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CMI Applications Down 37 Percent

By Jenny Zhang


MIT applications to the Cambridge-MIT Institute exchange program for the 2003-2004 school year have decreased markedly from last year.

Margaret S. Enders, associate dean of curriculum support, said that there are currently 33 potential candidates for attending Cambridge University, compared with 52 at this time last year. CMI is a full-year exchange program for third-year undergraduates.

“It is hard to know for sure why [there is a drop], but my impression is that based on experience, the departments are setting a pretty high bar, and the international situation puts a little damper on enthusiasm,” said Robert P. Redwine, dean for undergraduate education.

Interest varies course to course

CMI exchange students are chosen within individual departments during the sophomore year. Some departments have seen their application numbers remain fairly constant while others have seen large changes.

Professor Haynes R. Miller said that the number of mathematics department CMI exchange students has remained consistent, with three sent last year and around the same number anticipated to be sent this year out of six candidates.

On the other hand, the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science department will be sending fewer than five students to Cambridge, compared to the seven or eight students it sent last year, said Professor Arthur C. Smith. Smith said he believes that the war situation may have decreased interest in going abroad.

The Department of Materials Science and Engineering and the Department of Physics will be sending no students for 2003-2004, although both sent students during 02-03, Enders said.

The CMI program, which began with a pilot exchange in 2000-2001, is still in the process of expanding, Enders said. In its first year, nine MIT students went to Cambridge. That number rose to 27 for 2001-2002, and there are currently 44 MIT students are participating, Enders said.

“Last year, the economics and chemistry departments joined, and this year, we have officially added biology and history,” she said.

Environments are very different

Professor Linn W. Hobbs from the materials science department said he thought some MIT students had difficulty adjusting to the Cambridge academic environment.

“MIT tends to encapsulate everything with problem sets and midterms, whereas Cambridge uses a self-learning system with an exam at the end of the term,” Hobbs said.

Each institution could benefit from adopting a little of the other’s teaching style, he said.

“Cambridge University’s academic intensity is just as high as MIT’s, but it’s not as apparent because students don’t show it,” said John B. Vander Sande, former director of CMI.

Overall student feedback positive

“I would say that the vast majority of [MIT CMI] participants have found the experience to be very good,” Vander Sande said.

“It was the best year that I’ve had since starting college. I think it was really well-planned, and I was supported by both math departments,” said Shelli F. Farhadian ’03. “Academically, it was much more challenging than I expected.”

The deadline for applying was originally set for March 17, but CMI is still accepting applications from current sophomores. “There’s nothing stopping students from applying,” Enders said.