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Examining the Disadvantages of Attending Stanford

Sunday, July 6th, 2008

The American Scholar – The Disadvantages of an Elite Education – By William Deresiewicz
I just finished this great essay by a professor at Yale who realizes that he has nothing to say to his plumber; he has no way to make small talk with a lower-middle class guy. Deresiewicz goes on to discuss the three disadvantages of students who graduate from elite universities:
1) You don’t know how to talk to people who are not “smart” in the analytical sense (like you are)
2) You get a false sense of self-worth through the way the school bends over backwards for you
3) You lose the ability to accept less than prestigious lives – elite universities do not produce many elementary teachers, artists or poets
4) You don’t get a chance to truly explore the intellectual life because you are too busy trying to jump through hoops
It reminded me of Rick Perlstein’s essay “What’s the matter with College” which I responded to rather viciously. But this essay is either coming at the issue from a different angle (less aggressive, more humble and introspective) or I’ve just changed my mind over the past year. Maybe a little bit of both.
Even though I’ve changed career paths from medicine to business (Applied to the Harvard 2+2 program last week), I still agree with the essay’s ideas.
One of my friend might make a great teacher, but even his parents told him: “If you wanted to be a teacher, you could have gone to San Jose State. If you go to Stanford, you’ll have to do more”. So he’s applying to law school.
I’m lucky that I’ve learned a lot about failure through sports – specifically gymnastics. When only one person/team can win, you learn that often, you are not good enough. You learn how to fail and smile and keep trying. There is no equivalent in most other collegiate endeavors.
I daydream about traveling the world, but wonder what my parents and classmates would think. I’m eager to make an impact on the world, but also wish I could spend a whole summer just reading books and playing video games. But how stupid would that be?
Anyway check out the essay and tell me what YOU think. The Disadvantages of an Elite Education


Sunday, June 22nd, 2008

Finally, it’s time for summer, which means eating ice cream, heading to the pool/beach and playing lots of video games. Well, I guess at Stanford that mean doing internships at big companies, working at start-ups, doing research, studying for a standardized test, training for an athletic team or some combination thereof.
I’m taking it easy this summer – just working part-time at the Stanford Calling Program, doing gymnastics training and doing a little work for Gumball Capital. More about that next time.
What are you up to this summer?

Achieving Gender Equality in the Workplace

Wednesday, February 27th, 2008

I recently had a conversation with a female resident in my dorm about how women are underrepresented in the top level positions of academia and industry. Our discussion centered around the fact that as a man, I come into the conversation with assumptions about how women should be treated in the work-force. I recently wrote her an email:

” I’m not trying to start anything here. Like I said earlier, I am 100% in support of getting women equal salaries and top positions in industry and academia. But getting there will be very hard, because of one fact:

Women bear children and are generally expected to the primary caretaker for their children at least through infancy.

Penelope Trunk is an amazing writer/blogger and her blog Brazen Careerist is one of the few blogs where every single post is both worth reading and worth saving for future reference. She also talks about her personal issues, liker going into couples therapy and eventually annoucing her divorce. But it’s never annoying, but always mixed with some advice and reflection on the situation.

She blogged 6 years ago about how getting pregnant later in her career has affected her: Slowing down a career to have kids

I had access to education, I had access to the pill, I had access to money and jobs. I felt that society easily accepted my choices to be single, to focus on my career. Everyone told me “don’t worry about kids, you’ll have time.” … I thought I was so smart, so organized and driven for waiting. But I’m not sure if waiting got me all that much except a high-risk pregnancy.

She blogged recently about what post-partum depression was like for her – a working mother with no time off – and the story is heart-wrenching, real and illustrates the difficulties that women who wish to have a family face when advancing their career.

The part of postpartum depression that no one talks about

Also, people like Lynzee “I believe every girls should marry every rich guy so they never have to work” Stauss don’t help the cause.

Two Great Resources for Jobs and Internships: BASES Start-up Job Fair, and One Day, One Job .com

