Concourse Program

Personnel Information

Staffing changes for AY2003 are as follows:

We are seeking a new instructor for 18.02 recitations.

All other assignments are as in AY2002.

Teaching and Curriculum

In physics, we faced a challenge because Roberta Brawer, our lecturer and principal instructor in physics, had to take a leave of absence for part of the spring term. We are grateful to Dr. James Walpole, of Lincoln Lab, who agreed on short notice to teach 8.02. The students have been remarkably supportive since they had not expected this change. Fall term registration was up slightly over fall 2000; spring term registration was up by 65 percent over spring 2001.

For calculus and differential equations, the changes implemented in the previous year proved to be quite effective. Registration in Concourse math courses (18.01A/18.02A, 18.02, and 18.03) increased by 75 percent overall compared to AY2001. Student feedback (on the standard Concourse feedback questionnaires) was very positive, and attendance and participation was lively and strong. Budgetary constraints again forced us to have students attend mainstream lectures in 18.01A and 18.02A, with recitations and tutorials in the usual Concourse mode. All 18.02 and 18.03 classes were taught within Concourse as usual. Student selection between the 18.02 and 18.01A/18.02A options was rather puzzling; in the mainstream the ratio is 3:2 in favor of 18.02, whereas in Concourse it is nearly 1:3, i.e. clearly in the opposite direction. The strong academic performance of this class is a contradiction of this preference. We will continue to seek explanations.

In chemistry, the experiment of last year (a more physical approach with applications to modern biology) was terminated. The major problem was that the text (The Elements of Physical Chemistry by Peter Atkins of Oxford University) did not work as well as anticipated. This year the use of the mainstream 3.091 text and approach was resumed, with special supplements on structure and x-ray diffraction. We expect to develop in the future, supplemental material (mostly relating to structure and thermodynamics) establishing the connection with biology. Registration in Concourse chemistry was at or near the saturation level (54), as it has been in years past.

9.00 Introduction to Psychology (HASS-D, Category 4) continues to be highly successful. As in past years we had to run two sections of this course, as registration was 41 and HASS-D regulations have a maximum section size of 25. Typically, registration is in the 40 to 45 range for 9.00.

21W.731 Writing and Experience (HASS, Phase I WRIT, CI-HW) could not be offered during IAP because the committee on the CI requirement refused to permit the course to be re-offered during IAP. In addition, large numbers of students used IAP to complete 18.02A. Therefore 21W.731 was offered during the spring term 2002. This allowed more students to take the course, but some intensity was necessarily lost, since during IAP the students could concentrate exclusively on writing. However attendance was nearly perfect throughout the term, and improvement in writing skills was striking overall.

21W.747 Rhetoric (HASS-D, Category 2, CI-H) was offered in spring 2002.The new course examined rhetoric in literature, philosophy, psychology and mass media, including film. Jointly taught by a writer in residence (Chris Sawyer-Laucanno) and a psychologist (Jeremy Wolfe), the course examined the use of psychology to persuade and provoke. The papers were well written and sophisticated, the classes were lively and very well attended, and one of the papers won an MIT prize.


Despite continuing changes in HASS communication and writing requirements, overall registration in Concourse humanities offerings has doubled over the previous year (120 total in AY2002 compared to 59 in AY2001). Some of the increase (exactly eight) is because we now allow upperclass Concourse alumni/ae to take the spring term offerings 21W.731 and 21W.747.

The following prizes were awarded this year to Concourse students or alumni/ae by the MIT Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies.

A former Concourse student who, in his own words as a freshman, told us that he "hated to write and was scared to death of it," will soon see the publication of his second book. Yanni Tsipis, now a graduate student in civil engineering, reluctantly signed up for the class Reading and Writing the Essay in the spring of 1998. Some of his essays for this class, in collected form, won the Boit manuscript prize at MIT in 2000. His first book, Boston's Central Artery, was published (Arcadia Press) two years ago. His second, Building the Mass Pike, will be printed this year. (See Tech Talk, March 6, 2002.)

Finally, we note with pride that Paul Njoroge (Concourse 1996) has been awarded a Rhodes scholarship.

Future Plans

21W.746 Humanistic Perspectives on Medicine will not be offered in AY2003 but will be offered in the future, after the HASS-D and CI standings of this course have been established. In the spring term 21W.731 and 21W.735 will be offered. No major modifications in the other Concourse offerings are planned.

We expect to continue to permit upperclass Concourse alumni/ae to register in 21W.731 and 21W.735 in the spring term, as long as we have space available. The results have been excellent in every sense—educational, communal, and resource utilization.

Longer-term plans are evolutionary in nature, including interactive approaches to the teaching of introductory psychology (9.00), which was funded by the Class of 51/55 funds for excellence in teaching; and the development of an extended program for Concourse alumni/ae to continue the growth of the communal skills acquired in the first year.

Robert M. Rose
Professor of Materials Science and Engineering

For more information about the Concourse Program, see the web site at


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