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Yearlong Exploration Offers Career Boost Coursework, Lectures Inspire Innovation

By Yi Zhou
STAFF REPORTER


As freshmen explored campus this week, a different group of students were also getting to know the school. Ten professionals, seeking to make a career change but lacking the adequate technical expertise or social network to do so, are looking for a solution by becoming the first class to enter the new 10-month long Mid-Career Acceleration Program, coordinated by MIT’s Professional Educational Programs.

Participants are selected after writing an essay on why they want to be in MAP, said Jennifer Stine, executive director of PEP. For a fee of $9,500, they enroll in a semester of graduate-level coursework, followed in the spring by an internship of their choice or on-campus research. Throughout the year, they will receive advice regarding their career plans, meet with eminent faculty members, and attend career-building workshops.

More than the academic rigor that MIT offers, the participants are attracted to the Institute’s expansive network and resources, to which they will have access through this program. “All the group members will use the opportunity to go beyond” what the program offers to “leverage the resources of MIT for our own career benefits” and take advantage of the “contacts we make,” Bucci said.

MAP was originally conceived out of the growing need to provide technical support for professionals unemployed for several years, according to Dick K. Yue ’74, associate dean of the School of Engineering.

Highlighting the difficulty of re-entering the work force following an extended hiatus, Stine stressed that the issue of the “leaky science and engineering pipeline” must be fixed. She said that “a good engineer is always a good engineer; he or she just needs something current” to have a successful career. Stine has conducted research to help shape MAP, meeting with focus groups comprised of MIT alumni and professionals in the human resources department of local technical companies as well as conducting an Internet-based study.

With most among the group already holding jobs, however, the program’s focus has shifted to aid those seeking to make a career transition. In this light, MAP is almost a “rite of passage, in terms of technically being confident,” Yue said. “It gives people a little bit of oomph to get them going.” Once part of a company, professional learn all the intricacies of that particular company, but they “lose sense of the broad approach to the industry,” Bucci said.

Charles I. McCauley ’82, who has been working at his current company for 15 years, experienced a “mid-career, mid-life crisis” and wanted to “get back in contact with a more academic mind-set.” He is seeking to transition his career into the younger field of nanotechnology, though he will be working almost full-time in conjunction with enrolling in MAP.

Another participant, John Roy, who has worked with Hewlett Packard and Texas Instruments, recognized that many software companies are outsourcing overseas and has ambitious plans to develop and manufacture smart memory chips for these companies.

Still in its infancy stage, MAP was advertised to the public only a few months ago and has many details yet to be resolved, Yue admitted. The structure of the program will remain flexible and reliant on group feedback. The participants have already attended four lectures this week given by professors Deborah J. Nightingale, professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Linda G. Griffith, professor of Biological and Mechanical Engineering, Joel E. Schindall ’63, professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Rafael L. Bras ’72, professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

The possibility of it transforming into a full degree program is slim, Yue said, as it “has not been advisable to cross that line.” Since MIT has traditionally prided itself in being a small but influential force, MAP is a way for the Institute to continue its leadership role without substantially expanding in size.

The program will support itself financially through its tuition as well as with grants from the Lord Foundation and from the Cambridge-MIT Institute. More information on MAP or any other PEP programs can be found at http://web.mit.edu/mitpep.