Making the College Their Own
Each student who is admitted to Beloit gets a letter from me inviting them into a conversation about the college. To be honest, not many take me up on the offer. But if you have read the cover story about the Buccaneer Boathouse, it may not surprise you to know that Quin Brunner’21 was one who did. Here it is:
April 13, 2017
Hello Mr. Bierman,
Thank you for reaching out and for your kind words. I am very interested in the Powerhouse project. I understand the project is your brainchild and I would like to learn more. I have reviewed the Powerhouse webpage, and any additional information you can share with me would be of great interest. If you can find the time, I would love to talk with you about the history and trajectory of the project, as well as Beloit in general. My cell phone number is xxx-xxx-xxxx.
Well, not above doing a Google search on students who say complimentary things about me, I quickly learned that the Minneapolis Star Tribune had featured Quin in a February 2016 article about whether or not to raze a power plant in his hometown of Austin, Minn. Kindred spirits to say the least.
Beyond being among the brilliant co-conspirators who have rejuvenated the Boathouse, Quin serves on the student advisory committee to our brand new Director of the Powerhouse, Steve Robinson. For goodness sake, there is no way that the Powerhouse could not have had Quin’s stamp on it on opening day.
I happen to know Quin’s story pretty well for all the reasons you have just seen. More generally, however, we talk all the time about the college being a place where we encourage students to make it their own. While not a blank canvas, it is more like an art installation project, whose power keeps being re-energized by the Quin Brunner’s of the world. I love the Boathouse project because all I needed to do was to write a letter of support, knowing that the magic would happen through the intelligence, imagination, and curiosity of the students. My job was to endorse it and get out of the way.
Likewise, I just saw flyers on campus inviting participants to the second annual “Beloit Idol” competition. Melody and I had the privilege last year of attending the first edition of Beloit Idol, the brainchild of Xiaomin Xie’18, who executed this wonderful event with all the Beloitish glory you can probably imagine.
This past year, Students for an Inclusive Campus asked for time at a board of trustees meeting to present a case for student representation on the board. The argument was very well-received. So much so that there will be seven different students, each sitting as members of the seven standing board committees, starting this February.
I had a conversation just yesterday with Farhan Tahir’19, who has spearheaded a conference to be held in late February that will feature an exciting mix of city of Beloit businesspeople who have chosen to invest in this community—and why they have done so—as a way to help students better understand the potential of the local community and their possible connections to it, now and in the future. In my conversations with alumni, among the most enlivening stories are those that feature local entrepreneurship—students from 1846 to 2019, seeing glorious opportunities for new projects, programs, clubs, and figuring out how to animate them. Often—nearly always—there are faculty and staff mentors who help guide and encourage them. These things do not always last forever. Indeed, only in rare circumstances should they. The brush needs to be cleared to provide sufficient space for the next ideas. The Quin Brunner’s need room to roam.
Beloit College is alive and well. The evidence is in Quin’s Boathouse project and a hundred other student-led projects. We celebrate these things at Beloit like nowhere else, because we know they are an essential ingredient to the power of a liberal arts education.
From here at Chapin’s desk, where I am about to endorse yet another brilliant student idea. Stay tuned.
President Scott Bierman