Substituting Solar Panels for Great Books
by: Peter Vincent ‘12
At Shimer you quickly learn the value of communicating clearly and constructively with others.This skill is not only applicable to the Great Books and rooms with octagonal tables, but as graduates know, also becomes invaluable in the workplace. Similarly, I have come to find that my time at Shimer has helped me tremendously this semester in the midst of a collaborative business project sponsored by the Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT).
Every year IIT offers an Interprofessional Projects Program (IPRO) course which features a selection of projects based on real-world problems that students from multiple disciplines work together to solve. This fall I became the first Shimer student to participate in an IPRO project, and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made during my academic career.
If all continues as planned, my IPRO team will travel to Haiti this December to install solar panels at a Haitian primary school in support of the One Laptop Per Child Program. The panels will power a charging station for children’s laptops and provide electricity for additional uses such as charging cellular phones.
Working on this project has required a constant level of communication and education between team members. When problems arise, people are often hesitant to be the first to offer solutions. Fortunately, I have learned that even being wrong initially can be helpful. To throw out an idea, even an uncertain one, is often enough to get conversation flowing. If I had never learned to have courage and question a class about an imposing author such as Hegel or Plato, I may not have been able to do the same with confidence amidst my IPRO team. Fortunately my team members are able to provide ready explanations and feedback, unlike 19th century tomes about transcendental idealism.
The experience has also allowed me to form a new appreciation for the partnership between IIT and Shimer, while also confirming the value of a Shimer education. The ability to see problems and misunderstandings as not only expected, but also as potential solutions, is empowering in any situation. I sincerely hope that my IPRO team will extend a sense of empowerment to Haitian students as well.
For more details on the IPRO project please visit http://www.iitempoweringhaiti.org.