The Inside Scoop on DUE (January 2011)
In DUE, we have an ongoing set of critically important responsibilities. These are essential to the functioning of MIT and we do those things well. We are proud of what we do and this is a credit to all of us. We also have a set of strategic directions which we established in 2006. These have served us well and given us focus in helping MIT move forward.
However many things have changed since 2006 in addition to the passage of time. External to us, the Hockfield administration now has a well defined set of directions. In addition, there have been significant changes in the external educational environment in the country. In our local environment, we have taken in several new units who did not participate in the 2006 exercise and have stronger partnerships with DSL, ODGE and IS&T. All three of these partnership organizations have new leaders since 2006. Finally, we will have a new Chancellor soon. All of these factors suggest to me that it is time for us to assess the status of the six strategic themes set in 2006 and reflect upon our future strategic directions. After a strategic plan has been in place for five years, it is always good to ask which directions to retire, if any, which to renew and what new directions we should consider.
At the Leadership team retreat in January, we began to review and discuss our broad based directions ( not our critical responsibilities) and to consider other opportunities we may want to explore in greater depth this spring. As we do this, we will be involving the DUE staff since I value your opinions. These directions and ideas will be the basis of a document that conveys to the new Chancellor what we see as necessary directions for DUE over the next few years. Please feel free to be in touch with me or Elizabeth Reed if you have thoughts you want to share.
The last issue of this newsletter included part 1 of a summary of the Visiting Committee report based on their March 2010 visit and the Dean Daniel Hastings’ response to that report. This article picks up where part 1 left off. The Committee report included observations, concerns and recommendations related to some of the topics discussed during their visit. This article summarizes their thoughts and the Dean’s response as of September 2010. Since then, through the work of many of you, progress has been made in several areas of interest to the Committee. In a few cases, I include a brief “editor’s note” about steps taken since Daniel Hastings’ response. When the Committee returns on March 20 and 21, 2012 there will be much to report and discuss with them.
Creating a Supportive Environment for Underrepresented Minority Students
Visiting Committee perspective: The Committee made it clear that they want MIT to take the lead in addressing inequities and pipeline programs for underrepresented students as the Institute has done on issues of women and science. They expressed particular concern about the fact that fewer underrepresented students than majority students participate in UROP and they wondered if there are similar gaps in internships and overseas experience. They discussed approaches that other U.S. universities have used to improve the environment for underrepresented students and made two “modest suggestions”:
- Learn from the University of Maryland’s Meyerhoff Program* and other programs that have had some success in mentoring URM undergraduates and
- Explore possibilities for more outreach to underrepresented students including facilitating UROPs, internship and advising opportunities and connections between students and alums.
(*The Meyerhoff Program, http://www.umbc.edu/meyerhoff/about_the_program.html, has become a national model for minority achievement since 1988 when it set out to address the disparity in math and science scholastic achievement between underrepresented students and their white and Asian counterparts.)
Committee members said they will want to hear about what was discussed at the April 2010 “Working Together” conference when they return to MIT. Planning for the conference was well underway when they visited.
DUE response: To a large extent, our efforts to provide a supportive environment for URMs overlap with efforts to support the development of our students’ self confidence (See “Building Student Self-Confidence- http://due.mit.edu/news/2010/they-saidwe-said-2010-visiting-committee-report-and-due-response-part-1.) At MIT as well as at many peer institutions, extremely talented URM students sometimes do not do as well as other students, in academic terms. We are taking steps to understand in what ways observed gaps may be traced to the environment at institutions of higher education including MIT, so we may target our efforts effectively. The Working Together conference, which brought 75 representatives from 17 institutions to MIT to discuss improving the college experience and academic success of underrepresented students, was an opportunity to increase our understanding. Right after the conference, a team was formed to follow up on some of the ideas that emerged. Members of that team -- Daniel Hastings, DiOnetta Jones, Lori Breslow and Julie Norman -- visited the Meyerhoff Scholars Program last summer. They are working with MIT faculty and staff to determine which aspects of the Meyerhoff model can be successfully implemented at MIT and to integrate those aspects into programs like Interphase and Seminar XL. This team also led the development of a strategic plan for addressing the performance gap between equally talented MIT minority and majority undergraduates and increasing the number of MIT underrepresented students who complete advanced degrees.
