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Alternative Academic Programs Offered

By Brian Loux


This afternoon marks the first chance for freshmen to examine their academic schedule and style for the coming year.

There exist three freshmen class programs that serve as alternatives to mainstream classes: Experimental Studies Group, Concourse, and the newest program Terrascope. Open houses for each of the programs will take place between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. today.

In addition, freshmen have a choice of advising styles: Freshmen Advising Seminars, traditional advising, and the most recent addition to the list of freshmen advising programs: Residence Based Advising.


Terrascope is the latest non-mainstream program under the guidance of Professors Kip V. Hodges and Sallie W. Chisholm.

Terrascope incorporates the former Mission program with specialized advising seminars. Officially known as 12.000, Mission invites freshmen to apply engineering and science principles to large-scale and real-life projects. The fall-term program has stood on its own from its inception in 2000 under Hodges’ leadership until this year. Terrascope differs from the usual Mission programs in that participants will now have advisors tailored to helping the students with the Mission class as well as helping them adapt to the first year of college.

Past projects for the Mission program include a mission to Mars as well as sea research and exploration. The program for 2002 asks freshmen to develop a system to monitor and research the status of the unexplored Amazon Basin rainforest.

Terrascope also requires to freshmen to take a supplementary course in the second term. The class, Earth Systems and Engineering (1.016), also required for Course I-E (Environmental Engineering) degrees, will be tailored for students to further the project they began in the first term.

Participation in Terrascope is not a requirement for Mission 2006. Terrascope does not permit students to enroll in an Residence Based Advising or a Freshman Advising Seminar.

Terrascope is intended to replace the Integrated Studies Program after the retirement of ISP’s founder Arthur Steinberg.

“ISP was generally engineers teaching humanities,” said former ISP participant Mayur V. Kenia ’03. “It was better than most humanities classes because you had a lot more hands on experience.” Terrascope will use ISP buildings and funds to run its program.

Experimental Studies Group

ESG offers the core subjects in very small classes of about two to five students. Classes are taught by professors, lecturers, graduate students, and undergraduates affiliated with the program.

“Some of the small classes were helpful, and others were not,” said former ESG member Daniel G. Oreper ’04. “I felt the classes taught by students were better than those taught by professors.”

ESG students take all of their science and math courses under the ESG program, and may opt to take humanities classes under the same tutelage.

With the close interaction during classes, a close social community also unfolds in ESG. “It’s one big group of 70 people and you meet all of them,” Oreper said. In the mainstream program, “you usually do not meet people in class.”

Participants also often remain in ESG rooms for help with classwork. “There are always people there to help with work,” Oreper said. Participants can expect to spend 10 to 20 hours in ESG buildings each week.

Oreper said that the best thing about the program is “you’ll meet some interesting people there ... probably some of the smartest people on campus.”


The Concourse program is unique in that it provides a completely structured first term schedule, including a humanities classes. The same students are in every class. This year will again feature Introduction to Psychology (9.00). Many of the Concourse lectures are the same as mainstream ones, and the program relies on its separate recitation discussions to set itself apart.

The program seeks to maximize a student’s number of core credits to prepare each one to handle any major once freshmen year is finished. To do this, Concourse is slightly more fast paced than the usual core curriculum. Concourse is limited to 60 students, to be selected at an orientation meeting on Tuesday.

Even with all these choices, a majority of students choose to participate mainstream courses. “I wanted a more normal college experience,” said Michael C. Hamler ’03.

“I wanted to know more people,” said Richard C. Hu ’03. “I figured that I would meet more people elsewhere in mainstream classes.”

Next House RBA program larger

Residence Based Advising was a pilot program initiated in 2000 at McCormick Hall. It expanded to Next House in 2001. It was designed with the intent of making student communities at the dormitories more close-knit while allowing students greater access to their advisors.

While participation in McCormick’s RBA included all freshmen residents since its inception, the size of the program at Next House has expanded tremendously since last year, from a handful to over 92 percent of freshmen at Next House partaking in its RBA program.

While McCormick Hall is now full, there are about 14 slots remaining for freshmen at Next House. Students electing to move to Next House during tuesday’s lottery can elect to join an RBA, said Residential Associate Advisor Johnny T. Yang ’04.