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ISP: Humanities, Hands-on Experiences

By Aaron Mihalik

Each of the alternative freshman programs can be beneficial for new students, but the Integrated Studies Program provides a unique method of learning.

ISP students are required to take the HASS-D offered within the program. This HASS-D incorporates classroom learning with special hands-on exercises. “It’s all focused on technology,” said Debra Aczel, the ISP program administrator. “The idea is that if you can’t really learn about technology unless you try your hand at doing it.” Throughout the year students will learn about different technologies and then do hands-on exercises in weekly workshops.

One of these workshops is focused on the Japanese Samurai. The students study about the Samurai and how the metal is worked to make a samurai sword, said Aczel. Then, for their hands-on workshop, students take a try at some blacksmithing.

Peter Dourmashkin who teaches 8.01x and 8.02x in the mainstream curriculum, also teaches in the humanities course in ISP. There are benefits from having a physicist’s prospective in a humanities class. “When they are talking about time,” said Aczel, “they can talk about the theory of relativity, and then they can go in to a workshops and take apart a clock and see how a clock really and truly works.” Also, because it is a humanities class, students look at time “from a philosophical view and see what people historically had to say about time.”

ISP offers one HASS-D subject each semester and recitations for many of the freshman classes. Freshmen who enroll in the ISP HASS-D subject are also encouraged to take the recitations in ISP.

Like other freshman programs, ISP allows students to learn in smaller groups. “Students come in and we give them a lot of attention,” said Aczel. “We provide tutors for them and follow them as closely as we can.” ISP is focused on providing a “more personal, smaller approach” to learning compared to the mainstream freshman lectures.

ISP provides its students with a series of guest speaker lunches. The topics that are discussed vary greatly, but often “it’s related to what they are doing in class,” said Aczel. “Sometimes it is just someone we think is doing something interesting.”

Students are also offered a chance to pass their Phase I writing requirement. “We have been working very hard at having a strong communications component” to our classes, said Aczel. “Students can pass Phase I by doing well in the writing part of our course.”

Although the courses are aimed mainly at freshman, ISP can sometimes offer spots for upperclassmen in the spring. Enrollment is limited to 40 students.