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Not ‘Just Visiting’

First-Years Here to Stay

By Marie Y. Thibault
STAFF REPORTER

MIT students like a challenge, and navigating the maze of choices facing a first-year student provides a taste of things to come. Fortunately, help is on the way, and undergraduate and graduate orientations are designed to help acclimate new students.

Freshman Orientation aims to make new students “feel like part of the MIT community,” said Orientation Coordinator Timothy D. Pennington ’06. Orientation 2005 kicks off today with a new event, the President’s Convocation, at 4 p.m.

This year’s Orientation has the theme Technopoly, playing off the board game Monopoly, said Julie B. Norman, associate dean of Academic Resources and Programming. Orientation paraphernalia sport logos that replace Monopoly’s Mr. Moneybags with Tim the Beaver, complete with top hat and cane, and freshmen receive Chance or Community Chest tickets for meal cards.

Graduate student events range from karaoke at The Thirsty Ear Pub to a cruise on Boston Harbor. President Susan Hockfield and Cambridge Mayor Michael A. Sullivan will welcome the incoming graduate students at the Graduate Welcome Address.

REX 2005 shorter, more intense

During first few days of orientation, freshmen travel around campus in search of their preferred dormitory in Residence Exploration (REX).

This year's REX is shorter than in past years, said Dormitory Council President Harvey C. Jones ’06. Though REX lasts only two days this year, culminating with the housing lottery on Tuesday evening, freshmen will be able to devote the entirety of those days to exploring the dormitories. In previous years, REX was limited to a few hours each day, Jones said.

To supplement the shorter REX period, dormitories also held events last week for freshmen participating in pre-orientation programs, he said. Jones said that the new schedule may allow freshmen to finalize their housing preferences earlier, making them feel more at home.

The Class of 2009 will first congregate at the President's Convocation, at which Hockfield will welcome the freshmen and their parents; in past years, the new classes first gathered at the Orientation ceremony.

The freshman class of 2009 has 997 students and is 46.6 percent female, said Norman. The incoming class decreased by about five students over the summer, a condition that Norman terms “melting.” These students may have deferred or gone to other universities.

Grad Students: freshmen again

The 1,100 incoming graduate students will also have the chance to investigate MIT during the Graduate Student Orientation. Trips to Red Sox games are likely to be popular among the incoming students, said Gerardo Barroeta G, Graduate Student Council Orientation committee chair. Though no events are mandatory, Grad School 101, a series of panels including current students and administrators, will allow new students to hear different perspectives, and will offer advice about finding an advisor and picking a laboratory, said Shan Wu G, GSC Orientation committee chair.

Graduate students will also have the chance to participate in departmental orientations, said GSC President Emilie Slaby. Orientation will help graduate students “make connections at MIT — figure out the maze,” she said.