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A few quick reasons I love Grinnell students

Believe it or not, but I was planning on writing a longer essay today [1]. However, when I sat down to write my essay, I also reviewed my incoming email [2]. A few messages that I’d received from students reminded me about why Grinnell students are awesome.

Let’s start with some context. ISU [3] is sponsoring a hackathon [4] this weekend. A few weeks ago, a student started planning for ways to allow a lot of students to attend. He sent out a message to the CS students mailing list [7]. He talked to the department chair of CS [8] to see if we’d pay for transportation [9], or at least front the cost of transportation, since ISU had some money to reimburse attendees [10]. He found student drivers. He set up a list of passengers [11].

And then the weather happened, as it tends to do in the midwest [12]. FacMan [14] let us know that they weren’t sure that they were going to allow the students to take the vans. About half of the passengers decided that traveling was too risky. Eventually, even though they were permitted to take the vans, the drivers agreed that the storm seemed to be hitting Ames [15] badly enough that they didn’t want to risk driving. And so they did the sensible thing: They decided to host their own hack-a-thon and asked me for money for food [16]. This hack-a-thon is more reasonable; they are only spending eight hours on it. In some sense, it’s like a shorter version of the Gamewerks assignment or the Galaxy lab [17]. But they are arranging everything.

I was happy about that. But then I got an email message from another student, one of the cadre of first-year students who weren’t included in the vans and greenmobile. It appears that they had decided to drive to ISU for the hack-a-thon, and they wanted me to know that they and their colleagues had arrived safely. While I think I would have preferred that they not brave the storm, I can see myself doing the same in their shoes. And I really appreciate that they know me well enough that they realized that if I had heard that they were driving, I would have worried. I’m glad that they took the initiative to let me know.

I’m lucky to have these folks as students. I look forward to the difference they will make in the world.

[1] More precisely, when I sat down to write this essay, I had just gotten up from a two-plus-hour nap and was rested enough that I was planning on writing a longer essay. Maybe I’ll still do so.

[2] Software foul ups mean that I’m not at inbox zero. But that doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try to do some processing of my email.

[3] Iowa State University.

[4] An event in which students work all weekend in teams on a project and get too little sleep. It’s kind of like homework, except that they are working in teams [5] and that they have some autonomy [6].

[5] Yes, I realize that an increasing amount of assigned work involves teamwork. But there’s still a lot that is solo, or mostly solo.

[6] In case you couldn’t tell, the it’s kind of like homework was supposed to refer to work all weekend on a project and get too little sleep. Hackathons are also like homework in that they are learning experiences.

[7] More precisely, he asked me to send out a message to the CS students mailing list.

[8] Yes, I’m the department chair of CS; but only for a few more months. We have elected a new chair. The chair is stepping down, long chair the chair!

[9] I’m using the department’s restricted fund. Your donations allow students to participate in fun and exciting events for our students.

[10] Okay, I’m not sure whether or not the student actually applied for the money from ISU. But let’s pretend.

[11] Amazingly, with two vans and one green mustang going, we still had students who needed to find their own transportation.

[12] I should remember that weather happens in the midwest. A few years ago, another faculty member and I drove a bunch of students to a conference in Denver. A storm delayed our trip home. But then we got caught in the tail end, and the storm was bad enough to close I-80, so we spent another night in a random hotel along the way.

[14] Facilities Management, in Sam jargon.

[15] Home of ISU.

[16] Yes, they asked me in my role as department chair. And yes, your donations help.

[17] That’s supposed to be an inside joke.

Version 1.0.3 of 2017-02-25.