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Class of 2008 profile and CMI update given to faculty at October meeting

The faculty heard a portrait of the Class of 2008, a report on an initiative to facilitate faculty-student interactions, and an update on the Cambridge-MIT Institute in its second meeting of the term, held on Wednesday, Oct. 20 in the Kirsch Auditorium on the first floor of the Stata Center.

Marilee Jones, dean of admissions; Larry Benedict, dean for student life; and Robert Redwine, dean for undergraduate education and professor of physics, portrayed the current freshman class. They focused on academic preparedness, extracurricular activities, housing and financial aid.

Describing the 1,080-member class, Jones noted that MIT has steadily sought students who show academic excellence, initiative, curiosity and willingness to take risks. Despite increased competition due to the increased number of 18 year olds, "we're looking for the same characteristics we've always looked for," said Jones. "We seek the 'match' for MIT in credentials, interest in science and engineering, learning style and attitude."

Jones illustrated her point on competitiveness: in 1994, MIT accepted 33 percent of candidates; in 2004, it accepted 16 percent. Of the students who were accepted for this year's entering class, 65 percent enrolled. "Campus preview weekend is a big driving tool for us," she noted.

Jones addressed the faculty directly, saying, "If you think these students are busier than ever, you're right. The number of extracurricular activities for each student has tripled since 1970." Music and athletics have grown particularly popular, she noted.

Benedict characterized the housing situation as both good news and bad. The good news, he said, was enrolling 1,080 students, rapidly decrowding their dorm rooms, and having seniors who plan to remain for graduate studies use the Senior Segue Program, through which they could move into graduate housing a year early.

The bad news was that single rooms were still sometimes used as double rooms, and some seniors chose not to segue, preferring to remain in close quarters with their friends.

Benedict also noted the FSILGs were recruiting "more aggressively, with almost 50 percent of male freshmen pledged already. They have to pay their bills," he said.

Redwine described the class from a financial aid perspective. He emphasized MIT's need-blind admissions policy, its need-based provision of aid and the goal that students graduate "without excessive debt."

Of the freshmen, 83 percent applied for financial aid; 59 percent of those who applied received MIT scholarship funds, Redwine said. The standard undergraduate budget for one year is currently $42,700. (According to Student Financial Services, the average MIT scholarship for this class is approximately $22,500.)

Getting to know you

Hazel Sive, professor of biology, reported on behalf of the Committee on Student Life that a new web site to facilitate faculty-student interaction will be launched in February 2005.

The site Interact@MIT will offer a database of individual faculty members, providing their specific professional and personal interests; it will also offer a database of all student groups (currently numbering 370).

In addition, Sive said, the site will offer guidelines in a "10 Tips" format on how to interact, in hopes of removing mutual awkwardness.

"There's a lack of understanding of etiquette. International students especially have questions about protocol in faculty-student interactions. Guidelines will help people discern what's too casual or too formal in social events," Sive said.

Cambridge-MIT Institute update

Established in 2000 to improve competitiveness and enhance productivity and entrepreneurship in the British economy, the Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI) has provided a platform from which MIT could "learn about what we do well," said Ed Crawley, executive director of CMI and a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems.

MIT graduates are able to be innovative because of their self-esteem, their deep conceptual understanding of their disciplines, and the skills and attitudes toward teamwork they gain through their MIT education. "Knowing you're good at something gives confidence and empowerment," Crawley said.

But the British system has strengths worth testing, students who have participated in the exchange program reported. The mutual respect led to a "bold experiment" now under way at MIT. As Crawley explained it, the sophomore class in mechanical engineering now has the supervision system used in universities in England.

"After four years on the books and two years of active organization, we're learning progressively and looking forward to the future," Crawley said.

A new degree and a new name

The faculty also heard a proposal from the Department of Mechanical Engineering to establish a Master of Engineering in Manufacturing degree.

David Hardt, professor of mechanical engineering, presented the rationale for the new master's program. He cited the role of its graduates in modern manufacturing industries: the "new breed of master's student" would have a few years experience and be clearly focused on an engineering career in the "technology rich" world of manufacturing operations.

Industry is "more specialized than ever. This new degree would fill the gap between the S.M. program in mechanical engineering and the Leaders for Manufacturing program," Hardt said.

Thomas Magnanti, dean of the School of Engineering, endorsed the proposed manufacturing degree program.

Ian Hutchinson, professor and department head of nuclear engineering, discussed the proposal by the Department of Nuclear Engineering to change its name to the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering.

The proposed new name is a more accurate representation of the department's research and education. It expresses the breadth of the field, not just nuclear reactors, and it will be more attractive to students, Hutchinson said. The phrase Nuclear Science and Engineering is widely used and understood to describe the field, and the use of the phrase "science and engineering" has well-established precedent in MIT engineering departments.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 27, 2004 (download PDF).

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