Why MIT Must Change If MIT graduates are expected to be the leaders that make important contributions to society in the 21st century, an MIT education must better prepare students for life. MIT has a unique opportunity to prepare each of our students to make great contributions to society. The education of citizen leaders has been at the core of MIT since its founding. Traditionally, MIT has produced graduates with strong, specifically focused analytical and technical skills who have made great contributions to society in their own time.
The demands of the global workplace and the needs of society are changing rapidly. Students who have a narrow set of skills and are unable to adapt quickly to change are no longer desirable by employers and society in general. The leaders of tomorrow will be technically proficient, but they will also work well with others, adapt quickly to organizational and technological change, and understand the needs of the communities in which they work and live.
To prepare our students to make great contributions to society in the 21st century, we must help them develop a set of competencies that are not explicitly articulated in the GIRs or anywhere else in MIT's current educational model. This can be achieved through the establishment of a comprehensive Student Development Plan which will place MIT at the forefront of educating well-rounded, technologically and liberally schooled leaders in engineering, science, public policy, management, architecture, medicine and other fields. The realization of a Student Development Plan will reposition MIT for the next century as the preeminent educational institution - a residential research university devoted to producing citizens who are well prepared to make great contributions to society in the 21st century.
2.2 Recommendation: Student Development Plan
Our primary recommendation is that a new way of educating students for life should be MIT's top priority. In order to achieve this, every part of the MIT experience inside and outside the classroom should enhance its ability to educate students for life in the 21st century. Some programmatic changes - such as more programs like LeaderShape, FLP (Freshman Leadership Program), and MedLinks - will help. However, what is most needed is a radical change in MIT's culture and values so that the development of the whole student becomes the highest priority across all areas of MIT - faculty governance, curriculum , the research labs, residential units, student activities, community activities, student services, alumni services and even pre-enrollment services.
The educational program at MIT must change and expand to meet the needs of educating citizens and world leaders. Education for life in the 21st century includes the ability to lead change, think critically, work in teams, create and quickly adapt to new technology, be a self-managed learner, communicate effectively in a global economy, and understand the needs of the communities in which we work and live. Although some programs and services exist at MIT to educate students for life in the 21st century, these programs do not reach out to all students, lack a philosophical grounding, adequate resources, coordination of programs to populations served, assessment of effectiveness, and full participation of all members of the MIT community. Most importantly, these programs are not seen as part of the central educational mission of MIT; many are seen as auxiliary, alternative, or optional components of an MIT education.
In order to provide a more coherent education for life, MIT must create a synthesis between the education received inside the classroom with that received through student participation in research and the community. The pedagogy needs to emphasize collaboration instead of primarily competition.
We must better prepare our students to be leaders. Nowhere in MIT's current educational program are students explicitly and intentionally taught how and why to lead change. Society, however, will demand that they are competent at being able to understand what change is necessary, why it is necessary, and how to most effectively lead change. Students should learn how to lead change through the acquisition of an array of leadership and teambuilding skills that are integrated with the extraordinary technical and analytical skills that are now the hallmark of the MIT educational experience. Students should learn why to lead change through a new curriculum of community. This curriculum will bring faculty, students, staff, and alumni together and prepare them to listen as the greater communities (MIT, local, state, national, global) articulate their need for change. MIT students will thus be prepared to respond to those needs with innovative ideas and the leadership required to implement change. MIT must become a model community so that students have the opportunity to learn through doing and have an appreciation for the future and for the unknown.
In order to achieve this, we recommend the creation of a formal, required, and integrated comprehensive Student Development Program that all students must complete to graduate. This program will include the following:
1. A person and place that owns the student development program, someone who will be accountable for the successful execution of the program, and a physical place as a home for the execution of the program;
2. A clearly articulated set of competencies that all students should learn and develop throughout their MIT education inside and outside the classroom, with appropriate metrics in place to assess what students have learned and by when;
3. A developmental model for what competencies each student should develop throughout their entire MIT experience and expected levels of attainment to be achieved at appropriate stages including pre-enrollment activities, orientation, freshmen seminars, classroom education, residential life, academic advising, student activities, other community activities, community service, athletics, other co-curricular activities, stand alone leadership development programs and workshops, on- and off-campus employment, experiential learning, and a new capstone project across disciplines;
4. A comprehensive menu of curricular, co-curricular, and off-campus (such as experiential learning co-ops and community service) offerings which will allow students to learn and develop these competencies and appropriate resources such as people, money, and space to support all offerings.
