11.384 | Spring 2018 | Graduate
Malaysia Sustainable Cities Practicum
Instructor Insights

Collaborating with Visiting International Scholars

In this section, Prof. Lawrence Susskind shares how visiting international scholars are selected to participate in the Malaysia Sustainable Cities Program (MSCP), describes the role of feedback in the program, and illustrates how he hopes participating in the program will impact the careers of the visiting scholars.

Selecting the Visiting Scholars

The visiting international scholars are selected each year by an Advisory Committee of four MIT and four Universiti Teknologi Malaysia (UTM) faculty members. Applications are sought via international scholarly networks, social media and announcements in various journals with international reach in the relevant fields. At this point, previous MSCP visiting scholars play an increasingly important role in identifying new candidates. We typically expect about 50 – 60 applications from which we choose up to ten. Thus far, we have been able to reach unanimous agreement on the 8 – 10 scholars selected each year.

All applicants must hold PHD degrees and have had college or university teaching experience. Faculty from all fields involved in the study of urban sustainability are eligible to apply. There is no typical background. We have included Scientists, Engineers, Planners, Architects, Social Scientists and Business/Management professors.

Our goal is to have as many developing countries represented as possible. Thus far, in the first three cohorts, more than 15 different countries have been represented. At least two of each year’s visiting scholars are from Malaysian universities other than UTM.

Prioritizing Feedback

"Our goal is to help produce the best published scholarship and the best teaching videos on questions about sustainable urban development that will have widespread value in the developing world."
— Lawrence Susskind

We want the visiting scholars to receive as much feedback on the design, implementation and review of their research efforts as possible. Their applications (including their research proposals), their revised research designs once they are in the field in the Fall, their draft papers, their preliminary video scripts, and their final instructional videos all receive comments from the doctoral teaching assistants assigned to work with the scholars and from the MIT and UTM faculty associated with MSCP. We try to maintain a collaborative rather than an instructional tenor to what we do. Our goal is to help produce the best published scholarship and the best teaching videos on questions about sustainable urban development that will have widespread value in the developing world. Every presentation that the scholars make at UTM and MIT garners reactions from the faculty, students, and other scholars in the program.

Impact of Participating in MSCP on the Visiting Scholars’ Careers

While it is probably too soon to say definitely what impact participating in the program has had on their careers, some of the visiting international scholars have returned to teach in their home colleges and universities with a new outlook, new teaching materials, and a new sense of commitment to urban sustainability. Others have shifted to new schools in different countries. I have no doubt that the personal research agendas of many of the participants have shifted permanently in new directions. I hope that some of the participants will be called on to play consulting roles in either their own country or in other developing countries once people see the videos and working papers they have produced.