“I came out of BHSEC feeling much more confident in my own abilities, feeing like I had been given the tools to do whatever I wanted” Olivia Winn is a 2010 graduate of BHSEC Manhattan. She is currently a student at the Columbia University School of Engineering, where she is majoring in Computer Science. After Columbia, Olivia intends to enroll in a Computer Science PhD program.
Olivia was interested in attending BHSEC because of the unique curriculum and the positive learning environment. "My initial interest in BHSEC stemmed from getting an associate's degree. I also liked how small the school was and I liked the people I talked to." Although she came to BHSEC with a strong interest in the sciences, Olivia thought the intensive writing curriculum would be to her benefit, as she wanted to improve her writing skills.
From the beginning, Olivia noticed a strong sense of community and belonging at BHSEC. As a Freshman, she remembers the school administration and faculty being very present. "It didn't take very long to meet everyone and it very quickly felt like a community." Her peers were also a motivating factor for her success. “Being with friends who are really hard working and who strive for the best gives you a cushion to fall back on...it’s a great support network.”
Olivia believes the BHSEC's small class sizes were crucial to the education she received. "The small classes were very beneficial because you got to know everyone and you were able to connect with everyone." She has fond memories of a Physics class she enrolled in Year 2 of the college program, where she was one of five students in the class. "The teacher would go through equations with us and made us come up with everything on our own.” The class was so productive that in the coming semester, all five students began an independent study in Physics.
Olivia credits BHSEC with making her into the writer she is today. “I came to BHSEC terribly shy, a good student but not really knowing how to study, how to sit down, and how to write a rough draft of an essay and fix it.” Through BHSEC, she honed her skills; this became apparent when she enrolled at Columbia University. As an example, Olivia excelled in a writing intensive class. Olivia recalls that after the first essay was assigned, the professor called her into his office because she had gotten the only A+ in the class. “He said ‘I know you haven’t learned all of this in college, what high school did you come from?’ He was really impressed."
Since September of 2012, Olivia has worked at the Columbia Lab for Vision and Graphics. In the summer of 2013, she began doing independent research at the lab. Her research focuses on approximating the curvature of animal eyes. “The original work at the lab focused on human eyes in images - how to map the reflections in the eyes into a whole new image that could then be used for all sorts of different purposes. Now I’m researching the same question using animal eyes. Specifically, I'm focusing on how to approximate the curvature of an unknown eye shape in order to map the reflection on it."
Olivia believes her solid grounding in the liberal arts and sciences during her time at BHSEC has set her up for a successful career in the sciences. "It's really important for students to learn as much as they can in as wide a breadth of subjects and for as long as possible. Science isn't absolute - you have to dissect arguments, you have to read critically, you have to write scientific papers, you have to communicate with people. You can’t do that without a liberal education.”
For Olivia and her friends BHSEC has been “an incredible, life-changing experience.”