Friday, February 22nd, 2008

Seniors: still haven’t got a job set up for next year? Interested in trying something different? Juniors and Underclassmen: Are you planning to just serve coffee, fold t-shirts, or bag groceries this summer?
No matter where you are in your career path, you need to check out two great resources for snagging that job or internship you want: the Entrepreneur Career Expo and One Day, One Job .com
Entrepreneur Career Expo
BASES and the CDC do a lot of different things to help students succeed in their careers, and this job fair is one of them. This one brings nearly 100 start-ups to Stanford to look for bright, enthusiastic Stanford students to work on their cutting-edge, curve-jumping, paradigm-shifting, web 3.0 companies.
I imagine most employers will be looking for coders and engineers but fuzzies, don’t lose hope! History and English majors often make great marketing interns. I believe our own Editor-in-Chief Christian (History major) is interning at SharpCast.
So get out there and strut your stuff. It’s Thursday Feb 28th, 1-4pm on the 2nd floor of Tressider. And don’t forget to prepare.
One Day, One Job
This is a really cool blog (and a clever name) started by a Cornell grad that discusses entry-level positions at a different company each day. They’ve covered some pretty cool companies like Netflix, Bear Naked Granola, and Nintendo. It’s a great resource for people who people who don’t know where to start looking for a job and don’t want to do the same old thing.
They also publish articles on job searching, on topics like How to Use Google to Find a Job. For internships, they’ve started a similar site called One Job, One Internship. Same idea, but for internships. So definitely check out this cool site. Subscribe to the RSS and get the thrill of a new job opportunity each day!

Oprah Winfrey to Speak at Stanford 2008 Commencement

Wednesday, February 20th, 2008

I just got an email in my inbox about Oprah Winfrey being our commencement speaker for graduation this year. My first thought:
“Wow – the senior cabinet got the job done”.
Everyone knows that Oprah is huge. But how huge? She’s been called “one of the 100 people who most influenced the 20th Century” and “one of the most influential people” of 2004 through 2007 by Time.
Her TV show is the longest running day-time talk show ever (22 seasons) and though I couldn’t find any numbers, is watched by a enormous number of people.
She also has a really popular magazine called O which Fortune called the “most successful startup ever” in the magazine industry. (I personally find it hilarious that every issue has Oprah on the cover)
Yeah, her show is often “feel-good” and spiritual and people make jokes about how women always cry when the watch Oprah. But that doesn’t matter. She clearly knows something about being famous and successful (something every Stanford student secretly or not-so-secretly wants to be).
Her success is even more impressive when you consider that, according to wikipedia, she was born to an single teenage mom and raised in the ghettos of Milwaukee.
Last year, the graduation speaker was Dana Gioia, a poet and the chairman of the National Endowment of the Arts. No sloucher, but not exactly what many seniors were looking for. And the while not everyone was disappointed by Dana Gioia, many were.
I’m glad the Class of 08 was able to step up.

Midterms are here…

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

There is something sinister in the air. The evidence is everywhere: social outtings are canceled or postponed, student group meetings have half their normal turnout, the libraries are always full. Ah yes, the four weeks of rolling midterms have arrived. And with them comes thousands of stressed out Stanford students.
The problem with midterms at Stanford is that each class often has two, making it hardly “midterm”. Add to that the 10 week quarter, and students get basically 2-3 weeks of free time before all hell breaks loose.
And we’ve all heard the horror stories: 3 midterms in 36 hours. A paper, a pset and an exam all on the same day. I personally have 2 quantitative midterms both on Tuesday of next week. 4 hours of equations doesn’t sound like my idea of a good time.
How does your midterm schedule look? What’s the worst story you’ve heard?

Don’t Stress the Post-Grad Stuff

Thursday, January 24th, 2008


(This is the second time I’m writing this post, as the first one got deleted. Hate when that happens…)
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about different post-graduate opportunities. It’s still a bit early for me as I’m a senior whose doing a 5th year coterm. But like most Stanford students, I’ve got a wide array of options on the table. Personally, I’m considering:

Research, joining a tech startup, starting my own company, management consulting, non-profit work, Google, med school and b-school. As I consider all these options, there are a bunch of factors I taking into account:

  • How much I will enjoy the day to day work?
  • What I will learn in terms of knowledge, skills and experience?
  • Who I will interact with: friends, colleagues, bosses, mentors?
  • What I will have accomplished?
  • Is this opportunity is available later on in life?
  • How much I will get paid?
  • Whether I’m making a positive contribution to society?

You may have your own list as well. The problem with all these opportunities is that you stress about whether or not you there is a “best one” for you, and making sure that you get it. As research has shown, more options = less happiness with final choice.

But when I think about all most fulfilling, educational and admirable things I’ve done or been a part of, I realize that there are two things they all shared:

1) There were always times when I hated what I was doing, or thought it was a waste of time, or felt unhappy with how I was being treated.

2) I got what I put into in. If I just tried to coast by, do the minimum, or go through the motions, I gained little of value. But when I put everything into it, went the extra mile and really made it a priority, I gained something very valuable.

So here’s what I’m saying – Don’t stress too much over the post-grad stuff. Whatever you end up choosing will be good for you provided you enter with a curious, honest and willing-to-work attitude. We’re all exceptional people here at Stanford, and we bring that with us, wherever we end up going.

