A Conversation with Minerva Student Tiago

Meet Tiago, a student in the Class of 2022 | Dec, 5, 2018

Quick Facts

Tiago Flora

São Paulo, Brazil


Computational Sciences


Tell me about your experience so far with Minerva’s academics.
Minerva’s Foundation Year curriculum is designed to teach students about the Habits of Mind and Foundational Concepts (HCs) through four Cornerstone Courses: Empirical Analyses, Formal Analyses, Multimodal Communications, and Complex Systems. The Cornerstones offer general and specific insights in many fields and, additionally, we learn how to apply these widely applicable skills to an array of professions.

Early in the year in my Formal Analysis class, we had an assignment on statistical inference. We used data from Kaggle, an online, open dataset project hub, and completed challenges to test hypotheses and validate statistics. In my Complex Systems class, we had a Location-Based Assignment (LBA), where we volunteered with a nonprofit organization in San Francisco to analyze and understand how they advocated for distributive justice. These showed me the valuable practicality of all that is being taught so far.

What is the problem you have been are passionate about solving while in San Francisco?
I am interested in learning how public transportation systems are designed. Currently, I’m working with a team of four students to solve transportation problems in San Francisco. We have already met with the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency (SFMTA) to discuss how to cooperate and assist with their teams and existing programs. Moreover, I like how people can use data to identify problems and design solutions.

What is your final project question?
My final project question is, “How can agencies and companies use data to design city streets that can accommodate more public transportation?” Minerva allows me to work on my passion through a final project, which has also been great to connect with people in the city to get feedback for our research question. Helping them solve this problem and understanding the kind of issues that they are facing, such as what aspects are the hardest to solve, is very down-to-earth experience and exposes us, students, to the real-world context.

What problem in the world would you like to tackle and has Minerva helped you or encouraged you to achieve your goal in any way?
I am also passionate about alleviating poverty. Minerva is helping me accomplish this by creating opportunities for me to explore the different situations and contexts in which poverty exists. Poverty is present, in one way or another, in each of the cities in the global rotation. I am looking forward to getting to know different organizations in all seven cities to gain a diverse insight into how different communities tackle this similar issue. For example, in San Francisco, I have met with nonprofits and government departments to learn about the homeless population. Next year, in Seoul and Hyderabad, I am interested in seeing how poverty presents itself in society in the two very different cultures. By understanding these different contexts, I can gain good insights into how to alleviate poverty from multiple perspectives.

How would you describe Minerva’s way of shaping the future?
Minerva gives us the tools to become a T-shaped professional — as opposed to limiting our academic and professional focuses early on, we develop horizontally through learning the basics of many fields, eventually moving towards the specific nitty-gritty details. For example, we learn how to communicate effectively without being an English major, we can analyze data without declaring ourselves as data scientists, and we can interpret experimental results without being a formal researcher. Simultaneously, I can focus on and develop multiple skills for a wide number of potential fields. Minerva provides these pragmatic skills to develop multidimensional professionalism, which allows students to solve overarching world issues comprehensively because we can approach it from multiple aspects.

As a transfer student, what are the biggest differences between your traditional school and Minerva?
Prior to Minerva, I studied economics at a university in Brazil. One significant difference is that Brazilian colleges do not have liberal art curriculums. Instead, in the very beginning, we choose a specific focus and immediately learn the techniques. When I was in Brazil, I learned strict economic applications and a lot of economic jargon that did not require practicing additional soft skills.

In contrast, at Minerva most applications we see in the first year are not specific to a single field. What I’m learning currently can be applied to so many different areas, such as in both my current marketing internship and final project, from #audience and #composition to #data-analysis and #algorithms. I enjoy that Minerva students learn broad views that are widely applicable instead forcing a choice of going into one area, which could radically limit the scope of future career opportunities.

What do you like the most about Minerva aside from the academics?
The community — my classmates and I connect everyone with everything that is happening in the city. We share the events we are going to and talk about the experiences we have had. We organize opportunities to engage with new people and, by exchanging passions and interests, we get to know more about ourselves. For me, I was able to discover product management because some of my friends invited me to a few product management events. On top of that, it is also inspiring to see when my classmates achieve new goals and find out new passions. Their drive motivates me to learn more about different skills. Every aspect of this community is always pushing me forward.

What is the biggest challenge at Minerva and what is your advice for prospective students?
The biggest challenge is learning how to manage everything wisely. I have to practice time management so that I won’t miss out what I value the most. I have to know which obligations fit with my priorities as well as balancing free time so I don’t miss out on new opportunities that aggregate.

What is a piece of advice you can offer to a potential Minerva student?
One piece of advice for those who want to come to Minerva is to learn more about yourself. Create a list or a set of ideas you might be interested in or you already are interested in exploring before you come to Minerva. Although you will eventually learn new and different perspectives and, probably, discover new interests, it will be way easier to manage your time if you already have something to look for in the beginning. This way, you will be able to get to know the city and your classmates better and make the most of your time.

Tell me about your experience participating in Olympiad competitions.
I competed in around 40 Olympiad competitions in seven different subjects during high school. One of the competitions that stands out where I learned the most was the International Young Physicists’ Tournament (IYPT.) The IYPT was special because it required an advanced knowledge of physics and strong public speaking skills, as the tournament is centered around debates. We solved opened-ended problems, similar, in a way, to the big questions we tackle in our courses, such as, “How can we feed the world?” or “How can we avoid global pandemics?”

How did the experience of participating in Olympiad competition help prepare you for Minerva?
The style of Olympiads echoes very similarly with how Minerva organizes our curriculum. They both present large, complex challenges and you have to research, support your conclusion with evidence and defend your result in a debate or in class. My IYPT experience has helped me a lot at Minerva because in both situations I need to analyze data and create visualizations and also explain my thought processes through public speaking. Moreover, through participating in Olympiads I studied incredibly interesting problems in numerous subjects, like physics, chemistry, math, and linguistics and approached problem-solving in a manner that one does not normally usually see at a traditional school. At Minerva, I am able to continue problem-solving, whether in academics, professional development, city-level problems, or world problems. If you really like solving problems, as I do, Minerva is certainly a good place to thrive.

If you connected with Tiago’s story and want to continue your problem-solving at Minerva as well, apply to join Minerva today.