Around two decades ago, Ben Nelson spent the summer after his third year of college working in Singapore. Before he flew to Asia, Nelson thought he was pretty worldly — he was born in Israel, raised in the US, and had travelled around Europe. But, as he told Tanha Kate and me in an interview, he was surprised to find that he “learned more in three months in Singapore than in my previous three years at [the University of Pennsylvania] combined.”
Nelson returned to the US convinced his life-changing summer adapting to a radically different culture should be “the default” for college students. And, since he founded Minerva, “going around and spending [a semester] in various countries and figuring out how that works” has been the default for the approximately 600 enrolled students.
While most students enrolled in Minerva precisely because they wanted travel to be their “default,” some have criticized the details of the global rotation model, questioning whether our fast-paced lifestyle actually produces the accelerated learning Nelson experienced while he lived in Singapore. I’m one of them — last year, I wrote about my own journey to realizing that travel isn’t beneficial by default and my decision to make a renewed effort to find value in the global rotation experience.
One of my personal inspirations for traveling well is Kate. During our past semester in Berlin, I watched her not just dive headfirst into the city’s cultural and political scene but also critically reflect on her engagement. After several long conversations exploring whether the global rotation delivers on its promises, and what those promises are exactly, we decided to interview Minerva staff members to learn more about their perspectives.
We reached out to virtually every Minerva employee we could think of and interviewed everyone who responded to our emails. We ended up speaking to a range of people, from those who directly influence the global rotation, like Director of Student Experience Capri LaRocca, to others whose work focuses on different aspects of Minerva, including Chief Product Officer Jonathan Katzman and Director of Enrollment & Advising Reed Cooper.
What emerged was a multidimensional explanation of the global rotation that built on what we inherently knew as students and the article explaining the global rotation Nelson shared with Minerva students earlier this year. Over the coming weeks, we will publish at least three articles based on these interviews. The first focuses on the relationship between the global rotation and Minerva’s pedagogy. The second explains the logistical constraints on the Minerva model and how well it balances the number of cities visited with the depth of experience students have in each. The third examines the challenges created by the global rotation and how Minerva addresses them in its marketing to prospective students.
Our hope is that this series will spark a deeper, better-informed conversation about the global rotation within the Minerva community. Going forward, we plan to write more articles centered on student and faculty perspectives on the topic. If you want to share your own thoughts about the global rotation, please reach out to us at [email protected] or [email protected].