Thoughts from Good Will Hunting

Monday, January 21st, 2008

After my girlfriend found out I hadn’t seen Good Will Hunting, she said I had to see it with her. Well I just watched it, and I thought it was pretty good. One-line synopsis – Matt Damon is Will, a troubled 20 year old who is a math genius, and Robin Williams plays the therapist who is unwilling to quit on him. Here are a few thoughts.

“You blew 150k on an education you could have gotten in$1.50 in late fees from the library.”
I’m a huge believer in self-education, and Will is the epitome of the self-taught man. He’s read from all the great minds of the ages and knows he knows his stuff. He’s math genius and clearly has a powerful memory. But some of his other intelligences are missing.

Wasting Potential
“I mean, you’re sittin’ on a winnin’ lottery ticket. You’re too much of a pussy to cash it in, and that’s bullshit.”
As a gymnast, I have seen lots of kids with tons of potential. Kids who are super flexible, and strong and learn skills easily. And it is just heartbreaking to see when they quit gymnastics out of boredom, or because they are unwilling to work hard, or they are scared of something. And that’s what Will has been doing for most of his life. Until he finally sacks up.

Vulnerability as Strength
But you’ve never looked at a woman and been totally vulnerable … You don’t know about real loss, ‘cause it only occurs when you’ve loved something more than you love yourself.
Will is an orphan and was abused by his foster parents. It made him scared of getting close to people. But he hasn’t realized that to be really strong, he has to face his fears of getting hurt again. You have to embrace life for what it is, pain and all.

The challenge of doing what you really want
This is a problem that Will shares with most of Stanford students. When you have so many opportunities open to you, what do you choose to do? Will works in construction, but could have any number of jobs – from Wall Street to the NSA. The same is true for most Stanford students, truly anything is open. But then the problem becomes – what do you really want to do? And most people have a bitch of a time answering that one.

All in all, a great movie. I recommend it.

Macbook Air – Just too thin..

Saturday, January 19th, 2008

I never thought I’d say this … but the new Macbook Air is just unnecessarily thin.
The thinness really ruins the product – it has only ONE usb port, NO cd drive, and a TINY hard drive. It is slow. This really reduces its usefulness a great deal. One of my friends has been holding out on getting a new apple and now he’s just dejectedly looking at the older macbook line.
Now I’ve got nothing against Apple. They are making products that look like they belong 20 years in the future – I speak specifically of the iPhone and the iPod Touch. And the Macbook Air does still pack 2GB of Ram, a multi-touch pad and 5 hour battery into something as thin as a finger. And of course, tons of people are still going to lap it up.
But reducing the functionality that much makes the Air reminiscent of Palm’s worst decision ever (aka the Palm Foleo). It’s got the sweet Apple coverings, but is that enough? Are you going to get a Macbook Air? Do you know anyone who has?

Stanford Gymnasts (who live in Bob) Kick Butt

Sunday, January 13th, 2008


This weekend both the Stanford Men’s and Women’s Gymnastics competed in their first competition for the season. The men were away at Chicago for the Windy City Invitational while the women competed at home against Georgia, the defending national champions.
The Stanford Men’s team went into Chicago on Saturday with a #1 preseason ranking – and we showed everyone that we deserved it. Facing off against Michigan, Illinois, UIC, Minnesota, Iowa and Ohio State, our Cardinal went for 354.450 to win the meet by a 7 point margin. David Sender (my roommate in Bob) won the individual all-around also by nearly 7 points over the 2nd place finisher. The men’s have their first home meet on Saturday, January 26th in the Stanford Open. (If you haven’t been to one, you have to go. Men’s gymnastics meets are awesome).
The Women’s team competed to an massive and enthusiastic crowd at Burnham Pavillion. Even with hitting 23 out of 24 routines, the Cardinal were unable to top Georgia, losing by only 7 tenths (196.875-196.150). Carly Janiga (who also lives in Bob) had the top beam score for the evening with a 9.9. The girls compete again at home on Sunday, January 20th against University of Arizona.


New Year’s Resolution Suggestion: Form a Habit

Sunday, January 6th, 2008


I’m usually not that big on New Year’s Resolutions. Mainly because I never felt the need to stop smoking, lose weight or drink less, the main resolutions we always hear about. But this year, a few factors have come together to help me make a New Year’s Resolution
1) I feel that my episodic or “experiential” memory (as opposed to my semantic or “reading” memory) is very weak and lacking. I don’t remember things that happened to me a year ago – other people will tell me things I said or did. (And no, it’s not because I was wasted…)
2) I never feel as organized as I want to be. There are always things I need to do that slip through the cracks, or appointments that I miss and I want that to change.
3) When buying a gift for my mom at the Stanford Bookstore, I saw a Daily Planner Moleskine. I’m a big fan of Moleskines and it looked so nice and professional. I wanted it.
So these factors combined have lead me to make a Resolution: each evening I will review my appointments and tasks for the next day, and write one sentence about any interesting or significant or happy things that happened during the day (inspired by the Happiness Project’s journal). This will allow me to become better organized, and happier as well. Not a bad combination in my view.
I want this planner/journal thing to become a habit. I have a very hard time developing good habits – I just do things as they come to me, and I hope this Resolution will become a daily habit that makes my life better. So if you’re still thinking about making a New Year’s Resolution (it’s not too late!), think about making a daily, or weekly habit. Imagine the difference one year later.
It’s what you do everyday, not what you do once in a while, that counts.