5. Resources such as money, awards, and recognition on a transcript and diploma to properly reward the "teachers" (faculty, staff, alumni, and students) and "learners" (students) for their participation.
6. Requirements that all members of the MIT community, particularly faculty and staff, actively participate in educating our students for life.
We believe that any investment in better educating our students for life in the 21st century is a strategic investment for MIT in the following ways.
2.3.1 Enhancing MIT's competitive advantage
"MIT graduates work for Harvard graduates" - this phrase is no longer acceptable. By properly educating all students for life in the 21st century, MIT graduates will have the leadership, interpersonal, and management skills which will allow them to rise to the highest positions in all organizations. MIT will become more competitive vis-a-vis its competition as its graduates break through the managerial glass ceiling. MIT will also compete successfully with on-line universities because most competencies of a good leader and manager can only be developed at a residential research university.
2.3.2 A strategic internal investment
MIT continues to attract more well-rounded students yet has not done enough to deliver a well-rounded educational product. Alumni complain about not having developed all the skills necessary to be successful. MIT will not only produce more successful graduates but graduates who give back more if it provides them with the proper well-rounded education they desire and need to succeed.
2.3.3 Increasing MIT's contributions to society
MIT is committed to making positive contributions to society. In the past MIT has contributed by instituting policies such as need-blind admissions, active recruitment of women and minorities, activism in national and global policy making, and meeting society's need for technically-proficient graduates. In the future, the technically skilled will be increasingly called upon to be leaders in society. They must be properly educated for life to be prepared to make positive contributions to society.
2.4 Untapped potential
MIT has incredible untapped potential for better educating students for life in the 21st century. An enormous amount of ad hoc learning takes place outside the classroom. MIT has a tremendous opportunity to leverage the many programs, initiatives, resources, and offices already in place (see below) to achieve the goals of better educating our students for life in the 21st century. However, this is not enough. MIT must radically reorient its educational mission so that properly educating all students for life in the 21st century is the top priority of all areas of the Institute.
The following offices have helped foster leadership in the past and will undoubtedly continue to do so in the future. However, their programs are currently separate and largely uncoordinated. A Student Development Program would bring these exemplary programs together, broadening their reach to include all members of the community.
Academic Resource Center: This new office is creating partnerships with students and student groups (including the Course Evaluation Guide and Feedback Forum) interested in improving curriculum at MIT. Through this effort, students will learn valuable leadership and organizational skills while also improving the curriculum to make their classroom learning more effective.
Athletics: Students learn valuable collaboration, empathy, commitment, teamwork, communication, and other leadership skills through managing and participating in a variety of athletic teams.
Freshmen Leadership Program: This student created and managed program provides over 100 freshmen the opportunity to develop interpersonal skills and learn some strategies for making positive contributions to the MIT community.
LeaderShape: This highly visible program has received national recognition for bringing faculty, staff, and about 60 students together for one week each year to develop leadership skills and create visions that address needs of the MIT and broader community. Some successful programs that have grown out of LeaderShape visions are Alternative Spring Break, the Freshmen Leadership Program, and Project HOPE.
Office of Career Services and Preprofessional Advising: Through staff involvement in the Freshmen Summer Internship Program and Orientation '98, this office is helping students understand the skills they need to develop to have successful careers and how to develop them. This office also plays a crucial role as a liaison between MIT and the outside world through it's opportunity to collect valuable employer feedback and data on the needs of the global workplace.
Office of Minority Education: This office provides a variety of educational programs that reach out to students before they even enroll in MIT and supports them through their entire MIT experience with a holistic set of services. A great model for a developmental education.
Public Service Center: In addition to the many successful programs and services run by the PSC, this office has become a successful incubator of new student initiatives. Through participation with the PSC, students learn valuable entrepreneurial skills as well as an understanding of the need for all citizens to use their talents and skills to make contributions to our communities.
Support to ILG's and Residential Halls: Student residential government leaders, particularly in ILG's, receive support and education on how to effectively govern and manage their living unit. Some successful educational programs on alcohol, gender differences, race relations, and others currently take place in some living units.