Marianne Wisheart <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.
As a parent of two children who are a ways off from going to college, I still can imagine what I would look for in a residential system. A few years ago there was a survey that was sent out to MIT alumni and I remember some of the responses that came back reflected on housing and food related issues. Some of the issues were themes that I would agree with. Two basic needs for a college student and a major concern for parents is first - safe and secure housing. A second concern is a college student getting ample nourishment which would then provide a positive and healthy learning environment.
The first concern of security with any residential system in mind would be to build a community which instills an "eyes on the neighborhood" setting like the North end of Boston is known for. This new residential system would include buildings that were built with security in mind and have well lit walkways and well lit entrance areas. The residences could be set up by themes reflecting the spirit of MIT academics and research.
One of the most memorable days of my college life were the people I met whom I lived with at school. It is though these people that I continued to learn. The next thing to recognize is that there is a great deal of learning that takes place outside of the classroom. So the challenge I see that faces MIT is how to bridge the learning that takes place in the classroom and outside the classroom which I will label the community. One way to bridge these two would be to design a residential system that was set up by themes. For example one unit could be considered Innovations and Products for those students who are interested in an entrepreneurial community. North Carolina State U. does an excellent job in setting up residences based on themes. One of their residential programs is called CATT - Computer and Technologies and Theme programs. MIT could do something similiar to this in the area of Biotech, Computers and Multi media etc. NSCU's web site is http://www.catt.ncsu.edu/. By bringing students together and creating a network of friends, ideas and support via the university students will learn competincies which they will take with them from MIT and hopefully positive memories of MIT. The themes would bring MIT's alums closer to the Institute and give alums something else to identify with their educational experience.
One feature of the residential system would include study areas, coffee house type lounges or comfortable meeting areas where students can socialize. It would be also nice to have a tutorial service brought to each of the living areas delivered to groups of students versus the one on one that is now available throught the TSR service at MIT. Building a mentor system with students from the new residences would help students stay connected to alumns and help student's become aware of the world of work. Students learn alot about the world of work from faculty, fellow students, and alums. It would be beneficial to further develop the relationships with alums in the new residential system.
The residential system would be constantly changing and building ways to improve the conditions of the environment. Therefore as the system is being designed it should be taken into consideration room for continuual improvement. I wouldn't look at this process as one step that will carry the Institute through the next 50 years. So the questions that should be answered is how do you make room for changes while maintaining the best practices of the system.
How should that time and influence be rewarded? Recognition could be the award and time allowed to the people who participate in building the system with some relief from the main tasks of that person's role.