Why did you choose to attend Minerva?
The fact that we spend our four years living in seven cities around the world is what drew me to Minerva the most — at first. After enjoying so much freedom during my gap year traveling the world, the thought of being stuck in a tiny college town for four years was stifling. In Minerva, I found a program that made me excited to go back to school.
The second thing was the curriculum and the way we students are assessed. Standardized tests usually show little more than memorization skills, rather than deep learning. On the other hand, at Minerva, we constantly receive feedback and grades on both assignments and on our comments made in class. This approach is more continuous, which I feel more accurately measures my understanding of the concepts.
What is something you are passionate about?
Airplanes are a big passion of mine. My YouTube channel, Nonstop Dan, is about everything having to do with flight experiences. I’ve had this channel for nine years, and it just hit 135,000 subscribers. Living in San Francisco, such a well-connected city, has actually been a huge advantage for me. I’ve had the chance to take many trips during breaks and on weekends, such as trips to Mexico City and Portland.
Tell us about your experience in San Francisco.
To me, it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I really enjoy looking at the view from the Minerva residence hall in Nob Hill. There’s also always a fresh breeze that fills me with joy; being in a city, but still so close to nature in all directions with amazing coastal areas, forests, and more is unique. At the same time, while living here in San Francisco, I have also seen more inequality than ever before in my life. Walking through the Tenderloin, a low-income neighborhood of San Francisco, I saw so many homeless people, which touched me and inspired my final project (described below.)
Though Minerva’s classes are online, I have had impressive in-person interactions with my classmates on a daily basis. Living with people from so many cultures is great. We are always helping each other out with pre-class readings and assignments, and people bring so many different perspectives into academic and out-of-class conversations.
I see the Active Learning Forum as a big advantage of Minerva. Getting both the student community experience and the flexibility of online classes is unique in higher education. Everyday, life at Minerva makes me feel better equipped to handle anything that comes my way. Whether it is mastering everyday life tasks, adjusting to a new environment, or understanding situations of social importance, not living in a college “bubble” has made a difference in my ability to face all kinds of experiences.
Tell us about your final project?
For my final project, my group and I created a three-hour design thinking workshop for local high school students to raise awareness about mass incarceration. As a follow-up, one of our guest speakers helped us arrange a visit to Solano State Prison, an hour north of San Francisco. The five-hour visit gave 20 Minerva students a glimpse into the American prison system and a better understanding of the cyclical nature and systemic inequality that characterizes recidivism. I will never forget the touching conversations I had with inmates, which led to one of my biggest takeaways from my Foundation Year: everyone can change for the better if they are given the opportunity.
Name a challenge you would like to tackle after you graduate.
I have been reading more and more about diets, especially veganism. I have been coordinating a food group in the residence hall and have really enjoyed sharing this passion of mine. In the process, I have introduced a few people in the dorm to veganism. I hope to use my platform as an influencer to expose more people to veganism as a health and environmental choice. Right now, I’m working with a few airlines to introduce more plant-based foods onboard, which will make a big difference considering the scale of airline catering.
Tell us about a memorable experience you have had in one of your Foundation Year classes.
My most memorable moments are those in which I managed to apply HCs in real life without putting much thought into it. I’m often amazed how automatic some of these skills are now, and any time I can look at a situation and think, “Wow, that’s clearly an emergent property,” for example — it makes the hard work this past year worth it.
Which Habit of Mind or Foundational Concept (HCs) do you find the most useful?
There are so many HCs that have radically changed the way I think, so it’s difficult to choose just one. #interpretivelens stands out because I apply it every day in my regular life. This HC teaches us to consider how people perceive everything they come across based upon their own interpretive lenses, which is informed by their past experiences. I often ask myself how my viewers will interpret something I say given their backgrounds, and consider how to best convey my thoughts with them in mind. My experience of an event could be vastly different from theirs, depending on what they are used to. Similarly, I use #interpretivelens when discussing environmental issues or veganism. I remember my own perception of animal rights just a few years ago as a meat eater, and how a single blog post changed my interpretation of the issue, and the way I looked at other people.
What would you tell a student who is considering applying to Minerva?
Don’t listen to everyone else’s opinions on what choices you should make. If you feel Minerva is where you want to be, go with what you want. Even if you are terrified of choosing a less conventional route, you are more likely to be happy with your choice if you do it for yourself rather than letting assumed prestige and other people influence your decision.
If you were inspired by Daniel's story and are seeking a college experience that will teach you valuable pragmatic skills that will enable you to change the world, apply to join Minerva today.