The Tech - Online EditionMIT's oldest and largest
newspaper & the first
newspaper published
on the web
Boston Weather: 84.0°F | Mostly Cloudy

Half of Freshman Class Participated in Pre-Orientation

By Valery Brobbey

Long before classes started and the hallways of MIT bustled with human activity, many freshmen were on campus to take part in one of the 17 Freshman Pre-Orientation Programs. This year, a total 508 freshmen participated, approximately half the class.

The first FPOP was the Freshman Leadership Program, created in 1996.

The Class of 2010 were the first to take part in five new FPOPs, including Discover Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. The other new programs were Discover Architecture, Freshman Outdoor Programs for Biking and Hiking, and Discover Literature.

Anne M. Hunter, administrator of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, said that DEECS was created to “expose freshmen to who we are, as a friendly department.”

“We reached freshmen who otherwise would not have been interested in Course VI,” program mentor Julia M. Dennett ’08 said.

Other academic departments that sponsor pre-orientation programs gave similar reasons for creating FPOPs.

Freshmen in Discover Earth, Atmospheric, & Planetary Sciences took a camping trip to Montana and the Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming.

Samuel A. Bowring, professor in the department of Earth, Atmospheric, & Planetary Sciences, said that DEAPS is a “great opportunity [for freshmen] to meet other freshmen in the context of learning about the earth.”

Matthew W. Uhle ‘06, director of Discover Mechanical Engineering, said that his program “allows freshmen to gauge their interest” in mechanical engineering without having to take a class in the department. Freshmen built soccer-playing robots and entered their creations in a DME-organized competition at the Museum of Science.

The coordinator of Discover Civil and Environmental Engineering, Tracy R. Takemura ’08, said that “freshmen get to know upperclassmen and get access to textbooks.” Freshmen in DCEE built and tested wind turbines in laboratories in the basement of Building 1.

However, not all FPOPs are aimed at giving freshmen some form of contact with an academic department.

Varsha G. Keelara ’07, a counselor for FLP, described it “a leadership and diversity program.” She added that she enjoyed “seeing freshmen develop as leaders.” FLP freshmen spent some of their time outside MIT involved in leadership-building activities.

“It is crucial to be creative at MIT,” stated Jonathan S. Krones ’07, coordinator of the Freshman Arts Program, in explaining the importance of FAP. FAP freshmen participated in seven arts disciplines, including music, theater and creative writing.

FPOPs catalyze bonding reactions

Many freshmen who took part in an FPOP said it was a great way to meet people before orientation. Tish Scolnik ’10 said she and her fellow FLP participants “became amazing friends and learned a lot about each other. … FLP changed everyone’s perspective.”

“I got to know 13 people really well,” said Alexandra M. Beyer ’10 who sailed with the Freshman Outdoor Program on a 35-foot sail boat for five days. “It was tight and there was no privacy, but it was fun.” Beyer and the freshmen on the boat rotated between navigating, raising the sail and rowing when there was no wind. “There was no contact with the real world, no cell phones, no electronics,” Beyer said. The only exception was when they sailed to a nearly island to restock their supply of water.

FAP mentors helped to bond freshman through square dancing. Krones described it as an ideal ice-breaker because “no one had done it before, it was awkward, and they touched each other.”

Of the 17 FPOPs, only five are free of charge to freshmen. These five programs are all associated with an academic department at MIT and are therefore fully funded by the department.

Some other FPOP programs associated with academic departments are subsidized by the department. Bowring did not disclose how much his department spends on DEAPS, but said that the $150 entrance free is a small fraction of what the department spends per freshman.

FPOPs not directly associated with an academic department have to be creative in raising funds to subsidize their programs. Krones stated that the majority of the funds for FAP comes from the fee the freshmen pay. One third of the FAP funds come from a number of academic departments, and some funds also come from the Peter de Florez Fund for Humor and a grant from the Council for the Arts.

Asked if FAP gets donations from FAP alumni, Gupta lightheartedly said that if he becomes a multi-millionaire, he would give a great deal of money to FAP. He went on to say that if FAP had more funding they “would want to cut down the cost” incurred by freshmen to attend FAP.