Christmas Dinner 2017
I didn’t join ESTEEM to change the world.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m totally into changing the world. I probably wrote that my goal in life was to change the world dozens of times during my grade school career. However, I joined ESTEEM because somewhere along the path of engineering, I realized that I was neglecting a very large part of my personality and personal aspirations because of the sheer amount of STEM courses I was required to take in order to graduate. I loved my engineering course work in undergrad, but there was something missing – that bit of knowledge that focused on how to connect solutions to problems and problems to people.
Turns out I was wrong about the order. First, they taught me, you need to find the people. Then, you identify a critical need, a pain point that makes something in their life harder. Then, and only then, can you find a solution that matters. This process is essential to many of the lessons we learn in ESTEEM. Even the laptop stickers they give us proclaim, “Fix things that matter.” After all, that’s how you change the world.
When we started in June, most of us didn’t know anyone in the program (a lucky few had a partner or two from their home university), most of us had never taken a business course, and a lot of us had no idea what we actually wanted out of the program. I remember that during the first welcome dinner (during which I frantically tried to memorize names only to realize I had neglected to also memorize the faces) I had a conversation with a couple of people about how we were doing ESTEEM because the classes sounded interesting and a hands-on thesis project sounded useful, but we didn’t have many more goals beyond that. This wasn’t true for everyone, of course, but for those of us who just took this on as a challenge – we’ve come a long way.
Through classes and side projects, many of us are now involved in some sort of start-up venture. Not because its required by the program, but because we found something that we are passionate about. We can tell you to “validate” and “get out of the building” and “pivot” like the best of them, but we also understand what that means when applied to real life – whether that be engineering, business, or even ethics and society. We work hard, but we play hard, too. Organizing Christmas Exchanges and Halloween Parties and Tailgates in order to break up the stream of work. We look out for each other and encourage each other. It’s been a blast.
The ESTEEM class of 2018 is now two-thirds of the way through our journey at Notre Dame. We’ve learned a lot and are already itching to go out and apply the knowledge we have been given to the real world.
I’d like to end with the words from Father Sorin circa 1842: “This college will be one of the most powerful means for doing good in this country.”
It’s good to know that this group of 44 students will be a part of doing just that.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays