MIT Presidential Task Force
on Student Life and Learning

Final Report of the
MIT Advisory Group on Orientation and Residence

Dec. 5, 1997


Guiding Principles For Introducing Students To MIT

There is general consensus that in recent years orientation activities have languished, in part because of the difficulty of competing with the intensity of the residence selection component of R/O. There is a strong consensus in the community that we should put much more emphasis on the orientation component. A more extensive orientation effort for freshmen is not likely to succeed without commitment from a broad cross section of the community, including faculty, staff and upper-classmen.
  1. Increase early and lasting interactions between faculty and students. One of the attractions of coming to MIT is the opportunity to work with and get to know its faculty. Early reinforcement through contact with enthusiastic faculty will help preserve the students commitment and enthusiasm.
  2. Emphasize the intellectual excitement and academic reality of MIT. Freshmen come full of enthusiasm and expectation for intellectual growth and excitement at a university famous for its contributions to science and technology. Orientation should attempt to keep up the enthusiasm but also help the students to make realistic choices of freshmen year subjects and activities.
  3. Focus on the development of the "Whole Person". In a variety of surveys of alumni, alumnae and current students it is clear that there is both a need and genuine desire for opportunities in the undergraduate years to develop better social skills, communication skills and leadership abilities. Such opportunities may be created both inside and outside of the classroom. Participation in activities that teach these skills is often rewarded by increased self-confidence and self-esteem.
  4. Recognize that Orientation Week is only the beginning--follow through. A few days of Orientation is not a sufficient introduction to the academy. Mentoring relationships require regular reinforcement. Modest efforts begun during Orientation that continue throughout the year will be more effective than brief activities characterized by a large splash but no follow-through.

Suggestions For Improving Orientation '98

  1. Rename "R/O" to "Orientation".
  2. Appoint an Orientation Policy Committee, composed of faculty staff and students. It should begin work immediately and should be separate from the Orientation implementation team.
  3. Every freshman to receive a phone call from a faculty member in the summer time. This could be coupled with earlier faculty recruitment efforts coordinated by the Office of Admissions.
  4. Hold the most important orientation activities before rush.
  5. Examples of Orientation events and activities:
    (a) Expand upon current programs (e.g. Core Blitz, Meet the Profs, lab tours).
    (b) Introduce new events (i.e. Faculty Panel.) to stimulate intellectual excitement.
    (c) Workshops on issues facing today's college student (e.g., diversity, harassment, alcohol awareness, etc.).
    (d) Opportunities for developing social and personal skills. Orientation "Charm School" and mini-IAP activities with staff, upper-class students, faculty and alumni.
    (e) A presentation on the counseling and support services available to students (i.e. Deans Office, MIT Medical, MedLinks, Nightline, Campus Police, etc.).
    (f) Design orientation events that center around multiple small group settings (MOYA group, advising group, temporary residence assignment group). Repeated contact between freshmen within a small group setting is the best way for them to meet faculty and staff and others in their class.
  6. Present Orientation as an introduction to great traditions, such as hacks, perhaps presented by a student panel.
  7. Expand opportunities for student/faculty interaction:
    (a) Early FAS meetings
    (b) Activities in temporary residences
    (c) Panel discussions
    (d) House Fellows throughout the year
    (e) Faculty at the opening night dinner
    (f) Fun hands-on activities
  8. More alumni activities:
    (a) Summer receptions in home towns of alumni and students.
    (b) Increase the excitement of attending a world-class institution. Assemble an Alumni Panel of notable MIT graduates each year to discuss with freshmen their post-graduation experiences and the benefits an MIT education affords.
  9. Develop a year-long program of faculty-student dinners along the lines of the "Keyser faculty dinners".
  10. Encourage faculty-run experimental academic programs within living groups.
  11. Change the academic default setting from an emphasis on early failure to early rewards. Use the diagnostic exams as the basis for qualifying for more advanced subjects, such as 8.012. Have subjects such as 8.01, 8.01L, and writing be the norm for freshmen.
  12. Better core subject advice - including sample classes.
  13. Create an Advising Center as a resource to advisors and students. The intent is to centralize information and expertise so that advisors and students have one place to go to get answers to the most commonly asked questions.
  14. Expand opportunities for freshmen to come early to campus. Examples include, Interphase, ROTC, athletics, summer UROPs and the Freshman Leadership program.

(to previous section)to previous section

(to top of page)
to top of page

to next section(to next section)

Task Force Home Background Discussion Members Upcoming Events Comment Form Reports