Daniel Olivieri ’19 had never heard of SXSW Interactive, the Austin-based annual tech festival directed by Hugh Forrest ’84, until he entered an essay contest on a whim. When Olivieri learned he was a runner-up for the festival’s David Carr Prize, “it felt like I had won a golden ticket in ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’,” he said.
Despite knowing little about climate science, the English major from Narberth, Pennsylvania, responded to the prompt: “In 2050, warmer global temperatures will lead to…”. After interviewing Professor of Economics and Environmental Studies Robert Alexander to gain background knowledge, Olivieri imagined a future where science and religion would work together to catalyze efforts to mitigate climate change.
His essay, “The Theology of Climate Change,” was inspired both by a course on science writing co-taught by Professor of English Segei Lobanov-Rostovsky and Professor of Biology Chris Gillen, and also by conversations with his classmates. “One of the greatest resources we have as students at Kenyon is one another,” Olivieri said. “One of my good friends is a religious studies major, and I feel like I’ve learned a lot from him just through our conversations about religion and about what that means to people.”
During spring break, Olivieri traveled to Texas to attend an awards ceremony with fellow finalists, and enjoyed meeting other SXSW attendees. “I was actually in an Uber with a Harvard-educated journalist,” he said, “and I taught an entrepreneur how to use the bus. … It turns out this guy had founded, like, three different startups.” While enjoying the city’s famous brisket, Olivieri sat across from a New Zealand businessman. “He’d given a talk earlier that day, and now I was right across from him wiping barbecue off my lips.”
These interactions reminded Olivieri of the ones he values at Kenyon: “a place where there are a lot of different thinkers who are excited to talk to you.”
With graduation on the horizon, Olivieri, who has a concentration in scientific computing and emphasis in creative writing, is pursuing leads to work as a software developer. “There’s going to be someone who combines ideas from computer science, who’s going to take programming and websites and things like that, and combine them beautifully and cleverly with writing, with meaningful well-written prose, and I want to be that person,” he said. “That’s a big claim to make, but that’s what really gets me excited, and so finding a way to combine those two things is what I’m working on.”
Until then, Olivieri continues channeling his creativity into writing about art for the Kenyon Collegian newspaper and hosting a radio show on WKCO. “I invented this fake band, Dr. Heimlich and the Maneuvers, and I describe them as Himalayan orchestral grunge,” he said. “They all play tubas, and they wear bowl cuts, a lot of sequins, and they’re really bad. The whole show is all about making fun and making things up about this band that doesn’t exist.”