Editorial notebooks

Stepping into another school

RPI offers more than just superb engineering courses

Whenever I tell someone that I go to RPI, I’m constantly told that RPI is a great school. However, this sentiment is usually expressed with one particular qualifier; “RPI is a great school—for engineering.” I agree with this sentiment on some level, but it always strikes me as odd that the education I am receiving is meant to be uni-faceted. Is it possible that the school I’m going to is some sort of one-trick pony? Is it possible that I’m going to enter the job market with a very particular set of skills with a very particular application? It’s frustrating to me that we, as students, are only expected to contribute to the hard sciences.

I realize that I’m coming from the unique perspective of a social science major—it’s admittedly a boutique group of students at RPI. But the point of the matter is that I feel like I’ve gotten a huge amount out of my education, and I feel like the faculties of this school have targeted to encourage students to explore the subjective are grossly underused. Last semester, I took a course that had three students in it. While it was great to get that sort of intimate class setting, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that there weren’t more students taking advantage of an excellent course.

RPI students are interesting in that they tend to be fiercely intelligent, but single-tracked. Coming into this school, I never would have guessed that I would have joined the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences; I showed up to RPI as a bright-eyed and hopeful engineer, and this school is known for chewing up those types and spitting them out into successful careers. I wish I could say that it was meant to be, but something didn’t click when I was studying engineering. Sure, I was capable of doing the coursework, but I felt sick to my stomach when I thought of spending the rest of my life crunching engineering problems.

Economics piqued my interest because I thought of it as a union between social understanding and math. The thing about the economics curriculum was that the farther I got in the courses, the more engaging I found the course material. It got to be the kind of material that I was excited to study, and my grades have only improved as I’ve gotten to take more difficult courses. It seemed like the universe had finally told me that I wasn’t in the wrong for going to college, and I came out of my classes feeling like I got effective skills that I could take to the work force.

I guess what I’m saying is that this school offers you opportunities that can extend way beyond the range of your decided discipline. RPI creates a unique campus atmosphere in that its students usually have a precisely premeditated idea of what they want to study, but where does that leave room for self-exploration? Take a chance on your education while you’re here, and try something new; you might not have an opportunity like this again.