MIT Reports to the President 1994-95

Integrated Studies Program

The Integrated Studies Program (ISP) offers a curriculum for first-year students built around the study of technologies in a variety of cultures. The program promotes a form of education that seeks to integrate study in science and math with material drawn from the humanities and social sciences and emphasizes hands-on learning as a complement to the theoretical work that is a typical component of the first-year core curriculum. The program is co-directed by Arthur Steinberg, Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology, and Larry Bucciarelli, Associate Professor of Engineering.

In the 1994-95 academic year, ISP enrolled 40 entering freshmen in fall (17 women; 4 members of underrepresented minority groups) and 29 (12 women; 2 members of underrepresented minority groups) students in spring. Admission to the program was limited to the first 40 who chose to enroll. All entering freshmen received literature on ISP during the summer and were invited to several activities upon arrival at MIT to help them understand goals and potential benefits. As part of an ongoing effort to attract a diversified student population, ISP hosted an open house for women and minority students visiting MIT during Campus Preview Weekend. In addition, two hands-on workshops featuring wind-up toys were held during the summer for admitted students attending the Interface program.


ISP has two advisory committees that provide support and advice to the program's administration: a committee with faculty and administration representing a number of academic departments and schools, as well as a committee comprised of students representing currently enrolled freshmen and former ISP students from each of the three upper division classes.

A major effort during the 1994-95 year was to increase the level and kind of participation and control exercised by current and former ISP students in all areas of the program. Roles students have assumed include acting as peer writing tutors and graders, office reception and clerical tasks, assistants in workshops, science and math tutors, and clean-up crews. Students have also assumed responsibility for their own lounge, study areas, and other common spaces, determining redesign and collaborating to redecorate. Students shared responsibility for preparing lunch for their peers and guests each week, an activity that requires them to plan a menu, prepare a budget, shop, cook, and serve food for a group of at least 40. Former students returned to conduct workshops on time management, act as peer advisors, judge freshman group projects, and organize social events, including a party honoring former ISP students graduating from MIT.


All entering freshmen were required to enroll in two humanities courses, Technologies and Cultures (fall), and Technologies in Historical Perspective (spring). The courses were team-taught by four faculty to provide integration of discipline content: Professor Steinberg, Dr. Betsey Price, Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science and an historian with interest in medieval technologies; Dr. Peter Dourmashkin, Lecturer, who also taught ISP's physics recitations; and Chris Craig, Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science with interest in technology. Students studied a variety of technologies or technological systems: food production, time keeping, weaving and textile production, metal working, and engine design and assembly. The humanities courses were accompanied by hands-on workshops in which students practiced each of the technologies studied. Dr. Dourmashkin developed and taught a new module on organic dyes to accompany the textile unit.

Recognizing that future employers expect graduates to be skilled in writing and to possess experience working as part of a team, ISP revised curriculum during the year to help students achieve competence in both areas.

Although all students registered for mainstream lectures in core courses, ISP offered its own recitation sections for 8.01x, 8.02x, 18.01, 18.02, and 3.091. Most ISP students enrolled in 8.01x and 8.02x, the first year physics options that require students to do weekly take-home experiments as part of the instructional method. Dr. Dourmashkin provided linkage between physics and humanities as a faculty member in both components.

ISP continues to look for ways to bring its brand of education to a wider audience. In earlier years of the program, all students were expected to enroll in the same science and math core courses. Recognizing that MIT freshmen in general are entering with increased advanced placement credit, ISP has chosen to be more flexible in its approach to required curriculum. Several students enrolled in fall and spring with advanced placement in at least one course. To ensure that these students were fully integrated into the program, ISP relied on a core of common experiences including frequent informal contact with faculty and staff, weekly luncheon speakers, field trips.

Dr. Dourmashkin developed a freshman seminar on robotics as a joint offering for students in ISP and the Experimental Study Group (ESG). The seminar was co-led by upper division students.


AS part of the effort to bring the ISP educational model to a wider audience, Professor Steinberg, Mr. Craig, and Debra Aczel, Program Administrator, served on the design team for The Institute for Learning and Teaching (TILT), a program of MIT's Provost's Office. Professor Steinberg worked with a group of technical school administrators to develop a design for an ideal technical high school. Mr. Craig and Ms. Aczel worked with a TILT-sponsored project that develops new approaches to staff development for public school teachers, based on the approach of ISP. Several former ISP students were chosen to work with teams of participants under the auspices of MIT's Undergraduate Research Opportunity Program (UROP). Dr. Dourmashkin and Dr. Price adapted the dye- making module, a project of ISP's humanities courses, to k-12 curriculum for Cambridge public schools.


ISP welcomes Wilfredo Sanchez, Staff Assistant, to the program. Mr. Sanchez, a 1995 graduate of MIT, was a student in ISP as a freshman. He will oversee the student tutoring program, develop special programs for current and former students, and oversee computer linkages.

Arthur Steinberg

MIT Reports to the President 1994-95