My parents often joke that I am majoring in "choosing a major," a theory easily validated by a quick look at my course load over the past four years. From the moment I stepped foot on Stanford's campus, I forged a distinctly "fuzzy" path, consisting of courses in theater, art history, musicology, English and history.* I entered college certain that I would pursue a major in the humanities as this was the field in which I had always felt most comfortable and most passionate.
During this time, I served as an active consultant and board member for Stanford Marketing, a student organization that provides marketing consultations for companies beyond Stanford's campus. I gained invaluable experience tackling real-world problems through a creative, analytical and team-oriented framework, and also had the pleasure of participating in a plethora of workshops geared towards enhancing our marketing abilities.
One of these workshops focused on empathic design, a user-centered design approach that emphasizes the way an individual interacts with a product or experience. Each student had to quickly come up with multiple ways to improve one’s “morning routine” through a series of interviews, sketches and rapid prototypes. I was immediately hooked. This creative process and just-do-it attitude marked my first-ever foray into design thinking, a mental framework that forms the basis of Stanford’s product design (PD) major.
Shortly after, I enrolled in ME 101: Visual Thinking, the prime introductory class for PD. I was pushed to my limits in the best way. I was forced to constantly sketch and visualize my thoughts and produce dozens of ideas without pause. For our final project, my team and I created a fully functional Batman-themed pinball machine using nothing but foam core, rubber bands, and a single spring. I had never produced such significant results in such a short period of time, and found the entire experience quite exhilarating.
Perhaps most influential, however, was ME 203: Design Manufacturing, a course in which I learned how to machine real products. At the time, I was the only student in a class of 90+ people who was not pursuing a degree in engineering.
The class completely shifted my worldview -- I went into it with no clue how products were manufactured, and left with the ability to understand and actually do the core machining processes myself. I spent over 25 hours per week in the machine shop learning how to mill, weld (TIG and Oxy), cast, lathe, and more. Through this course, I made a magnifying glass, a bronze plaque and a steel chair all from scratch.
Watching my final product come to life from start to finish was one of my most gratifying moments to date. After years of major uncertainty, I finally realized that I needed to receive this degree in engineering to truly pursue my passion. So here I am, in my fifth and final year at Stanford, and I haven't looked back since.
*Stanford students refer to humanities students as “fuzzies” and STEM ones as “techies"