MIT Faculty Newsletter  
Vol. XXX No. 2
November / December 2017
I. If Republican Tax Plan Undermines Graduate Education, MIT Needs to Protect Our Graduate Students; II. Effects of Trump/Republican Budget on Research
Boston Biotech Has a Woman Problem
Interview With Former Pro Football Player and Math PhD Candidate John Urschel
An Institute of Shared Governance
"Voodoo Science" at MIT?
Python With First Year Physics:
What We Taught and What We Learned
Designing the First Year at MIT
A Bit More About Paul and Priscilla Gray
Correcting the Record of the GSC
Praise for Susan Silbey
MIT Research Expenditures 1940-2017
Campus Research Expenditures 2008-2017
Campus Research Expenditures FY2017
Printable Version

Designing the First Year at MIT
It's not a faculty committee, it's a class

Ian A. Waitz


In my role as Vice Chancellor, I have been charged with exploring and enhancing the first year undergraduate experience (FYE) at MIT. Inspired by leaders in the Undergraduate Association, we (a team of around 30+ faculty, students, and staff) are taking an atypical approach. Rather than starting with a faculty committee, we will engage our students, who will in turn, engage with the MIT community. This will occur through their participation in a design class where the project is the first year experience.

Launching in the spring of 2018, “Designing the First Year at MIT” will be open to all enrolled undergraduate and graduate students. The design-intensive subject is being developed and taught by faculty and staff from all five MIT Schools. The subject will use the undergraduate first year experience as a way to teach generic methods of designing systems and products. Specially, the class will explore ways of examining an issue, understanding it better, distilling constituents’ priorities, designing alternate prototypes, evaluating those, and then iterating and redesigning.

Right now, the FYE core team is soliciting feedback from faculty, students, and other stakeholders (“What are the objectives of the first year and how we are meeting them?”), conducting a comprehensive literature and data review (including the scholarly literature, internal student survey and alumni data, as well as reports from past educational reform efforts), and using an outside market research firm to do interviews of faculty and students.

Members of the spring term class – and we’d love it if as many students signed up as possible – will use the information we are compiling and synthesizing as a starting point, and then conduct stakeholder needs identification that will involve reaching out directly to the MIT community.

The subject will be team-based and project-focused, offering students an opportunity to present the options for change (from incremental to audacious!) to the MIT community and the senior administration. 

Why are we taking this approach? Our students are incredibly talented, creative, and focused on positive change.  I am optimistic that giving them the guidance and tools to develop and rigorously evaluate options will lead to changes that make MIT’s first year the best that MIT can offer. 

We want as broad a representation of students as possible to help ensure the class, and the broader effort to enhance the first year, is a success. I encourage you to promote it far and wide.  You can learn more here:

Ian A. Waitz, Vice Chancellor

* * * * * * * * * *

Quick Facts

  • Course #: 2.S991(U), 2.S990 (G), CMS.S63 (U), CMS.S99 (G)  | 12 units (3-0-9) | HASS-E credit for undergraduates | Eligible for design minor credit
  • Monday, Wednesday, 9:30-11:00 am in 56-154 (lectures) and 66-168 (breakouts)
  • Instructors: Bryan Moser, Bruce Cameron, Glen Urban, Maria Yang, Justin Reich
  • Advisors: Peko Hosoi, Ian Waitz, Dan Frey, Justin Steil, Susan Silbey, Dennis Kim

Subject Description

  • Open to all enrolled undergraduate and graduate students
  • Uses the MIT First Year Experience as the basis for teaching design methods from across all five of MIT’s Schools
  • Team-based and project-focused, students will present their audacious and incremental options to senior MIT stakeholders


  • For students… If you would like to learn more about the course and want to express your interest in enrolling, sign up for a future reminder when the course opens for registration in December.
  • For faculty and other members of the MIT community… We encourage you to promote the course to students, attend future information sessions, and send your ideas to:

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