140Cuse

#140Cuse: Learning Outside of the Classroom

To most people, #140Cuse was a day long event filled with more than 40 speakers. To me, #140Cuse was a two-day event composed of numerous new friends, four skipped classes (Sorry, mom!), two unforgettable moments, and one life lesson learned: school can only take you so far. It was ironic, for being the first 140 event to happen on a college campus, but perhaps the most valuable lesson learned on a college campus.

Day One: The Speakers’ Event

Day one started when I went to the speakers’ event. I enjoyed meeting many of the people whom I have idolized and admired from afar on the Twitter stream. It was great to hear their stories, and how some of them got their start at Syracuse University, too. As I wandered the room and introduced myself, the most common question was, “Are you a student, or a speaker?” I was proud to be able to say both. As I explained my story, the conversations turned to what my next step after graduation should be. “I don’t want to give you life advice,” Alexis Ohanian said to me, “unless it works out, then I want all the credit.” After conversations with the remaining speakers and some encouragement from Brad Rosen, the group consensus was to skip graduate school and work on my startup full-time.

Later that night, I was fortunate enough to be one of a handful of students who were able to sit down and have intimate conversation with Alexis (aka unforgettable moment #1). As a student-entrepreneur, it was interesting to finally take the emphasis off of the hyphen (hence the skipping classes) and have the opportunity to talk about what it is like to be an entrepreneur. Beyond the non-life-advice life advice, Alexis also shared some interesting stories about the early days of Reddit, lessons learned, and teaching himself the skills necessary to get Reddit off the ground. He described his journey from being a history major to running a tech company using funny anecdotes and lots of real talk. It inspired my talk about my journey during my panel and challenged me to think about my next steps. As someone who up until a few months ago dedicated their life to getting a great education and making the field of education better, it seems antithetical to follow their advice and drop out of school to go work on a startup, but as I learned through talking with the speakers that night, I still have a lot to learn in and outside of the classroom.

Day Two: The Real Event

Talking about my journey from an education policy student to an online dating site CEO during a panel (unforgettable moment #2).

Day two began in the early (for most college students) morning with hundreds of people filling Schine Underground and even into the overflow room. Over 600 students, staff, faculty, alumni, and guests attended the event on Thursday. Each presenter spoke for 10 minutes about how the real-time web is changing people’s lives, their interactions with one another, and the world.

Rich Tehan, a senior Information Technology and Entrepreneurship dual major, attended the conference for most of the day. He said that the talks complimented his coursework nicely because his IST 443 class “talks about how technology affects people on an individual basis and social issues and politics in the U.S.” and said, “It was good to have practical examples that went hand in hand with the theoretical examples from the class.”

It was interesting to experience the same intersection of studies with real world examples, but what really resonated with me was when speakers like Kim SivicEric Stoller, George Couros, and Isaac Budmen spoke about the effects of the education field on their experiences (and vice versa). It was interesting to hear from so many people about higher education in particular, especially because of the events of the previous night and since whole event was taking place at an institute of higher education.

But as it was clear in Hajj Flemings’ talk, there’s only so far that school can take you. Several students remarked about how hearing the speakers talk about what they really cared about with much sincerity and emotion was more thought-provoking, inspiring, and meaningful than time spent in class. The consistent message throughout the speakers was how important it is to be passionate about what you’re doing, something that is often missing from students because their trapped in assignments and often unenthusiastic lectures. Walking through the rows of students leaving the conference, I overheard plenty of remarks about learning more in one day at #140Cuse than they learned inside of the classroom all semester, and that it was worth missing class or spending time at the conference instead of working on things for class.

In the end, we learned a lot about the real-time web, but what we learned most about was how important passion, compassion, and self-learning are. That $1.40 was the best “tuition” money we ever spent.

Did you attend #140Cuse, or follow along online? Share your takeaways from the conference in the comments below!


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