Common Purposes Blog

Common Purposes

What are the Common Purposes? I've dwelt on that question since first reading my alma mater's founding principle "for the purposes of instructing persons, who may choose to apply themselves, in the application of science to the common purposes of life". The question, more than any answer I may ever offer, has guided me through many personal and professional endeavors. And, if I have learned anything it is that I have derived my greatest joy when I, as part of a team, have made a lasting difference to improve the lives of others. Should the thoughts I share here and the ensuing discussion lead others to ask the same question, to seek their own answers and to experience the same joy as I, then I shall consider this effort of value.

Image: "The New Shoes" by Jane Bucci. This work is based on the touching photo snapped by Gerald Waller in 1946, in Austria. The little boy, who lived in an orphanage, had just been given new shoes by the American Red Cross.

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3 comments

What Am I Doing? And, Why Am I Doing It?

Posted June 25, 2013 2:19 PM by MillMatt

Earlier this week, I posted a reply to a CR4 question about whether it was better to major in chemical engineering or mechanical engineering. The asker had an interest in the oil & gas industry and, at present, there is a demand for chemical engineers in that industry so that leads to one answer. But, there are plenty of opportunities for mechanical engineers and engineers of every shape and flavor in the oil and gas industry! So, I suggested that the person assess their own personal interests and, in so many words, find a good balance between their own interests, abilities and energy and the needs of the marketplace. For someone who is probably about 20 years old, it would be a horrible situation to spend the next 40 years doing work they did not enjoy.

I also raised the issue of taking courses beyond the core curriculum, meaning for a mechanical engineer to take some higher level chemical engineering classes. And, from my perspective, it's really important to remember that four years of college education are merely a foundation and represent only the beginning of lifelong education. As the college president commented at my daughter's graduation, the awarding of degrees is done at a "commencement", a beginning, a going-forward and not an ending by any stretch of the imagination.

Last night I was on the golf course in the company of two college students. We had a great time (thank you). One of these fellows is a Mechanical Engineering student who has just finished his junior year. He's been working with a major manufacturer during school breaks and has now joined them for a six month assignment. This so-called "co-op" (co-operative education) assignment is similar to something I did in school and I think it's a very valuable and relevant part of the educational process. And, even though he's just starting, he shared an interesting insight.

He said, "Well, I'm not doing very much engineering work." Oh? I wasn't surprised by his comment and I've heard it from other new engineers, too. Ah, but you are doing important work! And, while you may not be developing a lot of mathematically-derived process improvements or new products, that kind of work may come in time. At the moment, he is developing other skills relevant to progress that are certainly applicable to industry (his current role), to research, academia and any other endeavor he chooses. Communication is essential to success!

I had also commented on the CR4 reply that it was important to place a fair emphasis on non-technical pursuits as part of lifelong learning. As I've come to learn, communication is more than just sharing facts with other people. It's also requires understanding, different perspectives and experiences and it's very much about building trust. By studying history, literature, theater, the arts, music, religion, politics and more, we gain perspective and insights that can build our self-awareness, our understanding of others (something like walking in their shoes) and our ability to truly engage others in communication that is effective.

It never ends! And, it never should…..

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Guru

Join Date: Jun 2011
Location: Mossel Bay, SA
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#1

Re: What Am I Doing? And, Why Am I Doing It?

06/26/2013 7:09 AM

There was also a suspiciously similar thread related to physics as a second qualification. Your post is academically well rounded, but I would like to add in terms of career path:
A German employment company named Jobs-in-Town claims life is too short to make a wrong career choice, and specialises in helping to place candidates in suitable jobs.They have a unique 3-D advertising campaign, a sample of which can be seen from the link provided below...a picture paints a thousand words!I was unable to reproduce the picture here.
http://www.creativecriminals.com/images/jobsintownlifeistoshort10.jpg

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Guru

Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: South of Minot North Dakota
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#3
In reply to #1

Re: What Am I Doing? And, Why Am I Doing It?

06/26/2013 10:56 PM

Here you go!

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Guru

Join Date: Jul 2006
Location: "Dancing over the abyss."
Posts: 4942
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#2

Re: What Am I Doing? And, Why Am I Doing It?

06/26/2013 1:42 PM

Great post.

There should be existential joys to our work, not merely economic rewards.

The new shoes painting deftly shows both,.

Milo

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People say between two opposed opinions the truth lies in the middle. Not at all! Between them lies the problem, what is unseeable,eternally active life, contemplated in repose. Goethe
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