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Cultivating ‘out-of-the box’ thinking in undergraduate education

The Alex and Brit d’Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Education seeks preliminary proposals to enhance the educational experiences of undergraduates.
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Once again this year, MIT cleaned up in the college rankings released recently by publications like Forbes, Money Magazine, and U.S. News and World Report, to name a few. But resting on one’s laurels is anathema to the culture here; the drive to continually improve upon the status quo, create, and innovate permeates every facet of life at the Institute.

One such facet — a cornerstone of MIT’s mission — is providing the best possible education for undergraduate students. To support innovation in undergraduate education, the d’Arbeloff Fund for Excellence in Education awards funding every year for faculty-led projects aimed at enhancing teaching and learning.

The fund was established in 1999 with a $10 million grant from the late Alex d’Arbeloff ’49 and his wife, Brit d’Arbeloff SM ’61, during his tenure as chairman of the MIT Corporation. The deadline to submit preliminary proposals for faculty-led projects is Friday, Oct. 23.

Since its inception, the fund has sponsored over 80 diverse projects, representing disciplines throughout the Institute, such as “Mixed Learning Modules for Global Shakespeare,” “Freshman Projects in Microscale Engineering,” and “An MIT Revolution in the Undergraduate Teaching of Neuroscience and Cognitive Science.”

Dean for Undergraduate Education Dennis Freeman, who chairs the d’Arbeloff Fund review committee, says: “The d’Arbeloff Fund has been a catalyst for exceptional innovations in curriculum and pedagogy that might not otherwise see the light of day. I am deeply grateful to the d’Arbeloffs for their generosity and foresight in establishing this fund, which encourages the kind of ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking that is a hallmark of MIT.”                                                                                                                                 

Although proposals may focus on any aspect of undergraduate education, this year the committee is particularly interested in projects that enhance the first-year academic experience, General Institute Requirements (GIRs), and faculty-student interactions in the residence-based curriculum, and that transcend specific departmental curricula. “As a committee, our hope is that these projects will be forward-looking and scalable — for example, a novel use of online tools, or encompassing multiple subjects so that a large number of students will benefit from them over time,” Freeman says.

Preliminary proposals should be 2-3 pages with an estimated budget, and are due by Friday, Oct. 23. For more information and guidelines, visit the d’Arbeloff Fund website or contact the Curriculum and Faculty Support Team in the Registrar’s Office at x3-6776 or

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