Faculty and Freshmen Strengthen Their Connections

Leslie Bottari, Staff Associate, Advising & Programming, UAAP

Faculty-Freshmen DinnerFaculty engagement with freshmen continues to be a priority for DUE. As a follow up to the fall Faculty-Freshman Receptions inspired by Dean Dennis Freeman, this spring the Office of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming (UAAP) created additional opportunities to sustain these valuable relationships.

Associate Advisors facilitated six dinners, four of which took place at student residences. Each of these highly successful events—held at McCormick, Baker, MacGregor, and East Campus—drew at least twelve freshmen. Some of the faculty members who participated included Markus Klute, assistant professor of physics; Mark Bathe, assistant professor of biological engineering; Catherine Drennan, professor of chemistry;  Jonathan Runstadler, assistant professor of biological engineering; Helen Lee, professor of comparative media students/writing; and Pawan Sinha, professor of brain and cognitive sciences. The conversations were interactive and lively; many faculty and students continued talking after the events and pursued further dialogue over email.

Faculty-Freshmen DinnerThe rationale for both the fall receptions and spring dinners is simple: freshmen often feel reluctant to approach faculty directly and initiate conversations. Some students avoid going to office hours because they admit feeling intimidated by their professors. In order to lower the barriers between freshmen and faculty, the UAAP staff charged their Associate Advisors (upperclass peer mentors) with organizing small, casual events to bring them together, and to introduce freshmen to faculty members beyond their own advisor. The goal is for students to begin to see MIT faculty as “human,” with shared experiences, challenges, and dreams.

The UAAP will continue to provide and support ongoing programming to strengthen the connections between freshmen and faculty. By engaging in these opportunities, freshmen will experience a richer educational journey at MIT.