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Editorial: Re-entering the Van Wickle Gates

The weekend before most students returned to campus, the Brown Conversation hosted its inaugural “Re-Orientation Boot Camp,” which engaged over 50 students and faculty members in discussions about the meaning of a Brown education. The program, aimed at underclassmen, allowed students to evaluate their Brown experiences thus far and discuss options for its potential improvement. First-years reflected on their first semesters and sophomores gained more perspective before choosing their concentrations. Though geared toward underclassmen, this program serves as a reminder to the undergraduate body of Brown’s limitless opportunities, both in and out of the classroom — a reminder we should all keep in mind as we navigate our remaining time at Brown.

The Open Curriculum provides students “a chance to do wonderful things, but it’s up to you to take the responsibility to do them,” as Elliot Maxwell ’68, one of the architects of the New Curriculum, reminded students at the conference. Brown’s unique curriculum enables students to chart the best possible educational experience for their needs. But students must take ownership over their own learning. This program is a perfect example of the intent behind the New Curriculum that we celebrate so often. The “Re-Orientation Boot Camp” is exactly the type of program we should support as a community, and we strongly hope it will be continued in the years to come.

But this kind of discussion should not stop with the Brown Conversation’s re-orientation event. In the spirit of the program, we should take the opportunity to re-orient ourselves. Some of us have set our educational paths, and taking similar courses in familiar departments might be the most attractive choice. In addition, our social lives mainly consist of spending time with familiar friend groups, participating in our established extracurricular activities and settling into a comfortable routine. While this sort of lifestyle may work well for some, others may recognize in it potential for ossification. We encourage those who feel this way to work conscientiously to broaden their horizons, consequently improving their respective Brown experiences.

This may seem intimidating, but we are all capable of acclimating to significant changes — after all, we all left our high schools or other universities to come to Brown and were forced to adapt to some degree. When we started at Brown, whether as first-years, transfers or resumed undergraduates, we all introduced ourselves to strangers, joined new activities and most likely took classes outside of our comfort zones. These types of exploration and risk-taking are essential for adjusting to a new environment, but they should not be abandoned once we become settled.

We only have four years as undergraduates, and many of us will never again have the same freedom and flexibility that we enjoy at Brown. Until then, we can all benefit from shaking things up. Students can introduce themselves to someone new in class, at the Sciences Library or even at Starbucks. We can shop classes in departments we have never set foot in. We can take advantage of Morning Mail’s sleek new layout and all the opportunities the announcements offer.

When we were first-years or new students, we all received something along the lines of these words of wisdom, and most of us took this advice to some degree. Though we are certainly more comfortable as we return to Brown than we were as new students, we should retain our exploratory and adventurous tendencies. When we look back on our undergraduate experiences in the years to come, we will not regret the chances we took.


Editorials are written by The Herald’s editorial page board: its editor, Dan Jeon, and its members, Mintaka Angell, Samuel Choi, Nicholas Morley and Rachel Occhiogrosso. Send comments to


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