At Cornell, among other colleges, students are encouraged to push boundaries by strengthening their intellect. We are at Cornell to take courses that will challenge us, provoke us, and prepare us for our future careers. We are encouraged to be verbose, speak our mind with absolute certainty that we have the knowledge and backing to argue truthfully.
Cornell has taught us an incredible amount, but the application of our newly-gained knowledge to future careers outside of academia falls short. In some courses, it might be hard to find an outlet to apply the theoretical concepts while in other courses the projects directly solve a societal issue. How can we ensure that every course we take can be used to make an impact in the real world?
We have come to the realization that project-based learning is incredibly fulfilling and a more innovative way to apply what we learn in the classroom. We truly believe that if students were given more opportunities to pursue independent projects, they would feel more fulfilled and have more confidence and experience to pursue their interests once they graduate.
We then pin-pointed our main problem we wanted to focus on: How might we create a more established community of self-starters with the goal of executing their independent projects?
Experience: We both have channeled our interests and career goals through side projects and was able to build off of those experiences at Cornell.
Persistence: We’re willing to do the hard work and make the right connections to get this off the ground.
Passion: We both have a love for entrepreneurship, design, development, and creation. We are highly passionate about our work and as much as we love doing what we do, we also love learning from other people and teaching others.
Practicality: We think logically and make decisions with full consideration of all factors involved. We do our research, talk to others, and ensure we have enough feedback to make the right call.
On campus community
We want to provide a space for students to not only channel their personal interests by building, collaborating, and designing, but also encourage others to listen and learn from others within the Cornell community.
University of everywhere
The University of Everywhere is where students of the future will go to college. Parts of it will be familiar to anyone who’s gotten a great college education, because some aspects of human learning are eternal. But in many respects, it will be like nothing that has come before.
Playbook for everyone
We want this to be a movement. We have aspirations that every college will be able to take on this initiative with all of our help. Our vision is to create a toolkit that any community can use to create their version of BKYD.
Everyone should be able to see their work and share it with the broader community. These ideas are not only for you, but to be shared. We want to remember that we have the resources to take action on what we’ve set up to accomplish.
We want to offer support, guidance, and mentorship to allow students to develop their side projects. We want to bring self-starters together physically and online, to strengthen their execution skills and launch something they have always wanted to create, but never had the time to do it. We hope that this space will allow students to freely discuss their ideas, engage in discussion about problems and ways to solve them, and get honest feedback from a diverse group of students. We envision Backyard being a part of the broader community and hope to expand to other universities.
We aspire to show students that the only thing stopping them from pursuing an idea is themselves. By building a community of motivating students, our goal is to make students feel more accountable for their work every week by encouraging them to always have something to present at weekly working sessions. We hope to unleash their creativity with something they feel passionate about and work with them throughout the semester to accomplish their set out objectives and key results through milestones, work sessions, and progress checks.
We have both channeled our interests and career goals through side projects and are constantly trying to build off of those experiences at Cornell. Many students at Cornell have a love for entrepreneurship, design, development, and creation. We want to push that love into something tangible, something concrete that they will view as a huge step in their career. We hope to show them that side projects are most fulfilling when they reside in the intersection between what they feel passionate about and what they can present as marketable skills.
What will be the change in people’s behavior or happiness if this takes off?
People will start to focus on both professional and personal development and use their time more consciously during their time at Cornell. We intend to make the space a stress-free environment — we hope students will feel happier working, collaborating, and presenting in a space that is more laid-back and open-minded.
Students Have Said:
“It’s always nice to surround yourself with people that are pursuing other things on the side. Coming from a CS background, you don’t have enough time to think for yourself when you’re learning so much and you want to do something about it and make something on your own. Part of the reason why I majored in CS was to build things and many times I didn’t think of how to apply them until I started my own side project to apply one of the many things that was taught in one of my courses.”
“So, I identified a few things that I have wanted to make for a long time, like a backpack, shelf for my records, skateboard and a self-planted vegetable garden, and wrote down rudimentary timelines for them all. After researching inspiration and gathering materials, I have started all of these projects and hope to finish them by the end of the summer. This is what I have done for my summer projects and it has been a both fun and fulfilling experience. I love the excitement of jumping into the deep end of inexperience and just solving problems as you go.”
Full list of inspiration, resources, and articles that contributed to this case study:
Commentary on free will: https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/06/theres-no-such-thing-as-free-will/480750/
The Happiness Mindset: https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2016/04/why-so-many-smart-people-arent-happy/479832/
Meaningful learning: https://qz.com/1160446/how-to-learn-better-in-2018-with-help-from-ulrich-boser-author-of-learn-better/?utm_source=atlfb
Esther Wojcicki’s work: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/ewojcicki-636
Designer Fund: https://designerfund.com/
WeWork’s mission: https://www.wework.com/mission
The Broadsheet: http://fortune.com/newsletter/broadsheet/
Female Founder Office Hours: https://www.femalefounder.org/
Schools That Can: http://www.schoolsthatcan.org/https://www.oiengine.com/clients
Global Life School: https://medium.com/@schlaf/crowdsourcing-the-global-life-school-97dfc7d601c7https://playbook.cio.gov/