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Alternative Programs Provide Academic Options

By Laura McGrath Moulton


Calculus, physics, chemistry, and humanities: by now, all members of the Class of 2004 know this standard freshman lineup by heart. Yesterday afternoon, however, they got a chance to explore alternate ways of fulfilling their freshman requirements at the open houses for Concourse, Experimental Studies Group (ESG), and Integrated Studies Program (ISP).

Concourse uses small groups

Students in Concourse attend all their core courses in small groups taught by Concourse faculty. Classes are typically scheduled in three-hour blocks each morning, leaving members of Concourse free for the afternoon.

In addition to the freshman science and mathematics core, Concourse offers Introduction to Psychology (9.00) and Humanistic Perspectives on Medicine (21W.746) in the fall, and two special hands-on courses, Materials in Human Experience (3.981) and Essentials of Engineering (ESDO2), in the spring. Students can also fulfill Phase One of the writing requirement through an intensive eight day seminar during Independent Activities Period.

Concourse calls itself “neither elite nor remedial,” offering extensive tutoring and support for students but also teaching Physics I (8.01) at a deeper level. Students have the option of taking either the 8.01 or the more advanced Physics I (8.012) final at the end of fall semester.

Concourse hosted a three-hour open house yesterday at its headquarters in Building 16 where students mingled with Concourse faculty and alumni.

Danny Y. Kwon ’04 said he was attracted to Concourse by the smaller class sizes. “If you’re struggling you can get help,” Kwon said. “You get to bond more with the other students, and you get to know professors better than in a class with two hundred people.”

Freshmen wishing to apply to the program must attend the Orientation meeting on Aug. 30 in order to apply. Sixty students will be chosen by lottery.

ESG allows self-pacing

ESG is geared toward students interested in an individualized, independent approach to learning. Students take courses (at least two per semester) with ESG faculty in small group or even independent tutorials. All freshman subjects are offered as well as a wide variety of humanities subjects and some higher level mathematics and science courses, depending on faculty availability and student interest.

“It’s not for anybody,” Associate Director Holly Sweet told a lounge full of freshmen at the ESG open house. “You need to be self-motivated and creative.”

However, Sweet also assured students that ESG could work for students at any level. Students can work at a faster pace than the usual curriculum in their courses, but they can also slow down to get extra help when they have difficulties. She noted that ESG is offering a special tutorial for students who placed out of Calculus I (18.01) and want to go on to Calculus II (18.02) but may need brushing up on certain topics.

Zachary U. Malchano ’04 said that ESG appealed to him because of the “self-pacing and small learning groups.”

He said he is also considering Concourse, but may not enroll in any alternative programs if he passes all his advanced standing exams.

ESG is hosting Orientation groups (required for applicants) throughout Orientation. In addition, seminars on topics including Fibonacci sequences and change ringing will be offered for freshmen looking for a taste of the ESG experience. Admission is by lottery.

ISP has experimental focus

ISP is structured around two HASS-D courses unique to the program: Technologies and Cultures (SP.353) in the fall and Technologies in Historical Perspectives (SP.354) in the spring. Students take these courses in addition to the freshman core. They attend special ISP recitations for their large science and math lectures and are encouraged to take a version of Physics I with take-home experiments (8.01X).

ISP focuses on “learning by doing.” The program enjoys its own classroom, Athena cluster, lounge, and kitchen. Weekly luncheons feature guest speakers.

Jennifer B. Krishnan ’04 said she was attracted by “the sense of community it’s supposed to provide. You get to meet people and be with them all the time.”

However, she expressed concern about the flip side. “The only bad thing is it might encourage me not to meet other people,” Krishnan said. Krishnan said she was also considering ESG.