The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 28.0°F | A Few Clouds

New Pre-Orientation Programs Await Frosh

By Karen E. Robinson

A smorgasbord of pre-orientation activities will be available to theMITentering class of 2003. Along with the repeat of three past programs, two new pre-orientation programs will also be available to this year's incoming freshmen.

The Freshman Arts Program and Freshman Outdoor Program are two new programs that will allow freshmen to interact in small groups prior to the start of the school year. In addition to FAP and FOP, the Freshman Leadership Program and Freshman ServiceProgram will be available, as well as a reprise of the Department of Ocean Engineering (Course XIII) academic program "Discover Ocean Engineering," offered for the first time last summer.

This year's total of five programs is an increase from the three programs offered to members of the class of 2002. FLP was the only pre-orientation program available to the classes of 2001 and 2000.

New programs add variety

As the name suggests, FOP will be "smaller and more physically active," said Joseph A. Cirello '00. Students and six to ten counselors will hike and camp in New Hampshire or Maine.

Cirello and Elsie Huang '00, who co-coordinated last summer's FLP, are in the process of choosing coordinators for FOP. Counselors will be expected to have outdoor experience and complete a week-long first-aid and survival training course.

The program is being modeled after similar programs such as a Harvard program of the same name and Princeton University's "Outdoor Action."

FOP will be an "on-trails type of survival course," Cirello said. Of the five programs this summer, "FOP will be the most intense program," he said.

FAP will be coordinated by Rebecca C. Breazeale '00. The program will aim to get more MIT students involved in the arts, and the program will contribute to making this campus less "math-science one-dimensional," Breazeale said.

DOE gets freshmen involved

The Department of Ocean Engineering sponsors "Discover Ocean Engineering" to "get the students to get to know each other" while introducing them to Boston and MIT, said Ocean Engineering Department Head Chryssostomos Chryssostomidis S.M. '70. Students will also be involved in a "fun project" like building the autonomous underwater vehicle students built last year, so "they can get a hands-on experience with engineering and a little bit of science," Chryssostomidis said.

Chryssostomidis did not know whether program participants would major in ocean engineering, but he said, "That's not the intent." He called a "direct response" to President Vest's request that faculty think of ideas to improve the learning experience for incoming students.

Other programs growing

Former MITstudent, Pardis C. Sabeti '97, first brought pre-orientation programs to MIT, hoping to counteract the self-segregation she saw among MIT students. She started FLP as a pilot program in 1996 under the supervision of Dean for Student Life Margaret Bates; however, it remained organized and directed by students. Sabeti's eventual plan was that there be several pre-orientation programs, said Jeremy S. Barber '98, who has been involved with FLP since 1996. "Since the beginning there has been the desire and hope to expand," he said.

FLP involved 85 students its first year, about 115 students in 1997, and 155 students in 1998. According to Barber, increased size has not helped the program serve its goals, so next year the program will accept fewer than 100 students, closer to the original program in 1996.

"It's easier to work with a smaller group," said Huang, who is also co-coordinator of FLP '99. "A lot of the activities are designed for groups of 30 - 60; trying to do them last year with over a hundred people was a challenge for us." Additionally, fewer freshmen are expected to apply for FLP because of the other options offered, Huang said.

FSP was started by Shawdee Eshghi '99 last year, primarily to encourage MIT student involvement with the surrounding community. "Because MIT is so hard, people only see the immediate campus," Eshghi said. She wishes more students would "experience the richness of Boston and Cambridge."

Through the program's planning last year it took on a more urban focus, so this year will be renamed "Urban Discovery" or something similar, Huang said.

Diverse involvement encouraged

All five programs are currently looking for counselors, and FAP and FOP are looking for coordinators as well. FSP coordinators Priya M. Rajendran '00 and Linda J. Ungsunan '99 emphasized that counselors will take an active role in development.

"We're very much developing the program," Rajendran said. "Counselors will have the power to shape what we do."

"FAP and FOP are brand new, so there will be a lot of counselor involvement. The counselors will help mold the activities students do," Cirello said.

Students are interested in helping

Coordinators for all the programs spoke at an informational meeting last Tuesday. Many of the about 50 students who attended were alumni of either FLP or FSP, but heavy involvement from other students is also anticipated. Counselors should be "people from lots of different lifestyles at MIT," Huang said. "We want a mix of people from different years: people who are juniors now who went way back during the first program and definitely about half people who never went [to FLP]," Huang said.

Timothy H. Harrison '99 has not been involved with pre-orientation programs, but before coming to MIT he had wished that there were a program in the outdoors.

Annie K. Wang '02 "had a lot of fun at FLP."

Jimmy C. Chang '02 "figured the first people frosh meet are their pre-orientation leaders" and that being involved with a pre-orientation program is a good way to help freshmen get off to a good start "with a positive outlook."