 2006). "The Olin Experiment: Can a tiny new college reinvent engineering education?," IEEE Spectrum.

External links[edit]

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