The Task Force on Student Life and Learning makes a total of 20 recommendations, some regarding philosophical or strategic matters and others concerning relatively minute aspects of academic or administrative policy. In this article, graduate student Luis Ortiz, a member of the Task Force and the chair of its Student Advisory Committee, discusses five key suggestions.
The Task Force report recommends that 100 percent of undergraduates participate in research sometime during their four years, whether through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP), or through Freshman Advisory Research subjects (FARs), an invention of the Task Force.
Treating participation in research as a primarily educational experience -- rather than as menial student labor -- is a key aspect of realizing the educational triad ideal. Research experience should take its place alongside academics and community activities as a key element of undergraduate education.
The report devotes two recommendations to this topic, recognizing the importance of gradually shifting the educational enterprise of the Institute toward informal learning activities that take place through community and research experience. Faculty participation in these two areas of the triad must be recognized along with teaching.
Spaces need to encourage informal interaction between undergraduates, graduate students, faculty and staff. This was a major recommendation of both the Task Force and the Student Advisory Committee. MIT appears to be taking a strategic view in examining the master plan during the next year. The Student Advisory Committee is also working to ensure that integrated spaces are a part of all new housing construction.
The Institute Dining Review, which happened concurrently with the Task Force's work, advocated putting more thought into how dining can strengthen the community. The Task Force would like to see dining facilities encourage informal interaction between students and faculty members.
A key part of implementing the triad is more effective management of cross-departmental activities. MIT has already re-created the position of chancellor to address this need. Departments and other managerial units need the incentive and the resources to bring about an integration of learning that takes place through academics, research and community activities.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 2, 1998.