Review Committee on Orientation
In March 2011, Dean for Undergraduate Education, Professor Daniel Hastings, and Dean for Student Life, Chris Colombo, charged the Review Committee on Orientation (RCO) to examine all aspects and activities associated with Freshman Orientation. Specifically, the Committee is considering potential changes to Orientation that would improve the experience for first-year students and better prepare them for the challenges they are about to encounter at the Institute.
The impetus for the Committee was based on a recommendation from the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons in 2006. The Task Force recommended that the Chancellor establish a faculty committee to examine Orientation, to achieve better program balances among student life, academics, and research in the interest of setting “the stage for the intellectual journey upon which first-year students are about to embark.”
The committee includes five MIT faculty members (three of whom are housemasters), one non-faculty housemaster, six undergraduates, and four senior administrators from the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming, Student Development and Support, and Residential Life. I serve as the faculty chair of the Committee. The purview of the Committee includes a review of the official Institute Orientation, Freshman Pre-Orientation Programs (FPOPs), Residential Exploration (REX), and the fraternity and sorority rush.
With such a broad and diverse set of programs to review, the Committee has dedicated significant time to gathering background information and data from key stakeholders.
During the spring, we met with the Director of the International Students Office, Director of Housing, Director of FSILGs, faculty overseeing the Advanced Standing Examinations and Math Diagnostic (biology, physics, chemistry, and mathematics), sponsors on behalf of a suite of Freshman Pre-Orientation Programs (FPOPs), the DormCon Vice President for REX, and students representing the residential community.
These initial discussions gave the Committee an understanding of the underlying challenges and goals of the diverse components of Orientation.
Subsequently, we established subcommittees to undertake a substantial and deep review of specific aspects of Freshman Orientation. The subcommittees addressed:
Over the summer, these subcommittees gathered survey and assessment data, sponsored focus groups, spoke with content experts, and reviewed best practices at other universities. Each subcommittee summarized its findings in a report to the full Committee.
In addition, a special subcommittee on Data Gathering and Assessment was created to collect and analyze data that would help us better understand the impact of MIT’s Orientation on first-year students. Headed by Professor Charles Stewart and Elizabeth Young, the subcommittee surveyed a subset of incoming freshmen before, during, and after Orientation to evaluate their immediate transition problems, levels of anxiety, and knowledge of resources. In addition, the full Class of 2015 was asked to complete a comprehensive survey the first week of classes.
As of this date, the RCO has collected a great deal of data. The next stage of our work, the most difficult, will be to analyze this data with an eye to discovering synergies and complementarities while eliminating and/or reducing possible conflicts, overlaps, and redundancies.
As the fall term unfolds, the Committee will continue to engage faculty, students, and other members of the community in this process. We have met with the Committee on Undergraduate Program (CUP) and will meet with the Undergraduate Officers. We also held public forums in November designed to gather additional student perspectives. The first forum was held on November 10 and the second on November 21. All members of the MIT community were invited.
The Committee will report its findings and recommendations on Freshman Orientation to Deans Hastings and Colombo in January 2012. All comments and questions are welcome. Please send them to Leslie Bottari, at email@example.com, who will keep a record of all messages received and pass them on to the Committee.