The What, Who, and How of DUE: Concourse

Maria Lambrianidis, Communications Coordinator, DUE

Concourse: A Community

As one of the four freshman learning communities at MIT, Concourse provides a guiding environment for first year students: highly sought after one-on-one guidance, small classroom sizes, and a strong sense of community. It is often referred to as a “school within a school,” built on a foundation of peers, advisors, and professors.

The 40-year old program focuses on the integration of humanities into MIT’s traditional science- and technology-based curriculum, teaching students that most technical courses have a mutually beneficial interaction with the humanities and social sciences. While still fulfilling their MIT core requirements, students have the opportunity to reflect and search for deeper meanings as they shape their futures. Anne McCants, Director of Concourse, emphasizes the importance of this approach, “I think that to be truly educated, and to fulfill our real potential as scholars, it is not enough to know many things, or to be able to do many things, valuable as that may be.  We actually have to know what those things are good for (how they nourish life and well-being), and it is the humanistic disciplines that school us for those questions.”

Why do students choose Concourse?

Concourse Friday SeminarEach year, Concourse selects 40-50 students to participate in the program. “With limited space it is important to select freshman who will thrive in the learning community’s environment,” says Concourse advisor Paula Cogliano. Students are incoming freshman with an interest in incorporating a humanities framework to their MIT education. They are also students who prefer the benefits of smaller class sizes and building relationships with others in the Concourse community.

McCants adds, “MIT students are great at finding their own support groups filled with experience and wisdom. Concourse offers freshman opportunities essential for navigating MIT that they don’t have to go searching for.” By providing students with the support they need as first year students, it gives them time to adjust to the MIT workload, and build meaningful relationships with peers, professors and advisors.

Signature Friday seminars are just one opportunity students have to bond with the community.  Every Friday afternoon all members reconnect in collaborative conversation over lunch. In addition to conversing with Concourse professors and advisors, students hear from an MIT faculty guest speaker each week. This gives freshman the advantage of engaging with professors they may take classes from in the future.

Alumni are vital to the program

“Upperclassmen [alumni of Concourse] are crucial to the program, ” explains Cogliano, because they keep the program from becoming stagnant. Peer-peer interaction is an integral part of the program, and upperclassman carry particular clout when it comes to interacting with freshman. The program encourages alumni to stay connected. Whether they return to the program as tutors, teaching assistants, associate advisors, or as part of the student-led social planning committee, upperclassman participation is greatly valued.

The social planning committee is especially favored because it brings together current and past students to plan academic and social events. Pizza and P-Sets Evenings, a regular academic event, consists of food and upperclassman available in the Concourse lounge to help first year students with problem sets. Social events consist of brunches, movie nights, fondue nights, and outings to the theater.

Dynamic, small classes and individualized advising

When teaching Concourse classes, professors are known for their interactive teaching styles. This classroom environment differs from a traditional freshman lectures at MIT. Ester Lomeli, Class of 2013  Concourse students in the classroomagrees, “The classroom dynamic is amazing! And because of the fact that there is a small number of people in your classes, you are free to ask questions even in lecture, ensuring that you never walk out of a lecture confused.” Since Concourse is community-based, students feel comfortable approaching professors to discuss class-related questions or topics of interest. Professors are known for their dedication to get to know each student and provide individual attention.  One-on-one time is common and encouraged.

At the same time, Concourse advisors, including professors and administrators, are a reliable support structure for incoming students who might be overwhelmed by the size and expectations of MIT. In order to effectively serve students, advisors use a group advising model based on team collaboration. They meet weekly to compare notes, provide support, and discuss how to further help students.

Plans for the future

In the near future, Concourse hopes to expand alumni participation into social, academic, and advising events. The department also intends to collaborate with other freshman learning communities at MIT: Experimental Study Group (ESG), Terrascope, and Media Arts and Sciences (MAS). They will begin to share resources and create room for productive partnerships to benefit their unique communities.

Who Works in Concourse?

<view the staff listing>

Anne McCants, Director
Paula Cogliano, Program Administrator
Lee Perlman, Lecturer
John Pope, Instructor
Linda Rabieh, Lecturer
Saif Rayyan, Lecturer
Robert Winters, Instructor

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