Saturday, November 08, 2008

Unexpected Connections


We had a town hall style meeting at BGI last week as part of the second Intensive of the fall term. It was organized by the BGI community to vet the new presidential candidate for BGI, someone to fill the place of the school's founder and current president Gifford Pinchot. As I write this, I suppose his place will not necessarily be filled, it will be invented again for a new person.

To my surprise, I realized that the gentleman we were there to meet, whose CV I had in my hand, had been the president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) when I was there Jon C. Strauss. I realized this as I scanned his CV, noting his nine year tenure at WPI that ended in 1994, the same year I graduated. THAT was a connection I did not expect to have.

Why am I reflecting on this strange coincidence? I suppose it has something to do with the fact that for many years I have been trying to distance myself from my engineering undergraduate work. For some reason, I think the label "engineer" conjures up stereotypes that I may not be interested in dealing with. Unfortunately, since I had approached Jon prior to his speaking to us and told him I was there when he was there, he called me out to the entire class as a fellow extroverted engineer. I was a good shill. The event was great, and I believe Jon would make an excellent second president of BGI. He would provide the institutional knowledge to guide this crazy little start up through its next phase of growth and development into the world class institution of sustainable higher learning we all know it can be.

What I have realized is that distancing myself from my undergrad experience is not really a good idea. I learned a lot there despite the fact that engineering may not have been my "true calling". I met people that I still consider very close friends and I have a solid technical foundation that makes understanding many of the concepts related to sustainability (LCA, renewable energy, thermodynamic efficiency, closed-loop manufacturing, etc.) that much easier for me. So I suppose the lesson is; try not to pretend your past does not exist and accept it for what it is.

Also, I guess I should have taken the time to get to know the administration at WPI, since now it might be a real asset. Oh, and WPI launched their own sustainability initiative earlier in 2008. I wonder if Jon could help me make the right connections?

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