John E. Kuconis <email@example.com>
Imagine you are the parent of a prospective MIT freshman. What will you look for that will convince you that MIT will provide your child with comprehensive preparation for the world of work and life.
If I were a parent of an incoming freshman, the "Whole Student" would be very important. I would feel comfortable if I knew my child was on campus in a controlled environment vs the fraternity house scene. The dormitory environment with specific dining facilities would be a plus. Since MIT revolves around academic departments, maybe students could be assigned to dormitories by department. I think MIT does an exceptional job in educating engineers and students who can solve problems. The residential system is a very positive step in the whole student process. I was recently invited to a faculty dinner at Harvard. Because the ROTC Detachment here at MIT includes Harvard students, we are sometimes invited to participate in Harvard functions. I was very impressed with the way in which Harvard addresses the "Whole Student" issue. Their students live in a specific hall (dormitory) with the dining facility in the same building. They have formal functions there on a regular basis. Most of the Harvard cadets own a formal tuxedo because of the number of times they use the outfit. I graduated from the US Air Force Academy (USAFA) and while the system at USAFA can not be compared to Harvard's, we did have meals with the same group and numerous formal functions. The Harvard model may be worth evaluating.
I think IAP presents opportunities. What about using some IAP time to strengthen the program? One thought might be to structure a week or so during IAP for mandatory seminars/courses. A program might be developed which would force each class (freshman, sophomore etc.) to take a citizenship elective or whatever during this time. The time from when students finish classes in the fall until the spring term begins is almost 2 months. Taking just one week each year to develop the student is not too much to ask. A four-year IAP finishing program could be very beneficial. I think community service is an important part of citizenship. While many students do contribute to the community, many give nothing. Instituting some sort of service project to give back to the community is important. IAP could be used for some finishing activities:
As a parent I would like a more structured HASS program to include a mandatory writing course and a course on ethics/morality. I would also like required formal functions whether it is a formal dinner or a ball/reception. I would mandate certain athletic activities (golf, racquetball, swimming, jogging, skiing, or sailing). I think students should be required to take certain sports if for nothing else an introduction. Athletic activities that will take you into middle age should be introduced. Field Hockey, Soccer and Football, while great at this stage in a student's development, have little carry over once you reach middle age. One of the major problems with the US population today is lack of exercise.
I just had a freshman come in who has contracted Mono. He told me his parents were concerned. When I queried him as to his schedule, he said he routinely stays up until 400AM. He lives in a fraternity house. While he is doing well academically, he is ruining himself physically. I am forcing him to do a time management study and present me with a proposal on how he is going to correct this. We also have another freshman with an academic problem and has similar time management issues. I think the present system of housing so many students off campus only fuels this problem. Hopefully, some of my ideas may be useful.