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Undergraduate and Graduate Living and Learning

Undergraduate and Graduate Living and Learning Refinement and Implementation Committee (RIC) 16

Committee Members

John Fernandez (Chair), Brian Canavan, Albert Gerovitch, Jeff Grossman, Jordan Harrod, Amy Kaiser, Suzy Nelson, Krishna Rajagopal, Brent Ryan, and Jennine Talbot (Staff)


The RIC 16 report outlines proposals in eight areas and recommends the creation of a number of new committees. These include an ad hoc committee on integrating digital learning in our educational programs, a standing advisory board on strategic planning of classroom spaces, and committees focused on the design and development of common community spaces as well as green outdoor spaces. RIC 16 also provides recommendations on enhancing community-building events and improving the Independent Activities Period (IAP), on expanding off-campus experiences for undergraduates, as well as on the establishment of education sabbaticals.

Enhance Unscripted In-Person Engagement by Integrating Digital Learning into MIT Education

Create a one-year ad hoc committee co-chaired by the Dean for Digital Learning and the Director of the Teaching and Learning Lab. The group would gather input from key stakeholders involved with instruction, focus on ways in which learnings from remote teaching can be utilized within in-person experiences, recommend best practices for utilizing digital delivery methods in creating engaging in-person learning experiences, and work closely with the Classroom Advisory Board (proposed under Interactive Classrooms for Enhanced Engagement) to develop a strategic assessment regarding capabilities for auto-lecture capture and streaming capability in classrooms.

  • RIC16 proposes the creation of a one-year ad hoc committee co-chaired by the Dean for Digital Learning and the Director of the Teaching and Learning Lab.
  • No need for a pilot before creating the ad hoc committee above.

Education Sabbatical

To unleash the full educational prowess of MIT’s faculty and instructors, we propose to create an Education Sabbatical, separate from senior faculty sabbaticals, to provide equal opportunities for both senior faculty and instructors to delve deeply into initiatives to substantially improve their education offerings.

  • Oversight should be Provost and Deans. Administrative responsibility within the Provost’s Office, or could sit with the Vice Chancellor. There will need to be an annual call for proposals, and then a committee of faculty charged with prioritizing the proposals received. Perhaps then Deans’ Council reviews, before Provost decides.
  • Start immediately; Pilot this by issuing a call for proposals in late fall 2021.

Interactive Classrooms for Enhanced Engagement

  • Develop a standing advisory board composed of faculty, staff, and students to spearhead strategic planning of classroom spaces. The group would work in close collaboration with P-CRSP and R-CRSP in advocating for the realization of short and long-term strategic plans within the larger framework of space planning, including resource allocation.

Hybrid Residential/Online Campus Experience

Extended off-campus educational experiences for MIT undergraduates

While there is strong interest from undergraduates to maximize time on campus, there is significant value in considering the various ways that certain students may expand their perspectives and enrich their learning from other contexts away from campus.

  • Expand the range and quality of off-campus experiences for all MIT undergraduates.
  • Align with MIT priorities—such as equity and climate change.
  • Provide resources to the Office of Experiential Learning, in partnership with other offices to achieve the goals of this recommendation (no pilot project needed).
Short-term educational experiences for non-MIT undergraduates

MIT would offer a short-term (e.g., three-week) residential experience for university level students from across the US and abroad.

  • Further conversations beyond the scope of this report need to occur to explore the viability and interest of this recommendation.

Community “Third” Spaces

There is a need to promote the design and development of common spaces as critical elements in the MIT experience that significantly contribute to the community of the Institute.

  • We recommend that MIT conduct a comprehensive survey, to be conducted by trained and professional MIT staff in consultation with a committee comprised of students, faculty, and staff, during fall 2021.
  • We recommend that a committee of different parts of the MIT community be convened in fall 2021 or spring 2022 to develop a set of recommendations for the mandatory, required participatory planning and design of future community spaces at the “super departmental” level at MIT.
  • We recommend a review of the administration (oversight, maintenance, and improvement) of MIT common spaces in spring 2022, following upon the inventory of community spaces to be conducted in fall 2021.
  • We recommend that MIT should also create an ongoing committee on common spaces that will serve as a sounding board, Ombud’s office, and community convening space for dialogue around common spaces.

Green Outdoor Spaces

MIT has long taken an offhand approach to much open space usage, perhaps as a result of a pragmatic laboratory-oriented culture. Yet the “bones” of MIT are very strong: the campus has a long legacy of creative and successful campus design, and many existing open spaces are well-loved, symbolically powerful, and functionally active. We can and must change if open spaces at MIT are to achieve their maximum potential in meeting community desires, attaining environmental standards, and moving the dial on past landscape practices that do not reflect current thinking.

  • Seed fund for new small-scale laboratory spaces at MIT; formation of a campus open space committee
  • Signature Open Space Community Process for Volpe Open Space
  • Landscape Master Plan for MIT Campus

Community-Building Events

The decentralized nature of academic departments and programs at MIT can make it difficult for students, staff, and faculty to form community-level connections within the institute. We believe MIT should prioritize and actively invest in cultivating the energy, creativity, diversity, cohesion and playful spirit of our community by restoring some well-loved rituals and/or creating some new ones.

  • Committing to holding an MIT Open House every four years
  • Establishing “Pi Day” as a special day at MIT
  • Hosting an MIT Fair every year or so
  • Holding an MIT-wide carnival every year or two
  • Holding a multicultural festival every year or two

Restore And Revive IAP

The focus of this recommendation is to restore and revive the original spirit of MIT’s Independent Activities Period, in which anyone at MIT was encouraged to take time in January to explore something new.

  • Provide IAP ideas and development funds for new offerings and initiatives