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Pre-Orientation Programs Give Freshmen an Early Start

By Gabriel Daleson

MIT’s offering of pre-orientation programs reached a total of five this year, most entirely student run. The two new programs, which centered around the outdoors and the arts, joined the Freshman Leadership Program and CityView, which was previously known as Freshman Service Program.

Freshman Leadership Program

The Freshman Leadership Program was run by Elsie Huang ’00 at Eagle Pond Lodge in Danbury, New Hampshire. Eighty-nine incoming freshmen and sixteen counselors were in attendance. Huang said that the program focused on “a non-traditional sense of leadership.” The program involved mostly discussion of various social issues; in Huang’s words, “we don’t actually say the word ‘leadership’ at camp.”

Student response to FLP was overwhelmingly positive. Abidemi A. Adeboje ’03 was glad he got to know everyone, and appreciated the “accurate picture of what would happen on campus.”

Gavin W. Greer ’03 said that participants learned to “step back and think” about stereotypes and about what they say, a skill that he thought would be beneficial to every MIT frosh.


Last year’s Freshman Service Program changed its name to CityView, and took 36 students out to “get associated with Cambridge”, according to Linda Ungsunan, one of the counselors. Ungsunan said that the program was in part designed to combat the attitude of many students that they lived at MIT and not Cambridge. The CityView students spent some time at a Habitat for Humanity project building futons, and they were taken on a MyTown tour, which is run by local high school students and concentrates more on history than on sightseeing.

David Von Stroh ‘03 loved the program and said that “I believe CityView created MIT leaders out of all of us.”

Freshman Arts Program

A new addition to the pre-orientation offerings this year was the Freshman Arts Program, organized by Rebecca Breazeale. The program revolved around five disciplines: dance, theatre, visual arts, music, and film and media. The 40 students, engaged in several workshops, including breakdancing and graffiti. There was also a class on henna, an Indian form of body painting, and a class called “relaxing art” with fingerpainting, play-doh, and sidewalk chalk.

Freshman Outdoor Program

Matt P. Lahaie ’01 organized the Freshman Outdoors Program, also in its first year. Eight upperclass leaders, 37 freshmen, and four other MIT affiliates -- Visiting Professor Bob Rooney, Chaplain John Wuestneck, Professor Leigh Royden, and Michelle Berris, a recent graduate -- spent the week on Thompson Island in Boston Harbour.

Discover Ocean Engineering

The Department of Ocean Engineering also offered a pre-orientation program called Discover Ocean Engineering now in its second year. Professor Chryssostomos Chryssostomidis, the head of the department, said that the the program was designed to “provide a service” to MIT, to introduce students to the Institute and also to some faculty.

The program, directed by Tom R.Consi, a lecturer and researcher, involved several cruises on the Charles River and in Boston Harbor. Students also built a remotely operated vehicle using PVC pipes, weights, and prepackaged motors.

Students were pleased with the program. Participants said on the evaluation forms: “It’s just wonderful” and “a fantastic introduction to a fantastic institution.”

Karen Robinson contributed to the reporting of this story.