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Babson: An (Alternative) Inside Look
First of all, allow me to say that many of the points Ryan makes are incredibly valid. Babson is by no means perfect, nor will it ever be. The same goes for any other college or university. That being said, I’m incredibly happy at the school, because I feel confident that I’m being prepared for what I want to do in life. And that’s the key right there — it’s what I want to do with life. If I wanted be an archeologist, I’d be pretty bummed out about my business degree. A lot of people want a lot of very different things from Babson, and I’m sure it’s a challenge for the school administration to figure out how to provide those things, and at what level.To provide an analogy from IT, the school’s SLA can’t cover everything that users may want — the bandwidth isn’t there.
The really passionate startup community, for better or for worse, isn’t a huge percentage of the undergraduate population at Babson. As a matter of fact, really passionate startup entrepreneurs aren’t a huge percentage of anywhere, in college or in the real world. It’s simply a matter of demographics that not everyone at Babson wants to start a business, specifically a tech-related business. Yes, Babson is heavily biased towards entrepreneurship, but I’m not entirely sure that a specific part of the community deserves a disproportionate share of the school’s support.
1.) Dropping out of school to start a business doesn’t imply failure on the part of either the individual or the school.
I have a ridiculous amount of respect for individuals who can look at the world, find a way to improve it, get funding to improve the world, and see their vision spread. It takes a very rare breed of person to do that, and they are the exception, not the rule. In the real world, that type of person would be miserable at a corporation with 2,000 employees — why would they feel any differently if they’re one out of 2,000 students? Some people need to go to college just so they can figure out that they can do better outside of college, and that’s perfectly fine by me. The thing that separates good entrepreneurs from great ones is how they handle failed ventures, and I consider dropping out of college to start a business as pivoting your own personal venture, if you will.
2.) One aspect of Babson needing improvement shouldn’t cast a blemish on other things that work well.
You wouldn’t blame the Bookstore if you didn’t like a meal in Trim. Ryan identified two big issues: lack of awareness and lack of curriculum change. So yes, I agree that Babson students as a whole aren’t particularly tuned into the Boston startup scene, but I can think of multiple ways to change that right now without dismissing the value of a Babson education. If the Blank Center wants to do more outreach to undergraduates, SGA is always more than happy to broadcast that message to students. If DartBoston and MassChallenge want students to know about the startup scene, the folks at Academic Services are great people to talk to about integrating that information into Orientation and FYS. If Startup Babson wants to help students get to an awesome networking event in Boston, SGA can fund a bus for them to take.
Likewise, there are multiple ways to start moving towards a curriculum refresh. As a matter of fact, multiple courses are getting revamped next fall. I’ve written my own course outlines and sent them to Dean Hanno to pass along to the appropriate divisions for discussion. The Undergraduate Academic Policy Committee meets on Friday mornings, and plays a huge role in incorporating student feedback into the curriculum.
My point being, there are a lot of actionable steps that can be taken to improve legitimately deficient situations without calling Babson deficient as a whole.
3.) I’m not taking the “default path” because I don’t know any better.
This is honestly the only part of Ryan’s post that offended me. I don’t plan on starting a serious business any time soon, but it’s most definitely NOT because I don’t know any better. I’ve been to a couple networking events, so it’s not like I haven’t had exposure to startup culture. Am I worried about getting stuck in a dead-end 9–5 job with no way to make a difference in the world? Nope, not in the slightest. I can make you a website AND I can interpret your financial statements — that sort of thing is in demand these days. Also, speaking of programming…
4.) Yeah, I’d love to see more web tech classes at Babson, but should we have typing classes too?
Ryan makes the statement that students need more HTML/CSS knowledge, and I agree 100%. Even if you’re not running a tech startup, just about every single business out there needs a website. However, students also need to take matters into their own hands as well. I’m always surprised by the number of people I see who can only type with two fingers, but that doesn’t mean I think Babson should offer mandatory typing classes. I learned to program, design websites, run servers, and get tech savvy using Google, because I wanted to learn. More and more people want to learn that stuff too these days, which is great, but how many of them have spent an afternoon on lynda.babson.edu learning HTML basics? Almost none.
I actually love being one of the few coders at Babson, because it makes my services more valuable (see? being entrepreneurial). But I can also say from first-hand experience that if you want to learn something badly enough, you can and should do it.
That being said, I would also enjoy seeing some more classes about various web technologies and infrastructure. :-D
5.) In conclusion.
ITSD is currently working on a plan that would make server space available to students within the next year or so. This will be a fantastic resource for on-campus startups and app developers. I learned this because I’m sitting on STAC, the Student Technology Advisory Council that works with the CIO, ITSD, and Digital Marketing to bring a student perspective to various projects, receive feedback, and engage in an overall discussion about technology at Babson. STAC is also one of the groups (along with SGA) that brought Gmail to students here. We didn’t do it by throwing up our hands in despair — we engaged the administration and brought about a change.
Fundamentally, I guess that’s my bottom-line point. I’ve had moments where I was incredibly frustrated with the way things were at Babson. That’s partly why I got involved with STAC, SGA, the Class of 2013 Steering Committee, Sustainability Operations Committee, etc. One thing I’ve discovered about Babson is that everyone in the administration is willing to sit down with me for 30 minutes and just talk about those frustrations. By engaging them directly, I’m extremely proud of the fact that I have personally made change at Babson.
Ryan, when I read your blog post, I totally sympathized with your feelings. If you read this, please know that I’d love to brainstorm with you about how we as students can work with the school to create a better Babson experience for everyone.