Curious about the life and times of our spectacular admissions consultants? Please enjoy our newest blog series in which we interview the fabulous people who make up the Accepted.com staff. Next up is…Herman “Flash” Gordon.
Accepted: Can you tell us a little about yourself? Where and what did you study as an undergrad? Where do you currently live?
Flash: I was born in Tokyo and have lived in many places, both inside and outside the US. I was a biochem major at Harvard and then a developmental neuroscience graduate student at Caltech. Despite my apparent credentials as a biologist, I always seem to come back to programming. My early talents were in math and then they evolved into programming. I’ve had a research career in developmental neuroscience. Now I’ve developed a pedagogy and associated software called ThinkShare™ to support the development of problem solving skills. I live in Tucson, AZ.
Accepted: Why “Flash”?
Flash: When I was in high school, I had a job as a system programmer for the Purdue University Computer Center. My office mates were Moira Gunn, now host of Tech Nation on NPR, and Ward Cunningham, later inventor of the Wiki. In those days, we submitted programming “jobs” as stacks of punch cards to a main frame. The first card was a 5 character job card. Employees got to use their last names, so my job card read GORDN. The resulting line printer output would then end up in my cubby labeled GORDN. One day, I couldn’t find my job output, and I was looking all around for it. People were smiling and giggling in the printer room. Finally, someone said, “Look under FLASH.” Ward didn’t like the missing “O” in my job card, so he swapped my job card for one with a 5 character name and created a new cubby. I’ve been Flash ever since.
Accepted: Can you tell us more about ThinkShare™?
Flash: ThinkShare™ is a social networking platform for developing problem solving skills. I invented it to support a course I teach about scientific problem solving. ThinkShare has really taken off for teaching Case Based Instruction in med school where small groups of students work on “challenges” online and then come together in face-to-face sessions to review and extend their work.
ThinkShare supports “structured problem solving” which is the use of a stepwise structure when working on a problem. A typical structure is 1) frame the problem, 2) brainstorm, 3) strategize, 4) execute, 5) reflect. By separating the steps, people know what they’re supposed to be doing, and they don’t get stuck going in circles.
With ThinkShare, students work in parallel, and after having made their own entry, they get to see peer entries at the same step and are free to edit their own entries in response. Students in this environment own their own entries, but they benefit from the compare and contrast with peers engaged at the same level of the problem. ThinkShare also provides instructors with a window into students’ minds. After working online, everyone comes together, aware of each other’s thinking. This jump starts the face-to-face session so that it gets moving more quickly and goes deeper as well.
ThinkShare leverages diversity in that everyone learns from each other’s perspectives and approaches. Even in scientific problem solving, where there is one answer, there can be many, very different ways to that answer. It’s very powerful to see the tools that others use and to be able to add them to your own toolbox.
ThinkShare is now available to everyone at ThinkShareApp.com. There are free, basic, and premium versions.
Accepted: What is your favorite flavor ice cream?
Flash: Pistachio (gelato actually).
Accepted: Do you hold any graduate degrees?
Accepted: Can you walk us through the jobs and experiences you had that led you to become an admissions consultant for Accepted?
Flash: My first exposure to admissions was as a freshman at Harvard. I sat in on the admissions committee and was amazed at how diverse the applicant pool was. There were all kinds of cool people applying. I especially remember one candidate whose personal statement read “I don’t have a lot to say for myself, but I’m quite proud of the attached 3 part invention that I wrote.” The committee sent the score off to the Music Department for evaluation. I always hoped that he got in.
As an academic, you’re exposed to “admissions” throughout your career. Students, post-docs, and faculty are always recruited to help evaluate students and job candidates. I served on various evaluation committees over the years. However, it wasn’t until I served on the University of Arizona College of Medicine Admissions Committee that admissions became a passion. I served for 2 years as a committee member and then another 2 years as chair. I always valued “uniqueness” in candidates, and I still see it as the most fair and productive way to generate diversity in a class. After chairing the admissions committee, I felt it was time to move on and allow new blood to make their impact on the process. Now I’m involved in outreach, especially to Native American applicants, and I consult for Accepted.
Accepted: What’s your favorite thing about consulting?
Flash: When I reviewed applications, I felt that it was too late to help candidates. Now I can help candidates portray themselves in ways that give them the chances they deserve. I love helping people gain the confidence to be themselves in the admissions process.
Accepted: What sorts of applicants do you mostly work with?
Flash: I mostly work with applicants to med school and scientific graduate programs.
Accepted: What are your top 3 admissions tips?
1. The Personal Statement is EVERYTHING.
2. Be the unique person you are.
3. Be genuinely interested in the school and the people there with whom you interact.