The Brown Conversation

Don't be a cog

Re-Orientation Application 2014

The Brown Conversation and company is pleased to announce that the 2014 Re-Orientation application is now live! Click here to fill out the application. Due to limited capacity, we will only be able to accept 50 students. We look forward to reading your responses and may the odds be ever in your favor!


This New Yorker article raises some interesting questions about the merger of entrepreneurship culture and the university at Stanford. Some potentially provocative pull-quotes:

The leadership of a university has encouraged an endeavor in which students drop out in order to do something that will enrich the faculty.

Shouldn’t [college] be a place to drift, to think, to read, to meet new people, and to work at whatever inspires you?

What do you all think?

Brown’s Statement on GPAs

By Jonah Kagan

Statement on Grade Point Average - College Curriculum Council

Evan Schwartz found this document, which is Brown’s official stance on grade point averages. It probably matches what you’ve heard — that Brown doesn’t calculate GPAs. But some people seem to think that means that students have to calculate their GPAs themselves. According to the statement, these self-computed GPAs are not actually endorsed by the university (they aren’t actively discouraged, though).

So is it appropriate to put a GPA on your resumé without, say, putting an asterisk next to it and referring to this document? Is it ethical?

Or what about a student who doesn’t calculate their own GPA — who simply omits it from their resumé? Should they have to staple this document to the back of their resumé just to have a fair shot at employment, or should Brown be actively promoting its stance on GPAs?

Is this document even enough to convince employers to look beyond a GPA? Or is Brown’s stance fundamentally unrealistic?

What’s our Core?

 Nik Kalyanpur

Our first dinner of the semester marked our one year anniversary. With the momentum from Re-Orientation, it was our most attended event. 51 students broke up into four groups to discuss whether the fact that we get to choose all our classes actually ensures that every student wants to be in each of his/her classes. This past weekend, we were joined by Daniel Sobol ‘09 and Mary Crane, the Dean of Liberal Arts at Boston College. Boston College is in the process of renewing its core curriculum so we sat down to discuss: “What is the value of a core curriculum, if any?”

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What Reorientation Was for Me

By Aparaajit Sriram

"So who’s dad is the hypothesis dad, again?" asked Professor Sheila Blumstein, who was participating in the second major group discussion of Reorientation, titled “How has the New Curriculum changed since its inception?” I sheepishly raised my hand. "Yeah, that’s me."

We were a group of about 20, mostly freshmen and sophomores along with a couple older mentors, and we had spent much of the discussion sharing what the New Curriculum meant to each of us. What had it meant when we applied to Brown? What had it meant during, what most agreed, were lackluster freshman years? And what did it mean to us now as participants in a Reorientation program dedicated to understanding it and applying its tenets?

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Don’t Screw Around

By Brett Anders

When was the last time you had a conversation that lasted several hours? How many of your conversations are less than 30 minutes, and how many of them don’t move past superficial, day-to-day questions? What if you factor in digital communications — some small fraction of your writing may exceed 140 or 160 characters in length, but rare indeed are communications exceeding one page.

We live in a world that pulls us in too many directions. Variously termed the Age of Interruption, or the Age of Distraction, today’s world makes it difficult to focus. The surface-level risk here is a lack of productivity, because a lack of focus makes it difficult to get stuff done — “multitasking” is often an excuse for doing a subpar job on multiple tasks at once. But there is a far deeper risk, too.

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Just Get Started

By Evan Schwartz

One of the big lessons I’ve taken away from this past year of Brown Conversations is the importance of just getting started on ideas. A friend just provided a perfect example of what I’m getting at with a “what if” about how Brown’s daily announcements newsletter, Morning Mail, could be improved.

This friend’s idea of including a Providence events section is great — and many other people have had good ideas about how Morning Mail could be improved, but too few have just gotten started. Right now the newsletter is an unsorted plain text email so almost any change would be an improvement, but the best way of making some change happen quickly would probably not be by going through the official newsletter curators.

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The Ideal Conversation

By Jonah Kagan

This past semester we’ve started inviting people other than students to take part in the Brown Conversation. We’ve had faculty, administrators, alumni, and even members of the Providence community who aren’t explicitly associated with Brown. The idea was to improve the quality of the conversation by involving people with more diverse perspectives. After all, a discussion is not so interesting if everybody is just agreeing with each other. Since we focus on topics concerning the university, it makes sense to try to involve people with different relationships to the Brown.

In these recent conversations I’ve noticed a slight shift in the dynamic of the discussion. It’s hard to explain in exact terms, but it seems like our conversations tend to focus around our guests, as if they have some special kind of gravity.

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The Simple Power of Conversation

By Evan Schwartz

The Brown Conversation provides a simple but powerful service just by existing.

Tonight we had a conversation with the Financial Aid Strategic Planning Committee, next Monday (12/3) we are going to have one with the Re-Imagining the Campus Space Committee, and the following Saturday (12/8) we’ll have another with the Education Innovation Committee. The most amazing part of this to me is that two of those committees actually reached out to us to ask if we would do an event with them.

Why did those committees reach out to us and why does this matter?

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Re-Orientation Boot Camp 2013 


Educate Yourself, about Your Education

Date: January 20th-22nd

Venue: Brown University Campus

Hosted by: Brown Conversation

For: Brown University Freshmen and Sophomores

University Dorms open on January 19th. Meals will be provided.

Apply by Sunday, December 9th!

Are you getting the most out of your Brown education? How do you know?

Do you feel lost? Or are you not sure if you’re lost?

Join us for RE-ORIENTATION 2013 to learn more about learning!

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