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Freshman Program Stresses Leadership and Unity

By Sharmin Ghaznavi
Staff Reporter

When Dean for Undergraduate Curriculum Kip V. Hodges PhD '82 asked freshmen at Contact MIT how many of them were from New Jersey, the audience witnessed the exuberance of Seth Bisen-Hersh '01. Bisen-Hersh jumped from his seat and ran toward the stage exclaiming, "FLP, raise the roof!"

FLP stands for Freshman Leadership Program, a five-day orientation program for incoming freshmen. FLP was the brainchild of former class president Pardis C. Sabeti '97 and is now in its second year.

The program took place from Aug. 16 to Aug. 20 this year at the Toah Nipi Conference Center in Rindge, N.H. There were 12 student counselors and 107 freshmen participants.

Freshmen were selected based on, "leadership, general enthusiasm about MIT, and their willingness to meet new people," said Michele S. Micheletti '00, a counselor at FLP '97 and an alum of FLP '96.

For counselors, "there was an application process, and you had to apply and describe what activities you're involved in at MIT and basically what you would bring to FLP'97 as a leader," Micheletti said.

Activities stress leadership

At FLP,counselors and students engaged in leadership and team-building exercises. According to the packet given to counselors, its purpose was three-fold: to provide the freshman with an open and safe environment to meet and bond with over 10 percent of their incoming class, to develop leadership skills, and to focus on race and gender issues.

"Last year, [FLP] was based more on race and gender, but this year there was a lot of focus on leadership," Micheletti said.

The program consisted of several activities including ice breakers, a cultural show, workshops, team-building simulations, and communications exercises.

The workshops addressed such issues as negotiation, sexuality, leadership possibilities at MIT, art, the effects of technology, politics, and religion. Workshops lasted an hour an a half and were led by counselors.

Program aims to unite class

Alumni of FLP'96 filled six of eight freshman class officer positions. They boasted participation in a wide range of campus activities, from varsity sports to journalism, seemingly making them a distinguished group.

"I don't believe the purpose of FLP is to make anybody feel that they're better. I think it's maybe to educate them about different aspects about campus that they might otherwise not realize," Micheletti said.

"We want them to bring everyone in. Someone made a point saying that they're about a tenth of the class and each person in FLP meets 10 people, and introduce those 10 people back to FLP members, than you've met you're entire class," said Lisa V. Hwang '99, a counselor at FLP '97.

"It wasn't anything where I thought I was going to be an MIT leader and so I'm going to go to this thing and that's the way to become a leader," said Lara Abbaschian '01, a participant at FLP '97.

"You have to look at it in a different way, FLP prepared us to come to MIT with the right attitude, the attitude of trying to embrace everybody not to have any kind of divisions, any divisions because of race or gender," Abbaschian said.