When Nabeeha Ahmed first heard about Minerva in 9th grade, she knew it was her dream university. Four years later, she applied for the undergraduate program but, unfortunately, her application was unsuccessful. However, she was offered a place in Minerva’s Visiting Scholar Year, a new offering where students could study the first-year curriculum remotely. At first, she was hesitant to join because of the remote nature and short duration of the experience. However, after she met with Minerva’s Provost Vicki Chandler and learned how the VSY could help her develop valuable skills to benefit her education, she decided to join.
Nabeeha researched Minerva thoroughly and was attracted to the international community and the opportunity to join civic projects to collaborate with professionals. She was also drawn to Minerva’s unique academic model and the liberal arts curriculum focused on gaining practical skills.
“[Minerva’s curriculum] seemed very similar to the International Baccalaureate (IB) program,” she shares. “You are not being judged based on your memory retention capability, [instead] you are being judged on how well you can apply those concepts to practicality.”
While the VSY’s remote model initially concerned her, after taking class on Forum, Nabeeha quickly realized that the virtual classroom did not limit her ability to learn.
“Minerva’s education is so much better than what I expected it to be…I didn’t know how I would adjust to being confined to home in front of a laptop screen. [But] believe me when I tell you, I don’t know how that one and a half-hour [class flew by so quickly.] I looked forward to class because [my professors] were teaching me what I wanted to learn in the way I wanted to learn.”
Instead of listening passively to the teacher, Nabeeha thinks that her classes resemble her conversations with friends. For example, often the issues discussed do not have one simple answer or solution, so everyone’s opinions are debated and respected. This security provides participants the freedom to be confident in sharing their thoughts and encourages students to take an active part in class without the fear of being wrong. She also particularly enjoys the emoji reactions and Forum’s chat function, which allows her to engage with the material even when she is not on the central stage.
“I have to be on my toes through each and every class because the students are all so intellectual and so passionate about learning. Even if I didn’t care about a subject, for example, I detested computational sciences before I came to Minerva, seeing the energy and the welcoming attitude, I was naturally drawn in class.”
Coupled with the way her professors thoughtfully conducted lessons, Nabeeha was motivated to put forth her best work when completing pre-class readings. Assignments provided another layer of motivation as she enjoyed applying the knowledge she gained in class to an external subject of her interest in a practical way.
Before Minerva, Nabeeha mainly focused on learning for the sake of an exam or to receive a good grade. But at Minerva, students focus on developing their critical thinking, creative thinking, effective communication, and effective interaction abilities. These key habits of mind and foundational concepts (HCs,) like understanding an audience’s perspective and strategic heuristics, are deliberately outlined at the beginning of a class helping students recognize the theme of the session from the very beginning. Then the entire lesson is structured to help students understand and be able to apply the objectives by the end of the session.
This practical application allowed Nabeeha to deeply understand the HCs and develop a mastery of them. She recalls a conversation she had with Minerva’s Founder Ben Nelson at the beginning of her first semester when he told her that by the end of the first year at Minerva, he expects students to have mastered the HCs to an extent where they apply them subconsciously. At the time, she was skeptical about that outcome but now she understands what he meant.
“There are random times during the day when I think of HCs. One day I was driving and I had to pick a route and I thought ‘#optimization.’ Do I go this way? Or do I go that way?…I’m in awe of how much I’ve learned over the past year. I think active learning, which I didn’t see as that incredible at the start, has definitely proven itself, thanks to the HCs.”
After successfully completing the Visiting Scholars Year, Nabeeha reapplied to Minerva and was accepted to join the Class of 2024. If there is one piece of advice that Nabeeha wants to pass along to prospective Visiting Scholars, it would be to make an effort to get to know their classmates. While she is unsure of which specific degree she will end up pursuing, she knows she can learn from and lean on her incredible classmates from all around the world.
“The amount of fun that you have in Minerva is directly influenced by the level of bonding you have with your classmates — it’s community building, it’s ensuring a more globalized world by bridging the gap that exists between different countries, it’s bringing students on one platform and ensuring that that gap is lessened so that all these intellectual minds can come together and tackle all the problems based on their own interpretive lenses.”
If you were inspired by Nabeeha’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.