MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000


The Integrated Studies Program (ISP) offers a curriculum for first-year students built around the study of technologies as they are practiced in different cultures and historical periods. ISP promotes a form of education that seeks to show students the connections among ideas and processes in the sciences, humanities, and social sciences. Hands-on learning complements the theoretical work that is a typical component of most first-year coursework. ISP strives to provide students the academic and social foundation for success at MIT and beyond by creating a community devoted to team approaches to design and problem solving, inquiry, enhanced communication skills, and life-long learning.


The centerpiece of the year’s curriculum were two HASS-D subjects focused on technologies in their cultural and historical contexts. In fall, students studied technologies ranging from food production and preparation in China to metalsmithing in the context of traditional Japanese samurai culture. Professor Arthur Steinberg and Dr. Peter Dourmashkin held primary responsibility for the subject, with Ms. Frederica Steinberg coordinating the integrated writing component. Professor Steinberg and Dr. Dourmashkin visited Greenwich Observatory to collect materials on John Harrison’s search for a way to keep longitude. Their research formed the basis for an enhanced unit on timekeeping. In spring, technologies studied ranged from Andean weaving and the role of textiles as a communication medium to the social impact of the invention of the internal combustion engine. A highlight of the semester was a project that asked students to design a textile mill to be set in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1840. Working in small teams, they researched mill machinery, building design, land costs, labor needs, and other issues. Students presented business plans to build a mill before a panel of potential "investors." Dr. Jonathan Wylie joined Dr. Dourmashkin and Ms. Steinberg in teaching the subject while Professor Steinberg was on sabbatical leave. ISP continued to modify approaches within existing modules to improve students’ competencies in all modes of communication, and in working as part of a team to develop and promote an idea.

Workshops connected to the humanities subjects allowed students to practice all the technologies studied. Guest presenters included Mr. Toby Bashaw, blacksmith; Ms. Debbie Watson, weaver and dyer; and Dr. Ed Franquemont, anthropologist and Incan weaving specialist.

ISP continues to focus attention on developing a strong writing curriculum under the leadership of Ms. Steinberg, with assistance from Ms. Debra Aczel. Students in the fall and spring HASS-D subjects, write several papers that increase in length and sophistication; produce outlines, rough drafts, and abstracts; spend considerable time working with writing graders/tutors to revise papers.

ISP hosted a weekly luncheon for freshmen with speakers from MIT and the greater community to lecture about their work.

Students attended lectures in math and science subjects with the rest of the freshmen class, but were able to choose ISP-sponsored recitations in some subjects. Most students enrolled in 8.01x and 8.02x, experiential physics courses.


Professor Steinberg was on sabbatical leave spring semester. Program administrator was Ms. Debra Aczel and Ms. Rachel Jacobs was administrative assistant.

41 students (25 male, 16 female) enrolled in fall. 35 students (28 male, 7 female) enrolled in spring.

More information about this department can be found on the World Wide Web at

Arthur Steinberg

MIT Reports to the President 1999–2000