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Students Embark On Institute ...Road Trip... Hockfield Welcomes Freshmen on Killian

By Ji Qi

As summer winds down, new students from all over the country and the world are beginning to arrive on campus for an event-filled orientation.

The theme of this year’s undergraduate orientation is “Road Trip.” Freshman Orientation t-shirts depict the steps to getting an MIT education as stops on the road of life, and theme related activities include last Saturday’s showing of the movie “Road Trip” in Kresge Auditorium and Tuesday’s Boston “T” Party along the Stata Center’s Student Street.

Freshmen Orientation 2006 kicked off yesterday morning with the President’s Convocation held at Killian Court. President Susan Hockfield, Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75, and Dean for Student Life Larry G. Benedict, all decked in ceremonial robes, gave speeches.

“MIT is not simply high school on steroids,” Hockfield said during her Benjamin Franklin-inspired speech. It is a “uniquely intense environment”.

There are several key differences between this year’s orientation and those of past years.

Upperclassmen may remember having the math diagnostic for physics placement sent to them over the summer, but this year’s freshmen are taking it on campus.

According to associate dean of Academic Resources and Programming Julie B. Norman, the test was administered on campus years ago, and the physics faculty chose to return to that model this year. The results of the diagnostic will be used to suggest student placement in the three versions of the required Mechanics class.

This year, 17 Freshman Pre-orientation Programs (FPOPs) provided opportunities to explore different activities before orientation began, including four new programs: architecture, biking, electrical engineering, and literature. Nearly 500 freshmen arrived early to participate in FPOPs this year, Norman said.

The freshmen who participated in the four outdoor pre-orientation programs — sailing, kayaking, hiking, and biking — are eligible to receive physical education credit for their participation, a difference from previous years. The Outward Bound Program and Carrie S. Moore, director of physical education, were consulted to “ensure that the programs met the standard and criteria to earn PE credit,” Norman said.

Also for the first time, parents have been able to meet their child’s orientation leader. Parents and orientation leaders had an opportunity to interact yesterday morning before the President’s Convocation, Norman said.

Eliana Aude, mother of Diana P. Aude ’10, felt that the President’s Convocation was “very inspiring.” She said she felt MIT is a “great opportunity for my daughter to do whatever she wants and pursue her dreams.”

Other notable changes includes the elimination of Playfair, and the replacement of Kate Koester’s speech with Sex Signals as the program to address sexual assault. Other student leaders from the Undergraduate Association, Dormitory Council, and the Fraternities, Sororities and Independent Living Groups will be a part of the opening event along with the orientation coordinators for the first time.

This year’s student orientation coordinators are Edward G. Fagin ’08, Will J. Fotsch ’08, and Lara E. Kostun ’08, who declined to comment on the opening event.

The Class of 2010 currently has 1,009 students and is approximately 45 percent female, Associate Director of Admissions Matt McGann said. This number is down from the 1,017 printed on the orientation t-shirts, though this decrease is common for all colleges and is referred to as “summer melt,” McGann said. The class is made up of students from 49 states, the District of Columbia, two terrotories and 51 other countries, Hockfield said during her Convocation speech.

Grad orientation three weeks long

Graduate Student Orientation also kicked off yesterday, but unlike Freshman Orientation, events will run for three weeks through Sept. 17. These events “aim to get the incoming students to become more aware of the campus, to get them informed, and to let them get to know each other,” Graduate Orientation Co-chair Johnna D. Powell G said.

There are 1,384 new graduate students on campus this fall and a total of 1,585 including those who arrived over the summer, Graduate Orientation Co-chair Lynne K. Waldman G said.

This year’s Graduate Student Orientation features a variety of activities to “appeal to a broad range of people,” Powell said. Several dance parties are targeted at making new students more aware of different cultures. The Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? orientation party, named after a geography-themed computer game and TV show, will showcase three rooms representing the culture, cuisine, and music of three different geographical regions, Waldman said. The Dance Fusion V party at Ashdown, featuring a Pirates of the Caribbean theme, will also have separate rooms where students can take swing and salsa lessons, Waldman said.

“Although last year’s orientation was spectacular, we are hoping to make this year’s as good or even better,” Powell said. The Carmen Sandiego Party, a trip to Six Flags, and apple picking trips are all new this year. Cut from the traditional line up are the whale watching trip, which were difficult to sell out, and the Red Sox game, which was dropped because tickets were too hard to come by, according to Powell.

The year’s program also expands on last year’s Grad School 101 by adding Grad School 102. While the former provides students with advice on graduate school and resources, the latter will also introduce students to the MIT libraries, MIT Medical, and health insurance, Waldman said.