Dean for Undergraduate Education

During the past year the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education (DUE) has seen important progress in a number of areas critical to student life and learning at MIT. The first section of this report discusses highlights of efforts in which the dean and his immediate staff are involved; many more highlights are contained in the sections relevant to the individual offices.

We continue to work with personnel in the Office of the Dean for Student Life (DSL) and others on establishing community as a critical third leg, with teaching and research, of an MIT education. This year a major focus was the arrival of first year students in fall 2002 with preassigned rooms. As expected, this change was a significant one for MIT students, the upperclass students in particular. We had decided not to make other major changes in Orientation in fall 2002 so as to minimize possible confusion. In retrospect this was a wise decision, as we had plenty to deal with just from the housing change. Overall the transition went very well, and the first-year students were almost unanimously pleased with their experience. Much planning has occurred this year for Orientation 2003; we are concentrating on improving the academic and related aspects of Orientation now that we have one year of experience with the housing changes.

DUE continued its close collaboration with the Committee on the Undergraduate Program on a number of important educational issues and opportunities. These included student advising and mentoring, the implementation of the new Communication Requirement, and the change in Pass/No Record. The experience this first year of the new P/NR system did not yield surprises, but it did yield some changes in student behavior. Gratifyingly, few first-year students tried in the first semester to take subjects for which they were not ready. However, many more students than typically has been the case did take advantage of the opportunity to take sophomore status second term. It will be interesting to see if more of them a few years from now decide to graduate early. The implementation of the Communications Requirement continues to go well. Most departments have in place the CI subjects that will be part of their requirements for majors.

The Cambridge-MIT Institute student exchange program continues to be popular with students from both institutions. This past year about 45 students from each institution took part in the year-long exchange; it is expected that somewhat fewer will take part in 2003–2004. We have learned a lot about how best to support exchange students at both institutions, and we expect the number of students participating will stabilize at somewhat less than 50 per year in each direction. As anticipated, both institutions are learning important lessons about the strengths and weakness of their educational cultures and traditions. We are already using some of these lessons in designing reforms at MIT.

The d'Arbeloff Fund for Educational Excellence continues to spur important efforts in educational innovation. During the past year, in addition to making decisions on many new proposals, we have paid special attention to encouraging sustainability for more mature projects that appear to be successful.

The Enrollment Management Group, chaired by the dean, had a number of meetings and complicated discussions before making its recommendations to Academic Council. The goals for 2002–2003 were to maintain a no-crowded situation for undergraduates while keeping enrollment levels consistent with our capacity to provide the type of education we value. We also are trying very hard to maintain student financial aid at realistic and competitive levels in a constrained financial situation.

Robert P. Redwine
Dean for Undergraduate Education
Professor of Physics

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