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UASO offers support for all MIT undergrads

By Anjali Arora

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"Where is my class? How do I change my recitation? When is my meal contract card due?" Answers to these and other questions that plague freshmen and upperclassmen can be found in the Undergraduate Academic Support Office (UASO), a section of the Office of the Dean for Student Affairs (ODSA).

The UASO is designed to "make life easier for students," according to Peggy Richardson, executive officer in the UASO. The office initially acted as a center for freshman advising.

In the past five or six years, however, the UASO has grown to encompass advising for undesignated sophomores. It has also absorbed six other offices, including the Independent Activities Period (IAP) Office, the MIT/Wellesley Exchange Office and the Academic Information Center.

In addition, the UASO provides staff support to the Committee on Academic Performance (CAP). The committee receives academic evaluations of all undergraduates, according to Stephen M. Patterson, staff assistant to the CAP.

The CAP issues academic warnings to some students and requests that other students withdraw from the Institute based on information provided by the reports.

The UASO also performs several tasks that academic departments would otherwise handle, such as the Undergraduate Seminar program. The program, now in its 25th year, offers approximately 40 seminars.

Seminars encompass interdisciplinary topics and are offered for six units on a pass/fail basis. The seminars offer the opportunity for hands-on laboratory experience, debates regarding current or controversial issues, and exploration of science and engineering professions.

The UASO also manages the Wellesley/MIT Exchange Program. This semester, 13 MIT students are living at Wellesley and approximately 160 students are cross-registered, according to Mary Z. Enterline, manager of the IAP/Wellesley-MIT Exchange Program.

The exchange program provides students with a occasional much-needed change of scenery as well as alternative courses, Enterline said.

The IAP Office coordinates the activities during the January IAP period. A introductory guide to IAP activities, traditionally published in November, will be eliminated this year because of financial reasons, Enterline said.

In December, the office will publish a bulletin of scheduled IAP activities. Preliminary activity notices will be posted for students' information before Thanksgiving vacation, according to Enterline.

The UASO also serves as a convenient depository for materials from other MIT offices, especially the Registrar's Office. These materials include add/drop cards and petition forms.

Literature on academic aspects of MIT is maintained in the UASO's Academic Information Center. The office publishes the Freshman Handbook, a comprehensive guidebook to MIT designed specifically to answer questions about the Institute commonly asked by freshmen.

The office also publishes the Undergraduate Seminar Program bulletin, The Freshman Newsletter and "course roadmaps," which illustrate suggested paths to complete coursework in each department.

The UASO is open to upperclass students as well as freshmen. All undergrduates are encouraged to take advantage of the office's various support services, Richardson said.

The UASO may be the first place to go with questions, but it is definitely not the last, Richardson added. If the staff in the office cannot answer a question, she said, they can usually refer one to someone who can.