Tolu Odumosu / Engineering

Possible Roads Ahead

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;


Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,


And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.


I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

-- Robert Frost

It has been my experience that a large portion of my students don’t actively consider the multitude of possibilities open to them as they leave the university. There seems to be a narrowing of imagination as it relates to possible futures as they go through their four years of college. Taking a page from Frost’s poem, I want to send time with 8-10 students considering possible roads ahead and professional and vocational possibilities that they could engage in. Many have argued that engineering is the new Liberal Arts in its ability to prepare individuals to be active and participatory citizens. I want to explore multiple possibilities with my students.

My Dream Idea is to host 9 conversations over the academic year. Each conversation will center on sharing a meal at dinner time and will include an invited guest that took a different road after graduating with an engineering degree. At each meeting one student will coordinate the discussion with our invited guest.

Our first discussion will be a conversation about Frost’s poem, the responsibility of adulthood and the possibility of selecting alternative paths. We will discuss the statistics on what UVA engineering students end of doing five and ten years out of school and what they don’t do. The rest of the dinners will center around the experiences of our invited guests, their life choices and the rationale behind their chosen path. Our invited guest list will also include some guest attending virtually over skype as well as local individuals .

I will setup a mailing list for my students to keep in touch with each other over the course of the semester and prepare for each meeting. At the end of the first semester, they will provide reflections on their own thinking about the future and reflect on these at the end of the second semester. At the end of the process, each student will write-up their experience and reflection which we will post to a public website.

Proposed budget:

Dinner for 10: $300 x 9 dinners: $2,700

Website and honorariums for invited guests: $300

TOTAL: $3,000