DUE Visiting Committee Findings

By Daniel Hastings, Dean for Undergraduate Education

On April 2 and 3, we had a very interactive and productive “visit” from the DUE Visiting Committee.  The purpose of this external committee is to provide advice and guidance to the DUE leadership and the senior leadership at MIT. The discussions and subsequent advice were based on four key areas:

  • Supporting curriculum innovation, learning assessment and underlying infrastructure for student information

  • Developing a coherent institutional vision and strategy for diversity to achieve positive educational outcomes for all undergraduates

  • Recognizing that to develop leaders who will solve the world’s biggest problems, we must increase our emphasis in global education.

  • Facilitating the development of cross-disciplinary and transferable knowledge and skills and perspectives for MIT undergraduate students.

In addition to presentations on each of these topics, we also presented on the state of DUE as well as our progress on previous recommendations from the committee. I was pleased that many of you were able to come and hear the presentations. The committee specifically commended us on the usefulness of the background materials we provided. These materials were reports/documents which many of you contributed to during the past two years.

I wanted to share the preliminary set of findings from the Visiting Committee which are as follows:

  1. Software infrastructure:
    The need to update the software infrastructure behind the Student Information System was recognized as urgent and critical to MIT. They noted that MIT needs to regain a leadership position in this area.

  2. Global programs:
    While applauding our efforts in building/growing a global education program for our students, the committee felt this needs to be part of a more collaborative and strategic vision across the institute.

  3. Effectiveness of teaching and making student learning the goal:
    The committee was glad to see the recent improvements in TA training. However, they felt that training needs to be made more systematic for all teaching assistants.

  4. Plan for expansion of the UG student body:
    The committee wants to see a plan for what the planned expansion means for UG education.  Specifically, the plan should address the changes in the quality of education and learning, UROPs, advising, global programs etc. They want to understand what MIT needs to do to mitigate these changes. [Editors note: MIT’s planned expansion of the undergraduate study body is linked to the renovation of the existing Ashdown (Building W1) into an undergraduate residence. Since all freshman are required to live on campus, the renovated residence hall will create more capacity.]

  5. Diversity:
    The committee valued President Hockfield’s remarks at the MLK Breakfast on why diversity is important and the right thing to do. They felt that a more strategic view of diversity is important at the Institute and commended what we were doing to help.

Within the next several weeks, the Visiting Committee will develop these findings into recommendations and provide DUE with a written report. The DUE Office Heads will consider how to meet the recommendations. The next DUE Visiting Committee will take place in 2010.