INTRODUCTION TO THE TASK FORCE
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is establishing a Presidential Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons in order to undertake a fundamental, comprehensive review of the common educational experience of our undergraduates in the early years of the twenty-first century.
At the dawn of this new century, our world is interconnected as never before through information technology, interlinked economies, commerce, transportation and personal and professional relationships. Science and technology are advancing at unprecedented rates, with knowledge and devices moving almost instantaneously from laboratory to practice. We now observe nature and assemble structures at the atomic and molecular level, and we increasingly study and model phenomena of huge complexity and scale ranging from our global climate to the structure of the universe. Biology, chemistry, physical science and computer science are melding in new ways. The prospects of extraordinary advances in human health and in understanding the human brain and mind are at hand. We conduct our daily affairs in the context of global economies, politics, and business.
Our students study in a campus community of rich diversity in every dimension, and graduate to work and lead in a global society. They follow career paths, some of which are very different from those followed by our graduates only a few decades ago, which often call for an understanding of many cultures and intellectual traditions. They will face daunting challenges to wisely use energy and material resources, steward the earth's environment and bring health, food and well being to all peoples. The age-old challenges of ethical behavior and moral choices endure, but accelerate in immediacy and complexity.
It is time for MIT to reflect on its undergraduate education, given this context, the ever-increasing centrality of science and engineering to our world, the changing demography of our students, and the advance of pedagogy and learning methods. In particular, we must review and affirm the future course of our undergraduate educational commons - those experiences of learning and discovery that all our students share in common, and that give basic definition to an MIT education. MIT is compelled to undertake this review in order to meet our responsibilities to our students, so they may receive the best possible education; to our faculty, so they may continue to exercise academic leadership in a supportive environment; and to society, so that MIT continues to fulfill its mission to advance knowledge and educate students in science, technology, and other areas of scholarship that will best serve the nation and the world in the 21st century.
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