Freshmen Learn About Menlo’s Values Through Freshman Rotation


Sonia Dholakia

Caption: In Jack Bowen’s Ethics class, freshmen debate numerous issues, including the ethics of eating meat and animal products. “I think freshmen in high school are at the ideal moment to start considering, ‘What does it mean to live a good life and be a good person?’” Bowen said. Staff Photo: Sonia Dholakia.

Sonia Dholakia, Staff Writer

In Menlo’s semester-long Freshman Rotation program, freshmen rotate through six courses, each for the duration of seven class periods. All freshmen take Human Behavior, Human Sexuality and Sexual Health, Design Thinking/Whitaker Lab, Community Engagement, Identity and Meritocracy, and Ethics.

“When freshmen come in, we want to really instill in them a deep sense of what Menlo’s core values are,” Freshman Class Dean Eve Kulbieda said. “The seminar is a way to expose them to really key people in our community and really key ideas and values.” Philosophy teacher Jack Bowen, who teaches the Ethics course of Freshman Rotation, echoed the same sentiment. “One goal [of Freshman Rotation] is to understand the culture of Menlo School,” Bowen said. “Menlo School has a mission and values statement, and these teachers are sort of subtly trying to impart those values to the students as they’re beginning their careers as humans, but [also] as Menlo students.”

“I liked [Freshman Rotation] because it allowed me to try more things and try things that I wouldn’t have necessarily tried on my own,” freshman Jaya Vazirani said. Vazirani looks forward to further exploring the rotation classes she enjoyed in the future. 

In the Design Thinking/Whitaker Lab rotation, freshmen are exposed to the tools available to them in Whitaker Lab and become certified to use some of the machines in the lab. Part of the program is also dedicated to learning about future opportunities for students interested in engineering. “The Whitaker elective made me want to take Mechanical and Electrical Engineering [in the future],” freshman Bryan Liu said. 

Each course is connected to Menlo’s mission and values, but the classes differ dramatically in material, creating a diverse semester for freshmen. “I actually loved Freshman Rotation because, [in] each new rotation, I developed a new skill and a new ability that I hadn’t accessed yet,” freshman Roya Rezaee said. “In the Whitaker Lab, I learned about design thinking and creative mindset. While in Ethics, I learned about asking philosophical questions.”

However, not all freshmen found the experience completely beneficial. “It may have been nice to take an elective instead of rotation,” freshman Tyler Rattner said. “I feel like some of the classes were just not something that I would normally choose to do.” Likewise, Liu did not find all of the courses as interesting to him as others. “I probably would have chosen to take a couple of the choices that are in the rotation because I liked some of them more than the others,” Liu said.

Bowen thinks this is partly because Menlo students are very committed and focused on their interests. “The hope is to just widen the vision a little bit,” Bowen said. Kulbieda also agrees that crafting well-rounded students is crucial. “When you’re coming into high school, you might think you know what you love, but until you try it, you don’t know,” Kulbieda said. “So we really like to foster that ‘try a bit of everything’ sort of mentality.”