One recommendation from the Working Together conference was for an event that would provide students with no UROP background an opportunity to connect directly with departments, labs and centers that regularly host UROP students. That recommendation became a reality at a very successful UROP Expo held during IAP http://due.mit.edu/news/2010/first-annual-iap-urop-expo-will-be-held-during-iap-2011.
Last Fall OME joined forces with UAAP and freshman advisors to provide ongoing follow-up and support to all students who received multiple 5th week flags. Several other new initiatives are underway with the goal of addressing URM inequities and pipeline problems, and supporting the academic success of our underrepresented students and improving the campus environment in ways that are conducive to their success.
International Undergraduate Students
Visiting Committee perspective: As MIT prepares to admit more undergraduates once sufficient campus housing is available, the Committee asserted that it is time to reconsider current limits on the number of international students in each class, within appropriate financial constraints. There is a growing pool of excellent students from other countries interested in matriculating at MIT. The Committee believes the presence of international students adds immeasurably to the overall quality of the class and richness of the educational experience for all students. They posed two questions they thought should be considered: 1)What is the “right” size and character of the international student body, given the Institute’s overall international strategy? 2) How might the Institute fund this? Committee members thought it would be useful to think through the first question and then refine the answer based on the practical reality imposed by current resource constraints.
They recommended that DUE identify appropriate selection criteria for international students at the undergraduate level. These already include individual merit and geographic location. They proposed that there may be additional criteria that make sense in the context of MIT’s overall international strategy.
DUE response: The Committee’s questions about MIT’s enrollment strategy for international undergraduates have been the basis of intense discussions in the Enrollment Management Group (EMG), the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid (CUAFA) and other quarters. The context for these discussions included the fact that in 2007, CUAFA recommended that the Institute raise the official cap from 8% to 10% of the incoming class. Academic Council heard but had not acted on this recommendation: their focus was on considering financial aid changes.
Members of the MIT community have repeatedly proposed that MIT reconsider the international undergraduate cap. Recent MIT reports on our international strategy point in that direction, citing the extraordinary caliber of our international applicants and their value to MIT and the need for graduates to be prepared to navigate an increasingly global environment. Several aims and policies have collided in this issue, including our goal to admit the best students from around the world, and our policies of need-blind admission, need-based financial aid and meeting the full need of candidates. The realities of the cost of financial aid are constraining: our International students use a disproportionately high percentage of the financial aid budget. For example, from 2008 to 2010, international undergraduates comprised 8% to 9.1% of the student body; related financial aid expenditures for the same period ranged from 13% to 17%. In his response to the Visiting Committee, Dan expressed hope that these competing views could be reconciled soon, to arrive at a well-reasoned decision. (Editor’s note: Recently a set of changes were adopted, based on recommendations of the Enrollment Management Group. After a year or two the outcomes of these changes will be assessed and decisions about MIT’s long term policy will be made accordingly.)
Systems Infrastructure and Academic Advising
Student Information System
Visiting Committee perspective: Four years ago, Committee members were surprised to learn the state of IT software systems, databases, and hardware available at the Institute for managing student and faculty data. They described student data systems at MIT as far below par, noting that there was no online registration and no online system of accessing and updating advising information. They now understand that financial resources are not available to do a wholesale modernization of these systems, and they support DUE’s plan to concentrate first on improving the systems available to support academic advising.
DUE Response: In March, members of the DUE leadership team updated the Committee on the plan to evolve the student information system incrementally rather than undertaking a full blown system replacement as had been considered. In Daniel Hastings’ response, he assured the Committee that online registration and an online system of accessing and updating advising information were top priorities for the DUE/IS&T team which was already making progress on both. He reported that Phase 1 of online registration would be in place within the next academic year and Phase 2 improvements in online advising would be well underway by their next visit. He also reported on plans for a related project, Scheduling Analysis and Requirements, the first step in replacing the existing Classroom and Student Scheduling System.
A few months after the Visiting Committee was here, DUE and IS&T completed the Education Services roadmap to move forward many essential improvements to the SIS legacy system. The roadmap includes guiding principles, strategic priorities, and a 3-5 year timeline to prioritize high visibility customer-facing projects that meet student, faculty and staff needs, and SIS technology stabilization projects that ensure the sustainability of the existing system. We feel that this direction positions us well for the future.
