Mark Eric Fairweather
Nairobi, Kenya & United Kingdom
Computational Sciences—Artificial Intelligence
Why did you choose to attend Minerva?
I did not want just a degree, I wanted an experience that would transform me. Minerva offered me the irresistible opportunity to learn from some of the most talented and daring minds from around the world. Traditional university models did not have the same appeal. It takes a certain level of boldness and deliberateness to join Minerva, and I knew that I wanted a system that had these traits built-in and almost guaranteed. Because a majority of the students at Mineva are international, I realized I could learn more about solutions that could impact the world.
What do you like about Minerva academics?
The educational community has known since the 1970’s that the traditional lecture method is ineffective. When I learned that Minerva had not only implemented its own optimized pedagogy but crafted every facet of its academic cogs to enhance our understanding and implementation of information I knew that this was the experience I wanted to pursue.
I like the thoroughness of the classroom environment, and the feedback I receive from my professors after each class and each assignment. I have always wanted to hear as much feedback as possible, because I know I cannot construct solutions based on illusions of my own aptitude. Learning at Minerva feels like I am synthesizing more information per unit time than I ever have, and I attribute this to Minerva’s pedagogy and platform.
What do you aspire to do when you graduate? What is a problem you would like to address in the world?
Before Minerva, I started my own business and I interned at a bank. These opportunities gave me insight into how drastically product solutions can reshape the quality of people’s lives. This realization has become my passion. After I graduate, I want to continue to create these lifestyle-shaping products, specifically in financial technology and manufacturing, which would enable me to directly impact people’s lives on a wide scale.
I am also very interested in artificial intelligence as I believe it has the power to bolster the economy and improve people’s day-to-day lives, as I know a better economy does not always mean better lives for the people. I think artificial intelligence can be used to take care of the mundane, quality-of-life robbing tasks, so that humans can focus more on what they love doing. I want to create a solution that is general, product-driven, scalable, iterable, and humanity-focused.
How are you starting to do so already? What are some steps you are taking?
Over the summer, I learned how to market life-changing goods to the public using automated processes, and was able to apply this to my own small business in Kenya. Now, I can deliver my solutions to my audience more efficiently. I also became certified in deep learning artificial intelligence, and now know how to use neural networks to accurately classify, interpret, and translate more complex data. I hope to use network models to build my own consumer classifiers or to help predict short-term outcomes for product markets in a more robust way.
Tell us about a collaboration with a Civic Partner that you are proud of.
My first civic project was with Alemany Farms in San Francisco. We were tasked to make an application to help optimize the planning and harvesting experience of volunteers at the farm. I am particularly proud of our app because we were able to continue our project even when the COVID-19 pandemic hit and our team was scattered across the globe. We collaborated remotely for the rest of the project and were able to code our app from scratch to produce a final product with extensive research. Our civic partner was ecstatic because it fully met the farm’s needs. Being able to contribute to that noble cause, especially with such a challenging work environment, made me very proud.
What do you enjoy most about being a part of the Minerva community? How would you describe the community?
I enjoy the humbleness and open-mindedness that diversity brings to Minerva. I am so glad to be surrounded by very genuine and curious people who care about what you have to offer and are willing to share what they have as well. I have had many insightful conversations and experiences with my classmates. Honestly, after every time I interact with them, I feel very privileged to be a part of this beautiful community. Additionally, I enjoy growing as a person and being surrounded by such highly talented people. I have noticed that comfort is not a widespread phenomenon that many Minerva students share. This drive has helped me grow so much more in one year more so than I ever anticipated.
What would you tell another student who is considering Minerva?
Minerva is amazing, but it is not for everyone. There is a need for a lot of self-accountability here and will require more responsibility than most traditional universities. One of the most useful skills I have had to develop here at Minerva is the ability to comfortably turn down new opportunities because I just did not have enough time in the day to do everything I wanted to do on top of what I was obligated to take care of.
Also, many high achieving students who I know, including myself, had an easy time with high school classes. However, you cannot expect that here. Minerva will challenge every paradigm that shapes who you are every day. It is a good thing when you look back and see how far you have come in one semester, but it can become jarring to be challenged so much.
How is Minerva shaping the future, in your own words?
I think Minerva is championing the educational establishment by structurally incorporating and enhancing ambidextrous learning. Additionally, Minerva is challenging the flexibility that educational institutions should offer their students. By offering a comprehensive academic regime online, Minerva has enabled students to engage in class much more thoroughly and to quickly receive valuable, documented feedback.
If you were inspired by Mark’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.