I’m quickly coming to the realization that I’m never going to finish applying. High school applications are a long time ago now. Then came college applications, job applications, etc. And there are more to come. Here’s the application I just wrote for Harvey Mudd’s Summer Institute. It seems funny to me at the moment, but that could be because I should really just go to sleep. Hopefully whoever reads it will understand. The gist of it is that I was supposed to write a page long explanation of why I should be among the 40 students selected for Summer Institute, a program which nominally caters especially to those who are ‘underrepresented’ in the fields of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (STEM).
Looking at my heritage alone, it is difficult to see why I ought to be chosen for a program with an emphasis on students underrepresented in STEM fields. After all, I’m a WASP insofar as religious ambivalence can be considered ‘protestant,’ particularly considering that protesting against the Catholic clergy seems to be very much in vogue at the moment. The fact that I was raised by a single mother does little to distinguish me- there is no box for ‘single mother’ or ‘blended family’ on any application for jobs or schools that I have ever read. The only diversity I can claim is diversity of thought- in my mind, the only kind that truly matters.
So how do I think differently? Perhaps my background is different. I’ve worked in a variety of capacities since the age of fourteen as everything from a landscaper to a small business CIO, a programmer to a tutor. During my freshman year I had the unforgettable schedule of getting up at five am to run to the gym, work out, shower, walk to school, class until three thirty, cross country or track until five thirty, run or walk to work, leave at nine or nine thirty, then look after my dying grandmother until she fell asleep. Somewhere in there were rehearsals for shows and a little practice on the viola, but looking back I don’t know where or when any of that got done.
But let’s say you’ve got forty-one such people.- but that’s too optimistic. There will be women, and people of every conceivable race and creed, all people who are clearly ‘underrepresented.’ In what way do I think so differently from any of these seemingly obvious choices that I, and not they, should be permitted to participate?
Well, I’ve written a novel. How many novelists are found in STEM fields? Isaac Asimov is the obvious nominee, and while others may have degrees in one or more scientific fields, very few others were working scientists during their writing careers. I have a strong interest in creative writing that cannot be explained in rational or scientific terms. Therefore I won’t. QED.
If that horrendous usage of the phrase quod erat demonstrandum made you flinch, I like you better already.
Since I’ve decided to set provable arguments aside, let’s move into speculation. I will get more out of Summer Institute than any heretofore mentioned hypothetical person. They’re hypothetical; I invented them and I can tell you with the utmost candor that set up against me they’re lazy bums, every last one of them. I would be very surprised if, by the end of Summer Institute, I haven’t already scoped out what research I would like to pursue during the school year. Check back to my original application if you want my thoughts on the importance of research. I’ll know every inch of Claremont from my daily runs, as well as which business owners are friendly enough to let a sweaty stranger use their bathrooms without buying anything. The question: does SoCal possess Southern hospitality? I can’t imagine it being worse than here in Maryland. This state is too far south to be properly elite and too far north to be hospitable.
So I’ve said that I’ll work hard, fully exploiting the opportunity granted me. At the very least I can give historical evidence to back that up. I’ve taken more courses than my high school actually allows, even if my transcript only shows one extra course, I’ve audited them every other year whether officially or by special arrangement. This past year, I wrote an eight page long optional paper for Perspectives on American Government. As an auditor, the paper wasn’t graded, but let’s just say that my teacher had a sense of humor and circled one of the vowels in his comment, then drew an arrow labeled ‘what your grade would be.’ But that doesn’t matter, if it hadn’t been amusing I wouldn’t have mentioned it. The key lies in the comment itself, where he suggested that I forget the whole science thing and go to law school.
Sorry, Mr. Steinbach. No can do.
Hopefully that’s proof enough that, given an opportunity, I will not only take it, but steal it, run away with it, then rebuild it using whatever I have lying around into a product that is greater than the sum of its parts.
If that isn’t enough, I can only hope you’ll take pity on me. My poor mother encouraged me to apply, saying “with the amount you eat, you can’t afford to turn down two and a half weeks of free food.”
So forget those hypothetical individuals. Select me, and up to thirty nine other students who are nothing at all like myself, the hypothetical examples, or whatever type of student might be overrepresented in STEM fields. Students who realize there is more to science than doing science, because cold fusion is only useful if you can convince someone to use it, not to mention getting the funding first.
Perhaps that’s how I should have begun.
Step 1. Choose me (and the correct assortment of other, thoroughly non-hypothetical, students)
Step 2. ???
Step 3. Receive funding and PROFIT.