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Contact MIT Interactively Introduces Freshmen Academics

Greg Kuhnen -- The Tech
Dean for Undergraduate Cirriculum Kip V. Hodges PhD '82 conducted Contact MIT, an introduction to MIT academics, in Kresge Auditorium yesterday.

By Sharmin Ghaznavi
staff reporter

Following the president's welcome convocation, the class of 2001 experienced an interactive hour with Dean for Undergraduate Curriculum Kip V. Hodges PhD '82.

Listed in the R/O Hitchhikers guide as Contact MIT, the activity focused on accomplishments and contributions of MITindividuals in the past, and the potential for freshman to make their mark.

"What's most important is not how much people have done at MITbut, what you will do," Hodges told freshmen.

In an unique interactive approach, Hodges led freshmen in their first experiment at MIT. The mock experiment was introduced as a standardized test for evaluating incoming classes at different institutions.

The test, purporting to judge incoming classes by the sounds they make, resulted in popping sounds for the California Institute of Technology, and sounds of hot air for Harvard University.

A slide at the front of the room showed a decibel meter, and in the spirit of competition, freshmen were encouraged to beat these prior trials of the experiment.

Shouts and cheers filled Kresge, and the pointer on the decibel meter went off the scale.

Hodges emphasizes teamwork

As a follow-up to the experiment, Hodges invited a volunteer from the rear of the auditorium to shout. The decibel meter didn't register any effect. Hodges requested the remaining freshmen to aid the volunteer, and this time the pointer went of the scale.

"Some things you can do more effectively, collectively, as a group," Hodges said.

The lights were raised, and Hodges called out states and names, providing freshmen with a taste for the diverse group that they are.

The emphasis on collective efforts paved the way for an introduction to academics at MIT.

Hodges began by introducing freshmen to the new online versions of the Freshman Handbook, the Bulletin, and the Advising and Academics Page.

This was followed by a discussion of the usual concerns of freshmen, mainly what classes to take, and what major to declare. Hodges assured freshmen that these questions will be answered over time. This first year is the year to find out this information, Hodges said.

"Your number one resource is you," Hodges told freshmen, while also emphasizing that the academic experience is a partnership between faculty and students.

With regards to stress, Hodges told freshmen, "This is where you work hard. Here at MIT, hard work is valued, is a core value."

"This is a spectacular place to have fun," Hodges said. MIT is not "all work and no play."

As a final note on education, and his role as a professor, Hodges quoted William Butler-Yeats: "Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire and I am a first-rate pyromaniac, " he said.

Freshmen challenged to write

In his conclusion, Hodges issued a challenge to the class of 2001. In reference to The End of Science by John Horgan, Hodges asked freshman to challenge the idea that we are at the end of empirical science.

"Your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to write a ten-page paper on the topic: science - the endless frontier," Hodges said.

According to Hodges, the papers are to be submitted on February 2, 1998. The individuals with the ten best papers will be invited to give an oral presentation, and the top five of the oral presenters will be given five hundred dollars each. A symposium for the winning papers is scheduled to take place sometime during the spring semester.