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Swarthmore alum will take questions

riverguardianriverguardian Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
edited May 2010 in Swarthmore College
Graduated in May 2009 with a dual degree in Engineering and Linguistics. I am an international, set foot on campus for the first time on the first day of orientation (in the Fall). I was chiefly involved in the Swarthmore Fire Company, IEEE and the Lang Center. The professors I've known the most are (in order of familiarity)

K. David Harrison, Ted Fernald
Erik Cheever, Lynn Molter, Faruq Siddiqui and the rest of the Engineering dept
Aimee Johnson from the Math dept
Catherine Crouch from the Chem dept

I am biased in the sense that I love the school, but I will try to be impartial when it comes to feedback and questions. Ask away, any and all!
Post edited by riverguardian on
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Replies to: Swarthmore alum will take questions

  • momof3sonsmomof3sons Registered User Posts: 5,116 Senior Member
    riverguardian-what was your involvement with the Swarthmore Fire Company? I know it's a volunteer department, but were you a volunteer firefighter? EMT? Can you tell me a bit about your experience? Thanks.
  • butterflibutterfli Registered User Posts: 13 New Member
    I know that on the website they make a big deal about how the Swarthmore Engineering program is different from others' - how would you say that your approach to engineering is different compared to others, since you're in the job market now, I'm assuming?

    What kind of opportunities did you have with the Lang Center that involved Engineering, if any?

    Thanks!
  • riverguardianriverguardian Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
    momof3sons - I was both a firefighter and an EMT, firefighter at the national level, EMT at the Pennsylvania state level. Combined that was nearly 500 hours of training, but it was very doable even with the Swarthmore workload (I took 5 credits while doing the training). I completed Firefighter I in the fall of freshman year, Firefighter II spring of freshman year, and EMT-B at Delaware County Community College during the spring of sophomore year.

    butterfli - The Engineering department at Swarthmore allows for a surprising amount of depth despite the lack of specificity you may get at other more specialized schools. The breadth factor has you taking a myriad of Engineering courses up to your sophomore year, when you begin dabbling with courses you want to take depending on your interests. It also means you get a good grasp of what you like and what you're good at. My class had a range of people interested in environmental engineering (I think one of the largest), civil (almost if not equally as many), electrical, mechanical, chemical in that order. What really got me interested in Swarthmore's Engineering was being told at a college fair in Paris from a teacher that now teaches at Stanford that Swarthmore's Engineering department was really and truly spectacular. It's a small department so it has its drawbacks there (we've been trying to get a robotics professor into the department, but it's hard), but overall I can't complain a bit.

    I think what it affords you is a deep appreciation for Engineering not only as a difficult discipline that provides all sorts of practical knowledge but that it also gives you a way of thinking and a way of solving problems that is very practical even beyond Swarthmore.

    For the Lang Center I was mainly doing stuff related to my interest and passion in web design - doing techy stuff and teaching a course on web design for a semester, which was a lot of fun.
  • KeilexandraKeilexandra Registered User Posts: 5,492 Senior Member
    What was your experience like with the Ling department? Pros/cons?
  • riverguardianriverguardian Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
    Pros:
    There's a fantastic faculty who are all really nice and really fun to work with and learn from. From my standpoint I benefited from being interested in endangered and dying languages, as I had the opportunity of working with Dr. K. David Harrison and also Keren Rice, who was invited to teach a semester from Toronto. I took a Syntax class with then-new professor Vera Lee-Schoenfeld and I was so impressed I decided to continue taking another of her classes the following semester in Semantics. I've helped Prof. Harrison do fascinating research on Siletz and Tuvan, and I also started a website project with other students in Keren Rice's class (Endangered Languages - Information and resources on dying languages of the world).

    Cons:
    I think it's unfortunate that there's a general (mistaken) perception that Linguistics is an easy department because the people there are so nice to work with. By easy I mean relatively easy to pursue a major (as though you may opt for a linguistics major if all else fails). It's really what you make of it, as with any department on campus, I guess, and I think the Linguistics department decides to put the burden of responsibility on the student.
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    Thanks for answering questions, Riverguardian.

    On the engineering department, I guess it's a rather obvious point, but probably needs to be highlighted: The mere thought of a double-major in Engineering and Linguistics is inconceivable at most engineering programs. Not rare. Inconceivable.

    The very fact that many students can, and do, double major in Engineering and fields like Linquistics, Music, Economics, or History is in and, of itself, one of the most unique aspects of an engineering program in the context of a liberal arts college.

    Graduates of a standard specialized engineering program take courses and study things that Swarthmore engineers don't, but the converse is true, as well -- like being to write, for example!
  • KeilexandraKeilexandra Registered User Posts: 5,492 Senior Member
    ^^Did you ever wish that the dept. was larger, or feel the need to take classes at Penn?
  • riverguardianriverguardian Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
    interesteddad - it's perhaps even rarer to be provided with both an MS and a MA given that the Engineering department at Swarthmore is ABET accredited. I really cherish that interdisciplinary approach that Swarthmore students are able to enjoy - I have peers who also crafted special majors in Environmental Engineering, for example, including aspects of a biology education.