Work Doesn’t Stop for a Stanford Student During Winter Break

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

(The most fun I will have all week…besides Christmas morning)
I don’t know about other people, but winter break has not been super relaxing. Some of my friends at home will talk about how they have over a month off at home, and they’ve been playing a ton of poker or watching seasons of TV shows and sleeping in. Somehow I find that there’s always a lot of work to be done over my winter breaks. I don’t mind too much, but it is a little rough sometimes…
* Right after finals were over, I still had to type up a 10+ pg chapter for my honors thesis in the ethics of transplant organ allocation – which translated into a few rather late nights.
* As part of the men’s gymnastics team, we stay on campus for a few extra days where we really ramp up the training intensity, including two-a-day sessions.
* Since I’ve been home, I’ve been helping my parents shop for teens and tweens, showing them how to use Picasa to organize their photos (again), and burning DVDs of youtube videos.
* I had a 2 hour Skype meeting for Gumball Capital, and we ironed out the tasks that needed to be done before break was over – for me that meant writing a newsletter about our progress in the past few months, and detailing the responsibilities of each department, in preparation for a new round of recruiting.
* Finally, I’ve been trying to get people to vote for my ChangeThis manifesto proposal – entitled “Success-Driven Philosophy: Achieving Clarity of Purpose” cowritten with a former teammate of mine. Both of us have studied philosophy at Stanford and we want to help people use philosophical examination to achieve success in personal and professional goals. Vote for it here!
What about you? How do you cope with the Winter Break? Do you just drop everything and relax? Or is it a chance to buckle down and get some work done?

All-Nighters and Final Exam Strategies

Thursday, December 13th, 2007

I hope most of you have finished your final exams and papers. I personally like papers better because you can stay up all night and finish it. You need to actually sleep before exams (something I haven’t been doing a good job doing…). Anyway, I ran into a great picture I wanted to share. (click to enlarge)

And if you are still taking finals, there are some great resources out there. The best is probably that when taking a True or False test – "The Answer is NOT always C

5 Reasons Why the Roundabout Sucks

Wednesday, December 5th, 2007

I don’t know about anyone else, but I think the new roundabouts suck and I just want to explain why. Here are 5 reasons:
1 – People don’t understand what to do – I see people look really confused and slow down, causing accidents and annoyed bikers everywhere.
2 – People refuse to go the right way – I am a Stanford student, and no one is going to tell me what to do! I do this and I know other people are sticking it to the Man too by not following the roundabout.
3 – It looks stupid – It’s way too big, there’s grass inside the circle, one of them has a tiny little chain link “guard rail” around it.
4 – Sense of security – Lots of people are now thinking “Oh, there is a roundabout. It MUST be safe”. Wrong.
5 – No more “Intersection of Death” – The IoD used to be a rich source of cautionary tales that is woven into the Stanford tapestry. Until it was replaced by this sterile, bureaucratic solution.
Feel free to add your reasons below – either for or against.

Apparently Professors Hate Laptops in Lecture

Tuesday, November 27th, 2007

I came across this interesting article in the NYTimes about technology in the classroom: New Class(room) War: Teacher vs. Technology – New York Times
Apparently lots of teachers are annoyed with the fact that students use their laptops and smart/cell phones in class instead of listening to the Prof. According to one:
“The more you give, the more they take. These devices become an indisposable sort of thing for the students. And nothing should be indisposable. Multitasking is good, but I want them to do more tasking in my class.”
The author replies:
“To which one can only say: Amen. And add: Too bad the good guy is going to lose.”
Seriously? How is text messaging worse than doodling on the corner of the page, daydreaming or passing notes? They are all ways of ignoring the teacher and have been around for as long as boring teachers have.
If profs want to get more student engagement, they need to make their classes more engaging. Lots of education research shows that lecturing is just not very effective at fostering serious intellectual thinking. I wrote my PWR2 paper on cooperative learning which does a much better job.
All I have to say is that at least these students are coming to class. I think many more people would just skip lecture if they weren’t allowed to text, surf facebook or according to the article, watch porn, during lecture.
What do you guys think? Technology in classrooms yay or nay?