Kathryn Lyon

Designing from nature

On studying science at Marlboro

It’s great being a science student here. It’s a very small program, so you deal with the same people a lot of the time, but everybody that’s involved is really interested in science, and excited to be part of the program. And the faculty is fantastic. I’ve been to dinner at teachers’ houses. Calling professors by their first names seemed really strange at first, but now it’s totally comfortable. I think that a casual academic environment is really crucial to Marlboro’s “against the grain” education. Not many schools are like this, and having a very independent, self-directed educational system wouldn’t work if the faculty wasn’t so committed and dedicated. But everyone is amazing, so it works very well.

On being part of the Farm Committee

We’ve been talking a lot about trying to integrate the farm with the main campus. In a writing seminar I wrote a grant requesting funds for edible landscaping at Marlboro, and came up with a plan to plant more fruit and nut trees near campus buildings. I live in cottage five, one of the “intentional living” dorms, and this semester it’s “farm living.” We’ve been having committee meetings there. It’s a really good meeting space, and it provides a kitchen so we’ve been doing canning and cooking experiments with the foods we grow. One of the Farm Committee’s main goals is trying to provide more food for the dining hall or the coffee shop so the farm is a more productive part of campus.

On Marlboro’s size

Sometimes Marlboro feels really small, because it is really small. But even if that can be frustrating and agonizing and awful, it’s important to embrace it and realize that Marlboro’s small size is the reason for the enormous number of opportunities that students have and the one-on-one attention and discussion-based classes. I’m an assistant in the ceramics studio, and never would have been asked to do that (as a freshman!) at a bigger school. Even when Marlboro’s size seems like a flaw, it’s a really great opportunity for becoming involved and getting something out of your education.

On the Clear Writing Requirement

I really like the idea of the clear writing requirement. Coming into Marlboro, I thought I was a pretty good writer, and then at the end of my freshman year, I realized how much I had improved. Now, looking back at papers that I wrote then I realize how much more I’ve improved. The fact that writing is communicating sounds really obvious, but it’s something I didn’t think about before Marlboro. To write clearly you really have to know how to make sense of what you think and what you want to say. It’s satisfying to realize how much Marlboro pushes you to be a clear writer. I wish there were a clear speaking requirement too, or something to prep you for orals.

On advice for prospective students

It’s really important to recognize that you’re not invisible on campus, and even people who you think you don’t know probably already know something about you or what you’re studying. And so, everything that you do influences the community and the way the community looks at you. If you work hard in your classes or in committees, then you’re going to be recognized for that, and people will appreciate it. And if you are a negative character, then people will see that as well.

On her Plan of Concentration

I’d like to do something with biomimicry and designing systems that are based on natural solutions to the problems that we face, like how to stay warm, generate electricity and efficiently gather water and other resources. I was talking with Jenny, my advisor, about trying to incorporate design and biology, and she suggested that I look at a recent issue of a conservation magazine about these hammers that are designed like woodpecker heads. Biomimicry is really exciting because we’re trying to find solutions and learn from nature instead of coming up with technologies out of nowhere. I think that creating sustainable systems is so important, maybe the most important thing that we should be doing.