iHouse: An International Living-Learning Community
The International House for Global Leadership, or iHouse, is a living-learning community consisting of 21 undergraduate students passionate about international development. iHouse was established on the vision that a community promoting a combination of academics, project-based learning, mentorship opportunities, and leadership skills development is necessary at MIT to foster the next generation of global leaders solving international problems. Our mission is therefore to complement the academic offerings in international development at MIT with the principles, tools, networks, and experiences necessary for undergraduates to become leaders in international development. To fulfill this mission, we have created a close-knit, collaborative community that promotes the international development-related programs that MIT offers, encourages project-based learning, exposes students to various opportunities that enhance leadership skills, and provides a strong mentorship network for students.
iHouse is a student-governed living group that is guided by the Chancellor-appointed faculty advisory council, which is headed by Ford Professor and former MIT Faculty Chair Bish Sanyal. The programming for iHouse was developed by the Housemasters of New House, Sandra Harris and Professor Wesley Harris, Donna Denoncourt (Associate Dean of Residential Life), and the iHouse Program Coordinator, Zahir Dossa (a PhD Candidate in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning). iHouse promotes the academic offerings of MIT in international development. Residents are required to participate in at least two international development courses, with MISTI and D-Lab being the most popular. [Click here for an in depth look at MISTI.] Beyond the courses in international development that MIT offers, there is a strong emphasis on project-based learning. This is furthered through the iHouse Freshman Advising Seminar, in which all entering iHouse freshmen enroll, and international service leadership projects, which all iHouse residents are required to conduct.
The Freshman Advising Seminar, facilitated by Professors Wes Harris and Leon Trilling and designed by Professor Diane Davis, Laura Sampath (Manager of the International Development Initiative), and Zahir Dossa, introduces freshmen to a methodology for approaching communities to identify, understand, and solve problems in an international development context. This year, by working extensively with a local Cape Verdean community, students will learn to use a variety of social science and engineering tools, methods, and techniques to clarify international development problems with an applied problem-solving approach. By teaching a more effective and impactful method of approaching communities, understanding problems, and structuring solutions, this course prepares students for their international service leadership project. The Public Service Center works closely with iHouse residents in developing and planning their international projects, which are funded by the 484 Phi Alpha Foundation. Students are currently leading community service projects in countries such as China, Ghana, Israel, India, Paraguay, the Philippines, and South Africa.
Leadership skills development and a mentorship network are two other essential aspects of iHouse. With funding from the Alumni Fund Grant, iHouse will be launching a leadership development module in spring 2010, that teaches students how to manage international projects – something students have complained they are unprepared for.
We are collaborating with the Sloan Leadership Center, Global Education and Career Development Office, and Alumni Association to launch this initiative. The Alumni Association is also being utilized to develop a strong mentorship network between alums who are international development practitioners and iHouse residents. A peer-to-peer mentoring also occurs between MIT undergraduates, SPURS/Humphrey Fellows, and Sloan Fellows through the iHouse Speaker Series. This Speaker Series features MIT students involved in international development and creates a stage for students to share ideas and discuss challenges.
Through this multi-faceted approach to develop global leaders in international development, iHouse brings together a diverse group of students, from various countries, majors, and backgrounds to create a living-learning community. This living-learning community fosters collaboration between iHouse residents and coordination with various departments and partners at MIT to further opportunities in international development.