Sigrid Berka <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 potential parent of a prospective First Year student (I can't believe MIT is still using "freshman" in all publications) I would look for the following:
- Since one of the primary concerns of some MIT students with whom I discussed "housing on campus for all freshman" seems to be not to get isolated in your first year, to have plenty of social activities/study groups readily available to you, I would look whether there was enough housing on campus available -- also beyond the first year. This housing system should have a functioning mentoring system (floor supervisor, housemaster etc.) that students feel comfortable to use at any time. My main concern as a parent would be to find an environment that is supportive of my child's academic as well as personal/emotional growth. The more smaller seminars, office hours, and peer tutoring the better!
- A lot is being done, especially for First Year students, to prevent isolation and academic disasters (Advising Seminars, First Year dinner, Sophomore class coffee hour, International Students' social hours etc.) but some students still felt that they had not enough access to their professors. So, as a parent, I would also look at the school's reputation in the area of teaching. In how far does MIT value/reward good teaching/good advising also by administrators as opposed to excellent research? Are evaluation forms seriously reviewed even beyond the pre-tenure level? Are there a lot of opportunities for undergraduates to cooperate closely with professors? (UROP comes to mind, IAP, ISP, First Year internship programs etc.) What else is done to nurture integration of all MIT areas?
- The students I consulted with voiced yet another concern: some felt deprived of having fun by the new restrictive regulations (esp. on alcohol consumption). They said there were not so many parties anymore and felt angry about being told how to celebrate. While my main concern as a parent would be my child's safety, I would also support his/her strive for independence and mature judgement. If I trust my child with making important choices about his/her career, about which friends he/she makes, in which extracurricular activities he/she gets involved, then I feel I can trust her with making her/his own choices about partying and going out, too. I would give preference to a school that handles these issues not like a highschool but more liberally, presupposing a higher maturity level of its students.
Students should be able to choose to work on a committee working on "reinventing the residence system". If faculty chose to devote a lot of time on it, they should get some kind of reward like reserach money or even a course relief. The main work should be done by administrators who know the residential system and related issues well. The design contest with a first and second prize was certainly an excellent idea!