Bringing Ambition Back to Colgate

There’s an accepted stereotype of the typical Colgate student, one that permeates from the many conversations that go something like, “I’m from outside of (insert Boston or New York), and I went to (insert elite private school).” The majority of Colgate students come from the oldest parts of the country, and, as a result, our institution is a piece of this historical New England culture. The one that says, “be a doctor, a lawyer or a banker,” or really anything that’s predictable and prestigious. As long as it looks good and makes money, it’ll do. 

Some of the most disturbing conversations I’ve had at Colgate were spurred by the question, “What do you want to do after this?” followed by, “I just want a job to support my lifestyle.” This is essentially saying you want to maintain your upper-middle class status, and you don’t really care about the means as long as the end is you being swaddled in comfort and privilege. Colgate is held in high esteem as one of the best liberal arts colleges in the United States and its students are supposedly some of the most brilliant and talented minds our generation has to offer. What is the point of brilliance and talent if you don’t care what you do with it?

For a little more background, I am not from the New England culture that dominates representation at Colgate. I’m from a small town in California, near the heart of Silicon Valley. Growing up there means being indoctrinated with the mythology of the tech industry. My heroes were Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, and success was synonymous with innovation. Kids aspired to be the engineers who shape the future. My classrooms were lined with posters from the iconic Apple campaign, “Think different.” As a result, most of the people I know from home approach the future through a lense of seeking to create change.

The world has a lot of problems, and Colgate has its own laundry list of issues that needs to be

addressed. So far, our efforts to confront them have been less than stellar. That’s okay, we’ve only truly failed if we continue to abide by our ineffective methods. The beauty of the mistakes we’ve made so far is knowing what won’t work. Which leads me to a quote by Steve Jobs that nearly every Silicon Valley kid has burned into her memory, “Stay hungry, stay foolish.” Be curious, take risks, mess up and never stop striving to make the change that needs to happen. See things as they could be rather than as they are. That is how we need to move forward as a university and as a generation. We can make this university the sustainable, diverse and inclusive hub of learning and growth that it should be. We can approach life as a jigsaw puzzle rather than a checklist, as long as we start considering what we can do with our time on earth rather than how we can maintain our lifestyles. I’m not saying start wearing black turtlenecks and light wash dad jeans, I’m just saying think different.

Contact Kate Hinsche at [email protected].