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  • Ethan Liebross

There’s a World Beyond the Classroom

During these past few weeks, I have had two unique opportunities that have transcended traditional academic experiences.

Last Thursday, I went to a talk with a distinguished faculty member, Dr. Zydney. Yes, there was delicious catered food, but that’s not the point.

Dr. Zydney talked to us about the Artificial Kidney. He began the conversation with a quick talk about the history. During the beginning of the 1960s, dialysis (a process that filters toxins out of blood, which replaces the job of the kidney) was now allowed to be used. The problem was there were thousands of patients facing kidney failure, but a limited supply of dialysis.

Seattle’s solution was the so-called ‘’God committee’’: a committee made up of a cross-section of the town—a lawyer, minister, banker, housewife, state government official, labor leader, and surgeon—who would decide who dies and who lives.

In addition to the bioethics of this, we talked about Dr. Zyndey’s research. For the past decade, he and his team have been slowly developing an implantable artificial kidney. We even touched on the possibility and the ethics behind genetically modifying animals and harvesting their kidneys to be used for humans. Guess what? It’s possible.

The discussion gradually got more complex and harder to understand. Honestly, at points, I struggled to follow along. Even though it was hard for me at times to follow along, I learned so much. I thought about things on different levels, and I was inspired to go out there and do something that could save millions of lives.


The next experience that pushed my intellectual limits was a talk I went to through Smeal Venture Partners, a club on campus that invests in start-ups, while simultaneously learning about them. The talk was given by the CEO of Saxby’s, a gentleman by the name of Nick Bayer.


The whole concept of starting up a company revolves around the notion of pushing intellectual limits. Start-ups require one to think differently, and you can’t do this if you think like everyone else in the room.


For those who don’t know, Saxby’s is a coffee company based out of Philadelphia with around 40 stores nationwide. Mr. Bayer talked with us about how he started the company from scratch, how he dreamed of building a company with a culture (in which administration treated customers and employees well), and how he strived to make the company stand out.

Starbucks already exits, and Dunkin'. So does the local coffee shop that you frequent. So what makes Saxby’s different? The way they differentiated themselves blew my mind. Saxby’s has student-managed learning cafes on college campuses, where business students are given the responsibility to manage everything from financials to human resources. Last month, I bet you may have not even known, we opened up our very own Saxby’s right on campus in the business building.

What this talk did to me is that it got my heart beating. No, I don’t want to start a coffee company. To be honest, I'm not too fond of coffee. But what I do like is the idea that young adults with passion and perseverance can accomplish anything they set their minds to.


Talks and atypical discussions like these are healthy. As students, we often get funneled into a thought spiral where we think ‘’I gotta get this homework done, so that I can pass this test, so that I can do well on this next test, so that I can get an interview at this company.’’ Isn’t it pretty exciting to think if you take one step outside this thought spiral, the opportunities are endless. Maybe you don’t need to work for a company if you can create your own idea and do your own research. Who says you can’t genetically modify cow kidneys? Who is stopping you from quitting college and starting a technology company?

Something to think about maybe before bed or when you’re walking to your next class or perhaps even in the shower later tonight: (1) There are things to do beyond the classroom and (2) take a break every once in a while and get out of the classroom to explore some places those opportunities can take you.


Published: October 10th, 2018

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