Letters to MIT Community

Letter to the Community: The Report of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons

Friday, October 13, 2006

The report of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons lays out the core course of study that MIT should require for an educated person in the 21st century. Together, this report and the previous report of the Task Force on Student Life and Learning provide the foundation for the cultural and educational shifts necessary to equip our students to be leaders well into this century. They have set the stage for an MIT education that will continue to be recognized as among the best in the world.

The report acknowledges that the number of areas of scientific knowledge of which our students should be aware has grown in the last fifty years and, therefore, emphasizes the need for a more flexible, and more interdisciplinary, education. Its recommendations also include a more clearly articulated set of foundational elements in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. Together, these proposals point to an intellectually richer first-year experience. In addition, the report argues for the increased importance of international experiences to equip MIT graduates for their future roles in our increasingly networked world. It further recommends initiatives that will help MIT support curricular change and sustained educational innovation.

The Task Force calls faculty, students, and staff to a return to a celebration of the common core that has defined, and will continue to define, an MIT education. Under our system of shared governance, the Faculty has responsibility for the definition of the curriculum. If the Faculty endorses the spirit of the recommendations, it will be the responsibility of the Committee on the Undergraduate Program, working in concert with the Dean for Undergraduate Education, the Schools, and our academic departments and programs, to refine the recommendations and to present specific curricular proposals to the Faculty for adoption.

I extend my great thanks to Dean Silbey and to the faculty and students who served on the Task Force for their hard work over the last two and half years. Their dedication to MIT, and to our educational excellence, is an inspiring example of the power of the Commons in our MIT community.

Susan Hockfield


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