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FYE Letter

A letter from Vice Chancellor Ian A. Waitz to the students in the “Designing the First Year at MIT” course (run in the spring of 2018).

Dear FYE students,

First and foremost, thanks to everyone for their continuing engagement in improving the MIT first year experience.

You can find the final presentations online at Additional videos, a wrap-up mini-movie (courtesy of Max Kessler ’20), and news stories will follow.

Special thanks to those students who helped showcase findings and recommendations at key stakeholder events throughout the semester such as the OVC Visiting Committee, Academic Council, May 16 Faculty Meeting, School council meetings, and Corporation meetings. As you know, this is more than a class; it’s part of a broader effort to build momentum for change and these activities were a key part of that.

While we do not have plans to run the FYE class next semester, we are committed to working with you and with students from across the campus as we iterate upon, refine, and test the ideas generated by the class. I am pleased to have two of your lab assistants — Alexa Martin and Kat Jiang — as partners in this effort through their leadership in the Undergraduate Association.

Already, we are putting some important recommendations into practice, such as moving the activities fair to Reg Day, talking with the Faculty Subcommittee on the Communication Requirement, and finding a team to pilot a version of the MIT Explorer tool.

Chair of the Faculty, Susan Silbey, is hosting a faculty workshop this summer, to “initiate a broad and deep, participatory and energetic, conversation about the MIT undergraduate program,” including the proposals brought forward by your teams. More than 100 faculty members are attending.

Faculty, staff and students have been inspired by your analysis and creative thinking.  Conversations are happening up and down the Infinite. I presented your work to both Engineering Council and Science Council this past week and it was very well-received.

I expect this momentum to continue and for the larger-scale recommendations, such as those focused on advising, developing new ways to explore majors, introducing more flexibility, and finding ways to provide more engaging GIRs, to get traction.

What is clear: the importance of ongoing exploration emerged as a major theme in the class. This was reflected in comments by students in the latest senior survey. When asked, “If you could start again, is there anything you would do differently to have a better undergraduate experience?” almost one third of the respondents mentioned taking more time to explore majors or choosing a different major.

Just as the class rose to the challenge of coming up with ideas to improve the first year, MIT must now rise to the challenge of making change.

The FYE Core team and I will be discussing ways to keep you up-to-date on our progress. Stay tuned.

Best wishes for a fantastic summer and congrats to those of you graduating on June 8. I look forward to seeing you there.


– Ian