The Campaign for MIT has passed the $1 billion mark, exhibiting the kind of momentum that appears to put its $1.5 billion goal well within reach.
For many at MIT, of course, the importance of the new total of $1.08 billion lies less in the impressive amount itself than in the opportunities it’s opening up. One of those happy faces belongs to Robert Redwine, the dean for undergraduate education.
With Larry Benedict, his student life counterpart, Redwine has a key role in implementing the 1998 Task Force on Student Life and Learning Report. The Task Force’s recommendations have been translated into a series of campaign aims that, at a cumulative $100 million, represent one of the largest of the drive’s priorities. And they deserve to be, says Redwine, not least because they promise a new integration of a student’s educational experiences at the Institute.
MIT’s culture, he says, “tends to make students separate what happens in the classroom from the rest of their lives.” But because that “rest of their lives” is also a key aspect of their educations, MIT is giving it renewed attention.
One push is to enhance the Institute’s athletic offerings — not only through the new sports and fitness center now under construction, but also through new or improved sports programs. There’s also an increased emphasis on student-faculty links outside the classroom. “We hope to provide the opportunity for greatly increased interaction of faculty with students in the residences and dining halls. “Tne campaign aim, therefore, is to increase substantially the number of faculty living in student residences.
The student life and learning initiative has a strong academic dimension, too. One major goal is to boost students’ writing and speaking skills. Thus the new Communication Requirement, under which students will take communications-intensive courses each of their four years.
James Paradis, head of MIT’s writing program, says students will take such courses in the humanities their first two years, and in their chosen departments the last two. But is he worried whether students can rise to this fairly major new challenge? Not really. “MIT has gifted students,” he says. “If you give them the chance to exercise their communications skills, they ‘ll do fine.”