Month: October 2009

Danielle Jordan, ’07

I graduated with a double major in math and economics along with two years of Chinese classes. An essential part of my experience at Lawrence was an internship in the summer of 2006 in Ohio and China with A.O. Smith, a Milwaukee-based manufacturer of electric motors and water heaters. Prior to the internship, I had no business experience and did not know what I could do with my majors. I learned a lot about business and China during that summer, but the most important thing that I gained was a new-found confidence in myself, my educational background, and my preparation for the future. I have been working for A.O. Smith since graduation at their China headquarters in Nanjing.

My current responsibilities are varied, and include market research for new business opportunities, translation, overseeing the company’s online learning management system in China, etc. My day-to-day work in Nanjing has few direct links to coursework in my majors, but I’ve learned that the valuable skills I developed through my math and economics classes (problem-solving, logic, analysis, writing, research, just to name a few) along with the breadth and depth of my Lawrence education have prepared me to take on any challenge, even in completely unfamiliar fields and foreign countries.

Jon Van Laarhoven, ’04

I am a doctoral candidate in the Applied Mathematics and Computational Sciences program at the University of Iowa with anticipated graduation in May 2010. My success in applied mathematics hinges on my broad mathematical background and an ability to adapt quickly to new topics.

Lawrence University laid a strong foundation for my future work in graduate school. At Lawrence, I took courses in pure mathematics (algebra, analysis, topology), applied math topics (optimization, differential equations), and computer programming. These courses

combined with valuable one-on-one time with the mathematics faculty, gave me a solid background in mathematics and the confidence to pursue graduate work. Long after graduation, the Lawrence mathematics faculty continues to play a support role in my education and career

choices. I would highly recommend prospective undergraduates to take a good look at Lawrence University, even if their desired field of study lies far from mathematics.

John Gale, ’04

Since graduation in 2004 I’ve been working at Apple, Inc on a variety of projects, most internal to the company, some external. Over the years, we’ve interviewed many people from various backgrounds, and one of the biggest things that keeps amazing me is that a prestigious ivy- league resume doesn’t translate directly into an amazingly intelligent person. I’ve seen fantastically technical candidates come in, spouting algorithms, bragging about how many computer languages they know; but when we ask them to solve a real life problem, some of them can’t easily think it through. They become limited by their depth in a particular branch of knowledge, and have closed their mind to new experiences, new paradigms of thought, and new opportunities.

Lawrence was the one place that taught me that breadth is important, and a valuable and profitable career path. Depth of expertise is handy, but using that as an excuse to ignore learning things in areas new to you is dangerous. Keeping your mind open to new ideas allows you to find commonalities across teams, across problems, even across professions. You can realize, for instance, that the solution to a technical problem can solve a societal one; or that understanding the concepts of how a device works from top to bottom — even if you don’t know the technical details — can help find and fix problems far faster than someone else that’s mired in only one level of the device.

The classes that I took at Lawrence helped stretch my mind by teaching foreign concepts and highly theoretical ways of thinking. At the time the usual maxims applied; “who really needs to know this stuff?” and “this won’t apply to what I’m going to make money at anyway.” But several universal truths have since clarified these experiences. The first is that it’s always easier to learn something the second time; remembering every detail on your final exam isn’t what you’re supposed to take away. But once you’ve learned something once, a ghost of it sticks in your head, and years later when you recall “I once learned how to solve this problem!” you’ll learn it again, quicker, better, and more applicably. The second is that learning new things becomes a skill to hone. The more your mind becomes stretched by new concepts, the easier it is to learn in general. They say that once you learn a second language, learning the third is easy; similarly, once you learn several skills, learning new ones becomes a piece of cake, and a very applicable professional skill.

By exposing me to things I wasn’t familiar with, teaching me to learn things (some that I really hated learning), and encouraging me to think critically about new ideas and scenarios I was presented with, Lawrence became a very strong part of my résumé, easily helping me find and perform a great job at a great company.