Section I: Academics, Research and Professional Development
“The mission of MIT is 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.”
— MIT's Mission Statement
The role of the Institute, first and foremost, is to generate knowledge through research, provide its students with an unparalleled scientific and engineering education, and to inspire service and contribution to society. In the areas of academics, research, and professional development, the following topics touch upon MIT’s pursuit of its mission:
- Admissions – The notion of the “typical” MIT student, graduate or undergraduate, continues to evolve. The Institute must continue to recruit the most promising students and strive for an appropriate and well-considered balance in its student body in terms of demographics and academic interest. In addition to more closely involving current students in the admissions process, MIT would benefit from a more systematic and strategic approach to graduate admissions.
- Curriculum & Programs – MIT students pride themselves on fulfilling the intensity and dedication to their studies that the MIT demands. The Institute needs to re-think the role and content of core requirements, however, paying close attention to balancing quality and quantity of the student work-load. There is also a need to consider the powerful role of exploratory classes and offerings which allow students to most fully develop their academic selves.
- Faculty Issues – Faculty are the conduit of knowledge between classroom learning and actual “hands-on” research. Students worry, however, that the Institute assesses and values faculty educational contributions rather less than their research output. Especially pressing are the needs for caring mentors and inspiring educators and the need to bolster the diversity and retention of promising up-and-coming faculty.
- Professional Development – In order to succeed in its mission, MIT must inspire and educate leaders and entrepreneurs, as well as scientists, engineers, and practitioners of the other creative arts and disciplines. More effective leadership programs must be put in place, perhaps building upon lessons learned from our most exploratory departments and schools. Career resources and advising are especially crucial for those interested in non-academic pursuits. Alumni remain a powerful and yet underappreciated potential resource for current and graduating students.
- Research – Mentoring and learning-by-doing experiences are the hallmarks of the MIT experience. MIT can still do more to encourage higher levels of excellence through better attention to the advising relationship, increased awareness of opportunities, and offering greater exploratory freedom to new students.
- Resources – The Institute cannot expect its creative output to be sustained without ongoing assessment of space allocations, size of support staff, and information sharing. MIT must more effectively use our resources, especially educational space and serendipitous extracurricular space, in order to meet the needs of our dynamic institution.