In the Engineering classes I teach, most of my undergrad students are juniors and seniors. Being a Stanford Newcomer Guide (SNG) gives me the wonderful chance to meet a small group of freshmen each year, and help them as they begin their Stanford adventure. Every September, about a week before school starts, I find out who they are, where they are from, and what interests they have. I get to read the letters each student has written to their SNG, introducing themselves to me – and I can’t wait to meet them!
“I don’t understand why I am here at Stanford,” the student said, sitting in my office feeling gloomy one day. “Nothing is fun anymore. No courses seem to be of interest to me.” I had known her since she first arrived at Stanford, and so I tried to figure out what was going on. She was now a junior, with an advisor in her chosen major. She had been brought up in an affluent home in the US by parents from an African country. “Why am I here,” she continued, “when I could be doing good outside instead?”