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Fifteen Participate in New MAS Freshman Program

The Media Arts and Sciences Special Freshman Year Program was started this year, welcoming fifteen freshmen into the progressive and creative world of the Media Laboratory. Students take traditional chemistry, physics, and mathematics classes, with recitations being held through MAS. Participating freshmen take a Freshman Advising Seminar in the lab during the fall term, and two MAS classes totalling 18 units in the spring term.

“We have seen is that there is a segment of the MIT undergraduate populace that is hungry for more contact with the research topics addressed within the Media Lab,” said Alex P. Pentland, academic head of the Media Lab when the program was formalized late in 1998. “By linking [mainstream courses] with hands-on research experience in relevant areas we can significantly enrich the freshman year experience.”

The program “takes the community of students who are already here” at the Media Lab and formalizes it, said V. Michael Bove ’83, a principal research scientist at the lab. “Basically, [we started the program] to provide a bit more structure for freshmen” involved in the Media Lab.

One of the spring classes, Fundamentals of Computational Media Design (MAS.110), demonstrates the use of computers in the arts. The other, Introduction to Doing Research in Media Arts and Sciences (MAS.111), as its name suggests, allows freshmen to discover first hand the many projects currently underway while learning methods of research and presentation. This class is intended to be a companion to a UROP that freshmen will be helped to obtain in the Media Lab. The UROP will be taken for credit during the Spring.

MAS program may be step to major

This program differs from the other alternative freshman programs in that it draws the focus into one academic area. This emphasis allows the students to see the relevance of the core classes in the current topics of interest within the Media Laboratory. The freshmen program may be a stepping stone towards an undergraduate major in MAS. A Media Arts and Sciences major is currently only awarded at the graduate level.

The limited curriculum also does not allow participating students to place out of classes using AP credit. This is the first year of the program in an experimental five year run. Five years will allow the program to demonstrate how many participating students decide to return to MIT for graduate school.