OFS Celebrates the Work of the Alumni Class Funds

By Debbie Boldin and Matthew Davies, Office of Faculty Support

On October 26, the Office of Faculty Support hosted “Redefining the MIT Classroom: Award-Winning Experiments in Curricular Change” at Bartos Theater. The event was the first in what is planned to be a series of events to celebrate curricular innovation made possible by the Alumni Class Funds http://web.mit.edu/alumnifunds.

The Funds are sponsored by the classes of 1951, 1955, 1972, and 1999 and assist MIT faculty as they develop creative curriculum and pedagogical innovations that improve the quality of teaching and enrich students’ learning experiences. Over the past thirteen years, more than 120 projects have received support from these funds, resulting in many noteworthy improvements to the quality of undergraduate education at MIT.

Faculty and staff from across the Institute, along with members of the classes of ’51 and ’72 gathered to meet, greet, and catch up over a light lunch. Three panel discussions by recent Alumni Class Fund awardees and moderated by Diana Henderson, Dean for Curriculum and Faculty Support followed. They outlined projects that provided hands-on experiences to enhance student learning both inside and outside the classroom.

Anne McCants, Will Broadhead, and Meg Jacobs from History described new web-based investigation tools designed to provide students with a greater understanding of the process of examining history beyond what is possible through books alone. George Verghese and Tomas Lozano-Perez from EECS spoke of developing a new curriculum that employs hands-on projects to help students create a unifying and tangible experiment using interconnected concepts that cut across electrical engineering and computer science. MIT Museum Director John Durant explained how five students from his STS subject participated in creating the “Human Genome Trail” project during the first Cambridge Science Festival. Emily Watson a graduate student in Course 3 described the work as “a rare opportunity to be involved in a ‘real’ project that presented a science communication problem to a full-spectrum of the community.”

All who attended received a brochure outlining how to apply for funding. Following a lively Q&A session, Diana invited faculty to consider submitting a proposal. She emphasized that this was a celebration of two groups: the supporting classes who have made the Alumni Class Funds possible; and the faculty--many of whom were in attendance--whose curricular innovations have been made possible through this funding. The event concluded with a desert reception outside the Theater where conversations continued between alumni, award recipients, and potential applicants.