MIT Reports to the President 1998-99


The Integrated Studies Program (ISP) offers a curriculum for first-year students built around the study of a variety of technologies 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 is emphasized as a complement to the theoretical work that is a typical component of the first-year curriculum. 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 fall and spring HASS-D subjects that form the core of the ISP curriculum focused on technologies ranging from time keeping devices, food production and preparation, and blacksmithing (fall) to weaving, textile dyeing, and engine design (spring) within a variety of cultural contexts. Professor Arthur Steinberg and Dr. Peter Dourmashkin held primary responsibility for these subjects during the past year, with Frederica Steinberg coordinating the integrated writing component. 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. During the fall semester, a new workshop for the time module was introduced. The workshop focused on learning to use a variety of machine tools, studying the origins of these tools, and using the tools to design and produce a hammer. During the spring semester, students studied the technological and cultural impact of the telephone in an historical context as part of a new telecommunications module. In addition, students studied the rapidly developing Internet business market. As a final project in this module, students wrote business plans for start-up Internet companies. The students learned to work together in small groups and were all responsible for the success of their plan. In the development phase of the project, students consulted with an array of information sources including business consultants and venture capitalists. At the end of the module student groups gave oral presentations which helped improve their communication skills.

Workshops connected to the humanities subjects allowed the opportunity to practice all the technologies studied. Guest presenters included Toby Bashaw, blacksmith; 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. During the past year, ISP has put together its own writing manual which has helped students tremendously.

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.


ISP welcomed Rachel Jacobs as a part-time administrative assistant in September.

39 students (25 male, 14 female) enrolled in fall. 35 students (22 male, 13 female) enrolled in spring.

More information about the Integrated Studies Program can be found on the World Wide Web at

Arthur Steinberg

MIT Reports to the President 1998-99