This weekend, Rae and I had the pleasure to attend the Symbolic Systems Program 25th Anniversary event in the Huang Engineering Center at Stanford. I owe a great deal of my success to the program and the lifelong friends I’ve made in classes such as Philosophy 160A. When I arrived at Stanford, my plan was to become a Chemistry major, but Chem 321 threw those plans out the window after just one quarter. In Winter quarter my freshman year, I was taking CS 106A and was introduced to the Symbolic Systems through my TA. He too was a SymSys major who had just returned from a quarter abroad in Paris, France. As a junior in high school, I had lived in France for three weeks, and I always wanted to do a study abroad program while at Stanford. He planted the seed in my impressionable frosh mind that if I were to be a SymSys major, I could go to France too (look at that logic working there!). He also had long hair. It’s clear looking back that Symbolic Systems and I were a perfect match!
Notable graduates of the program who spoke on Saturday included Marissa Mayer (Google), Scott Forstall (Apple), Matt Flannery (Kiva), James Rucker (MoveOn), Srinija Srinivasan (Yahoo), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), and Mike Krieger (Instagram). Lest people think that all SymSys grads go into the tech industry, we had several academics speak, including Nadeem Hussain (Stanford), Tania Lombrozo (UC Berkeley), and Erica Robles-Anderson (NYU). It was great to meet with my former SymSys and Philosophy 160A classmates too; this year is our 15-year reunion, and I’m really looking forward to October!
The weekend was a good opportunity for Rae to better understand where I came from. A common question that I always get asked is, “What is Symbolic Systems?” At our Autumn Gem screenings, I usually say something to the effect of, “I studied Symbolic Systems, a major similar to Computer Science.” The real answer is much more complicated and nuanced, so the next time you see me, ask me, “What is Symbolic Systems?”
Here are a few photos from the anniversary event this weekend.
1 No offense to Chem 32, but after taking the class, I realized that being a Chem researcher just wasn’t in the cards for me longterm.