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ESG, ISP, Concourse Offer Alternatives to Curriculum

By David D. Hsu
News Editor

Some of this year's freshmen will elect to bypass lectures in 26-100 and 10-250 for classes in alternative programs instead.

The programs, which include the Integrated Studies Program, the Experimental Studies Group, and Concourse, presented open houses for freshmen yesterday.

The programs are designed to offer freshmen an opportunity to work in smaller groups, explore new approaches to learning, and take refuge from the pressure of the large classroom setting.

Although they differ in their scope, the alternative programs share a common thread: allowing a new student a more personalized academic plan.

Integrated Studies Program

ISP introduced itself to new students with a picnic and their annual egg drop competition yesterday.

Students in ISP take the science and math courses of their choice, but they are required to take two Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences Distribution subjects which emphasize technology culture. The courses include several workshops, said ISP's Director Professor of Anthropology and Archaeology Arthur Steinberg.

In one of the workshops scheduled for the fall term students will get the opportunity to take apart and reassemble clocks in a design section of the HASS-D, Steinberg said. In the spring, ISP freshmen will put together engines to run in go-carts in their study of automobiles.

The classes also look at how technology affects culture and how culture affects technology, said Stallion E. Yang '99, a former ISP student.

Students can also take ISP recitations for certain classes, said Orion A. Richardson '99, a former ISPparticipant.

In addition to the new courses, ISP also emphasizes a different type of learning. The curriculum focuses on working in teams and "working in the real world," Steinberg said.

The big difference between ISP and the mainstream freshman courses is that in ISP, the students form close relationships with people in their classes, said Marisa J. Kirschbaum '99, also a former ISP student.

Richardson said that the number of former ISP student attending the open house indicated how strong the bonds the program helped form are, Richardson said.

ISP is limited to 40 students. ISP is holding an open house today from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. in 20C-112.

Experimental Studies Group

ESG offers many subjects of the freshman core in small classes of two to five students, said Nora Szasz '99, a former ESG student and current tutor.

The classes are "scaled to people's own pace, " she added. Students develop a "strong community," Szasz added.

ESG students are very self-motivated and willing to learn, Szasz said. Two classes in ESG, one reading seminar and a robotics seminar, were started by former students.

ESG also differs from an alternative program like Concourse. While Concourse focuses on combining things, ESG is self-paced and self-driven, said Daniel S. Berger '00, another former student.

Freshmen were drawn to ESG because it allows students the chance to learn at their own speed. "I like the idea of a self-paced class," said Zahra Kanji '01. Kanji took a summer math class that covered some differential equations but also skipped over some calculus. An ESG class would suit Kanji's math needs, she said.

Interested freshmen have to go through an interview process to make sure they want to take ESG, Szasz said.

Enrollment is limited to 46 students. Freshmen must take at least half their subjects in ESG. ESG academic orientation will be held today from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. in 24-612.


Concourse offers its own versions of freshman courses for its 60 students. In the fall Concourse offers Calculus I (18.01), Calculus II (18.02), Physics I (8.01), Introduction to Solid-State Chemistry (3.091), and Introduction to Psychology (9.00).

Concourse is typically more demanding than mainstream classes, said Director Robert M. Rose '58, professor of materials science and engineering.

Concourse classes also tend to differ in content from their mainstream namesakes. Concourse's 8.01 is a combination of 8.01 and 8.012, a more theoretical version of Physics I. Concourse's 3.091 merges elements of both 3.091 and Principles of Chemical Science (5.11), Rose said.

Concourse seeks to give students a solid preparation in physics for both physics and electrical engineering majors, Rose said. If former Concourse students say they cannot handle physics their sophomore year, then "we wasted their freshman year."

"The idea of Concourse is that you help each other," Rose said. "If you're a loner, Concourse is not for you."

In mainstream lectures, students "look like they've been hit on the head with a two-by-four" before lectures, Rose said. Whereas in Concourse, students often have animated discussions before lectures.

Visiting Associate Professor Jeremy M. Wolfe will teach Concourse 9.00 for the second straight year. Wolfe was a popular 9.00 lecturer before leaving to do research at Harvard University.

Wolfe decided to return to teach at MIT because "I love to teach," and currently lives "in a pure research job at this point," he said. Also, Wolfe said that he enjoys teaching in the community setting of Concourse.

Freshmen were attracted to Concourse for its community environment.

Kevin E. Dutcher '01, who came from a high school with a graduating class of 20, was interested in "knowing everyone in class and not just being a number," he said.

Students must take three Concourse classes in the fall term and two in the spring.

Concourse orientation and lottery will be held today from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. in 20C-221.