Exploring the Impact of Margaret MacVicar’s Legacy on Education at MIT

Published in MIT News on April 6, 2017, by Elizabeth Durant, Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education

Faculty and students share their perspectives on the value of undergraduate research at “Pushing Boundaries” event.

Question: What does building a 15th-century printing press have in common with using DNA to encode genetic memory in a cell?                                    

Answer: Both are recent MIT undergraduate research projects conducted through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) launched in 1969 by Margaret MacVicar, MIT’s first dean for undergraduate education.

MacVicar created numerous far-reaching educational initiatives and championed the then-novel idea that cultivating collaborative research relationships between students and faculty had great educational value. Nearly five decades later, UROP is emulated at universities around the world and is an indispensable part of the MIT experience. More than 2,600 students participate every year, and 90 percent of the Class of 2016 completed at least one UROP.

Faculty and students gathered on March 17 to highlight examples of undergraduate research and to consider the future of education at MIT at a symposium titled, “Pushing Boundaries: A Legacy of Learning through Exploration and Discovery.” The program was part of MacVicar Day, an annual celebration of excellence in undergraduate teaching.

Dean for Undergraduate Education Dennis Freeman opened the symposium by recognizing the 2017 MacVicar Faculty Fellows: Caspar Hare, a professor of philosophy; Scott A. Hughes, a professor of physics; and Maria Yang, an associate professor of mechanical engineering. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the MacVicar Faculty Fellows Program, created by the late MIT President Charles Vest to honor MacVicar's life and contributions. The program recognizes faculty for their exceptional undergraduate teaching, mentoring, and educational innovation. To date, the program has named 110 MacVicar Fellows...

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