Visiting Committee perspective: Committee members were concerned about advising and had specific questions about the possible move away from faculty advising to “professional” staff advising that was being considered. At the same time, they acknowledged that academic advising is not a high priority for many MIT faculty members. They stated that an effective academic advising system that relies on MIT faculty must include a way to incentivize and equip faculty to be good academic advisers. They said they will return to this topic at the 2012 meeting when they “hope to see preliminary results from a better designed advising system.”
DUE response: Our most acute academic advising problems are issues of culture rather than insufficient funds to incentivize faculty. We reaffirmed DUE’s on-going efforts to strengthen undergraduate advising and referred to the advising pilot for 150 freshmen for which UAAP was preparing and the assessment of that pilot which TLL will oversee.
Members of the Visiting Committee were impressed by the quality of the undergraduate experiences MIT continues to offer its students and by the ingenuity of the faculty and staff in continuously strengthening MIT’s educational programs. They noted the substantial progress evident in the activities of the Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education during a period of particular challenge. They encouraged the Dean and his team to continue reassessing our strategic goals and priorities in light of changing circumstances, new pressures and heightened demands.
In response, the Dean acknowledged that there have been significant changes both within DUE and externally since we formulated our strategic plan in 2006. These changes include the addition to DUE of several new units, widespread changes at the Institute, the emergence of new issues and priorities, and considerable progress on our strategic themes. He said that in the near future we will reflect upon where we are now with regard to the goals of the 2006 plan and where we need to focus moving forward. He thanked the Committee for their perspective.
The Freshman/Alumni Summer Internship Program (F/ASIP) welcomed the new class of 80 students with an orientation webinar on Wednesday, January 26th. This new class will benefit from several improvements to the program structure, which were implemented after a thorough assessment of freshmen’s needs and feedback from past F/ASIP students and other relevant partners on campus. Some changes include adding a greater emphasis on self assessment and career exploration and planning, as we have seen a need to thoroughly address these topics with freshmen as they decide majors and explore career paths. This year, F/ASIP began accepting applications in October and received 116 in total for the spring 2011 class.
A snapshot of the new F/ASIP class:
- F/ASIP entering class hail from 28 different states and 7 different countries.
- 80% of the students speak at least one other language in addition to English.
- Students have a wide range of interests. The most common professional interests include: computer sciences (38% of students), consulting (33% of students), finance/banking (28% of students), and start-ups (24% of students).
The F/ASIP staff looks forward to another successful year!
Training and Development
New! lynda.com Online Training Available to the MIT Community at No Charge
Information Services and Technology (IS&T) is pleased to announce that MIT faculty, staff, and students can now freely access lynda.com’s catalog of 900+ online courses. Each course is taught by an industry expert and consists of multiple short videos that can be watched and replayed at any time. Training topics include, but are not limited to:
- Windows and Macintosh operating systems
- Microsoft Office
- Design, including Adobe Creative Suite
- Web + Interactive
- Social Media
- iPhone and iPad
To access lynda.com at no charge, you must connect through the MIT-specific URL: lynda.mit.edu. You will be required to authenticate, either by certificate or by entering your Kerberos ID and password. You can access lynda.com 24/7 from on or off campus.
For those who prefer in-class instruction on Microsoft Office, Adobe Creative Suite, and other commonly used software, IS&T recommends CompuWorks of Boston. Members of the MIT community can view the CompuWorks catalog online and register for classes at deeply discounted rates. Classes are held at the CompuWorks Boston Training Center, located two blocks from South Station on the Red Line.
Several new staff joined DUE between November 24 through January 31
Global Education and Career Development
Debra Shafran, Administrative Assistant
Office of Admissions
Kristine Guay, Communications Manager
For some great reading on student externship experiences all over the world as part of the MIT Student/Alumni Externship Program, check out these student blogs written during IAP 2011 on the Alumni Association Slice of MIT blog.
In December, DUE staff gathered to celebrate the holidays. There was food, fun, and merriment - especially around the raffle which had a few very exuberant winners!
Go to the DUE Staff Resources page to see a slideshow (requires certificate).