    Keilexandra - Sometimes I have thought it would be nice to have a larger department, but I like the way it is because it gives opportunities for students to really be supportive. In the context of Senior Design projects, for example, rather than being overly competitive and snide, I felt that my peers were really interested in what I was doing (as I was interested in their projects). This in turn gave me more ideas and motivation to do better. I did end up taking a class at UPenn (Computational Linguistics) but I felt it was easier than Swarthmore (though I can't really make a fair comparison as I didn't take it at Swarthmore - I took NLP at Swarthmore and had a lot of fun, though I fared slightly worse).
  • ibnemesisibnemesis Registered User Posts: 13 New Member
    I'm actually also interested in Engineering. Though i'm sure you will be a bit biased towards Swarthmore, which I don't mind and in fact I would love to hear why Swat engineering is good do you think I should chose it over Carnegie Mellon engineering? Also, did you take classes at Penn?(This that common and was it good?)
    ps. Since you graduated in '09 What are yu doing now? My mom wants to know whether its possible to get a job after 4 years at Swat or does everyone go to grad school, which seems like that's what Swat prepares for.
  • riverguardianriverguardian Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
    I am currently working as a software engineer with a fantastic (I mean truly fantastic) salary. I think half of my classmates are working, the other half are at grad school. I'll quote a response I made about Swat engineering vs UPenn engineering:

    "The one reason I'd go ahead and suggest Swarthmore over Penn is if you may ever consider actually doing math with a minor in economics you'll have a much better opportunity at Swat. The marvelous thing is that Swarthmore is one of the few liberal arts schools that does Engineering well and provides a BS in the field, ABET accredited and all. A good friend and Engineering classmate of mine is at Morgan Stanley now, and enjoying it a lot. Another graduated the year before mine and also worked in Wall Street. There's a certain benefit to having a BA and a BS, in my opinion, but you have to make an effort there too.

    If you find some courses at Penn that aren't offered at Swarthmore you can also end up taking them there, including some odd Engineering class. I ended up taking a class in computational linguistics there and the class was mildly easier compared to Swat.

    The thing is, if midway through Penn you realize Engineering isn't quite what you wanted to do, you would probably find fewer options to pursue at an in-depth level than you would at Swarthmore. If Engineering *is* what you want to do, or you know that there are certain things you *really* want to do, UPenn is likely a better bet. There were plenty of recruiting events (though not specifically targeted at Swarthmore) but I wouldn't go into a school just for the recruitment.

    Did you visit both? UPenn and Swarthmore have radically different environments too, which is a surprisingly big factor for me."

    Granted, CMU is a fantastic school, though that's based on hearsay. Do you know what you want to major in or what sorts of stuff you want to do after graduating?
  • ibnemesisibnemesis Registered User Posts: 13 New Member
    First of all I JUST got back from visiting Swat.. Beautiful i'll give it that
    Well "if" I go to CMU I would double in Electrical and Biomedical (at CMU in order to get Biomedical, which is my main interest, you HAVE TO double with another field) I would be fulfilling preDental requirements with Biomed and focus in robotics with the electrical (a lot I know, but when I talked to them they said a lot of what I want overlaps with other things so its possible) I know Swat I heard is great for pre-anything including dental. But I might just end up going into Engineering so for definite after grad Im not sure..
    My main concern is two-fold: A) how does swat engineering compare to CMU and a more general Q B) Are there opportunities for students to do some research and interships or not really since it is only for undergrads.
  • interesteddadinteresteddad Registered User Posts: 24,177 Senior Member
    Two Swat engineering majors built a hydrogen fuel cell powered motorcycle last year for their senior design project. Does that count as research?

    Swarthmore College - Department of Engineering

    Here's the page with the senior design projects for the last eight or nine years, many with Wiki pages, video, and so forth. Take a look:

    Swarthmore College - Department of Engineering
  • Md12345Md12345 Registered User Posts: 18 New Member
    Hey thanks for this great info. Im an international student as well and I just got accepted. However I come from a very urban city so I was wondering how big the cultural shock was for you in your freshman year?
  • EndicottEndicott Registered User Posts: 1,435 Senior Member
    It wouldn't be shocking to someone who's used to cities--there's a train station right on campus that can have you in Philadelphia in less then 20 minutes. It's not an isolated environment. If you want to have Chinese food at midnight in the city, you can go in and come back by 2:00 a.m.
  • riverguardianriverguardian Registered User Posts: 19 New Member
    The wonderful thing is that Swarthmore has the perfect combination of rural and urban setting. I've biked into Philly before (with a bleeding/bandaged hand, crashed shortly before heading to Critical Mass but managed to get in nonetheless) and the train is very convenient. Then again, when you're on campus you have a hundred and one reasons not to leave (people, classes, WORK, extracurriculars, arboretum, sleep). I am an international as well, and first set foot on campus on the day before orientation, and it's been a fantastic experience ever since.

    As for ibnemesis:
    > preDental requirements with Biomed and focus in robotics with the electrical
    If you're not sure about what it is exactly you want to do, and you want to try different things, go for Swarthmore. I've had people express dissatisfaction once they got to Swarthmore because they had a one-track mindset about what they wanted to do and what they wanted Swarthmore to do for them (ie pave them a way to a job/grad school), and I think that's not exactly the approach that's best for Swat. There are tons of internship and job opportunities (hey, I just graduated last year and am hoping to provide an internship position at my current job). But like I said, if you know you really want to do Engineering (and a specific one at that, like EE or CE or ME), then I'd say go for CMU.

    But if you don't mind taking beautiful path down a wonderful, undiscovered road where you'll have plenty of opportunities to find out who you are, and meet some great people along the way, then I'd say go for Swarthmore. Its Engineering department is small but I'm very proud of it, particularly because of the camaraderie it generated, and because the teachers are so willing to go out of their way to help you achieve what you want. So the bottom line is that it's not about what Swarthmore can do for you, it's what you can do *with* Swarthmore.
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