Caroline Porot is the head of 42 Mulhouse. As she strives to build her campus’ reputation, she tells us about her unique journey in life.
What do you like most about your position as head of 42 Mulhouse?
What I love above all is the way in which students grow. I see them coming to their first Piscine absolutely terrified, afraid to talk to others, and I watch them evolve and grow. Notably, it was incredibly gratifying to see the first 42 Mulhouse student who was offered a permanent job return to campus to give a talk to current students. From a human perspective, and students acknowledge this as well: you can only experience this at 42!
What were your previous experiences?
I went to Sciences Po. I then spent 10 years working in the French parliament, 4 years in ministerial cabinets before moving on to work for an association of elected officials in the “Grand Est” region of France. 42 Mulhouse is a project I’ve been involved in since its inception. In many ways, it is a lot like my third child! I was asked if I wanted to become its director during the early stages of the project, since I was very familiar with the subject. I’ve always been driven by innovation, and I think that it combines well with my knowledge of the local political landscape.
What does the team behind 42 Mulhouse look like?
At 42 Mulhouse, I pieced together a team of people that had recently moved into the city. It’s often the case around here! We are a small team that works well together. I mostly hired former 42 students, to be sure that they can deal with the technical and pedagogical aspects, but also that they understand the needs of students. As for me, my area of expertise is the administrative part and investor relations, whether they be private or public. We have worked hard since the opening of the campus and we carry on doing so, together!
What is it that makes 42 such a unique place?
At 42, you can meet a wide variety of profiles, which is simply not the case elsewhere. This creates a great alchemy, with a wide range of different profiles yet no sense of hierarchy. Often, you can see people from very different backgrounds and age groups seated side by side, working together and helping each other out. Sometimes, the advice comes from the youngest of the two, who, in some cases, didn’t even get a high school diploma, to the eldest of the two, who has an engineering degree. The real revolution of education is already here! At 42 Mulhouse, our students are aged up to 57. We have a former radiologist, former electricians, an osteopath, cooks… It’s an incredibly diverse and rich environment from which to learn, which is greatly appreciated by both candidates and students.
If you had one wish, what would you change in the field of education?
Often, I get asked whether or not I believe that 42’s principles are applicable elsewhere, maybe in a less radical manner. Weirdly enough, I tend to observe that, in our current education system, we give a lot more freedom to young pupils, rather than to older ones. In Kindergarten, children work in a very autonomous manner, whereas in high school, they are completely hovered over. These days, all the knowledge you need can be held in a smartphone. Therefore, teachers’ roles should not be limited to providing access to knowledge that is otherwise inaccessible. I would love to see high schools experimenting with 42’s methods!