Marlboro College

Communities Jonathan Earle

Zen and the pluripotent stem cell


On choosing Marlboro

I like the student-led education. It’s for and by the student. I can choose what classes I take, and there are no “required” courses except the Writing Requirement at the end of the first semester and obviously Plan. I like to have the freedom to study what I want, and there is an intimate quality in not only tutorials, but in all facets of student life here. We eat lunch with our professors, we have small classes, and I feel everyone knows who I am and knows my name. I didn’t like the idea of being a number at a larger university.

On studying science at Marlboro 

In first grade I received a book, Science and Technology, and ever since then I’ve been interested in understanding the underlying causes of things. I’ve taken math and general chemistry classes at Marlboro so far, and Todd Smith, the professor of chemistry, is a really nice guy. Matt Ollis, the math professor, is also a great at simplifying really complicated mathematical concepts. I look forward to working with them in the future. In terms of branching out, I’m like a pluripotent stem cell: at this point, my interests might differentiate into many different forms, but I’m pretty sure they will be grounded in the study of science.

On social life at Marlboro

You learn so much from talking to your fellow students. I feel like I have a much greater idea of the extent of academic pursuits one could follow here by talking to my friends. Today, for example, I was just talking to some students who are studying computer science, and they explained how a computer algorithm works—I had no idea before! This really shows the intimacy here. You know almost everyone, and there is therefore more connection between people. I made friends very quickly here.

On Zen and science

I became interested in Zen and Buddhism when my family adopted my sister from China, and I’ve been practicing meditation since then. I got interested in the philosophy of Eastern religions and read some books on Zen and Japanese poetry. I was always heart-set on scientific reasoning, but once I began reading these materials, I realized there are different ways of thinking, knowing, and being. It definitely has changed my life positively, and made me a little bit more of a peaceful person. I think it’s an important thing to expose others to, so I’ve been working this year to make it possible for others to learn how to meditate. I’ve invited a few speakers to come to campus and talk about Zen and meditation, and I’ve also started a meditation club. 

On advice for incoming students 

Yes, bring boots! But also, come with an open mind and be ready to learn. If you come to the school and say, “this is the way I am going to do things,” you are slowing down any possibility for growth.

You also need to learn how to make compromises and grow through them. At larger schools, you are able to ignore someone for four years if you have a problem with them, but here you have to work to make amends. I’ve heard of community living described as cleaning potatoes: You can either wash a potato one-by-one, which wastes a lot of water and time, or you can put them all in a tub of water, and rub them all against each other. That’s how you grow as a person. Deal with conflicts and walk away feeling good about it.