UPOP has a well-earned reputation as a “career success accelerator”—we're a year-long, for-credit program, we take sophomores from ALL majors, we're compatible with MISTI, UROP, PSC fellowships, LeaderShape etc. … and we take our students' careers VERY seriously.
UPOP is MIT's Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program. We are big on opportunities and not too heavy on requirements. We have the employers, the mentors, and the curriculum elements that MIT sophomores need to "design their careers."
Our mission: To prepare MIT sophomores to successfully integrate into and thrive in the professional world and to be strong contributors to their organizations, supported by a dynamic community of students, program staff, employers, faculty and MIT alums.
Our vision: UPOP is an exemplar model for universities and institutions world-wide, a program viewed by the MIT community as essential for sophomores, playing a significant role in MIT graduates’ being renowned as highly sought-after, confident professionals with strong collaborative and entrepreneurial skills
UPOP is very much a "practice opportunities" program. Our students receive professional development training, mentoring by MIT alums and access to top internships in industry, government and non-profit enterprises around the world. We offer classroom instruction, speaker dinners, field trips to local employers, lots of 1:1 coaching, and a friendly "open door" policy that lasts well beyond the sophomore year!
"I think of UPOP as a success accelerator. Maybe if there had been a UPOP back when I was a sophomore, it would have taken me only 20 years, instead of 26, or 4 instead of 6 … "
--John Chisholm ’75, pioneer in online marketing research, founder/CEO/Chair of CustomerSat (acquired by MarketTools), founder/CEO/Chair of Decisive Tech (now part of Google)
"I wish I'd had UPOP when I was at MIT. It would have been critical to my success to get to that point faster. The types of activities that are performed within UPOP in terms of leadership, management, and building are critical to make those students ready to take on those higher level responsibilities of leadership… Students can vault ahead of other students who have only a technical bent, and start to understand the finer aspects of business, of negotiations, of leading teams and leading companies."
--Tim Dove, ’79, President & COO Pioneer Natural Resources
UPOP sophomores have interned at Accenture, Adobe, Air Liquide, Amazon, Apple, Akamai, Amazon, Aurora Flight Sciences, Autodesk, Bank of America, Bell Helicopter, Biogen-Idec, Blizzard, BMW, Boeing, Booze Allen Hamilton, Boston Scientific, Bose, BP, Cessna Aircraft, Chevron, Chrysler, Cisco, Conoco Philips, Corning, Cummins, Cypress Semi Conductor, Daussault Systemes, Deutsche Bank, Direct TV, Dow Chemical, Draper, Dropbox, DuPont Pioneer, eBay, Estee Lauder, Etsy, ExxonMobil, Facebook, Ford, GM, GE, Gameloft, General Atomics, Genetech, Genzyme, Goldman Sachs, Google, HP, Halliburton, IBM, IDEO, Intel, iRobot, JPL, Johnson & Johnson, JPMorganChase, Lincoln Labs, Lockheed Martin, Los Alamos Labs, Mass Challenge, Mathworks, McKinsey, Medtronic, Merck, Merrill Lynch, MGH, Microsoft, MITRE, Morgan Stanley, NASA, the New York Times, the NIH, the NRC, the NSA, Nike, Nokia, Northrop Grumman, Novartis, Oracle, Orbital Sciences, P&G, Palantir, Panasonic, Pfizer, Pinterest, Pioneer Natural Resources, Pixar, Pratt & Whitney, P&G, Qualcomm, Raytheon, Sandia, Schlumberger, Shell, Sikorsky, SolidWorks, SpaceX, St. Gobain, State Farm, Stryker, Synaptics, Takeda Pharmaceuticals, Terrafugia, Tesla, Texas Instruments, Thomson Reuters, Tiffany & Company, Trip Advisor, Tumblr, UBS, US Army Corp of Engineers, US Senate, Vecna Technologies, Virgin Gallactic, VMWare, Vistaprint, Volpe National Transportation, Walt Disney Company, Washington Metro Transit Authority, Westinghouse, WL Gore, the World Bank, Xerox, Yahoo, as well as many early-stage startups, and more.
UPOP ... in detail
MIT's Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program (UPOP) is a full year of introduction to "firm skills": the knowledge, tools and cognitive models that MIT students need to translate their "hard" science, math and engineering talent and training into thriving careers of their own design.
The UPOP curriculum emphasizes two tracks designed to prepare students for the culture shock entailed by the transition from elite academia to the world of work: engineering effectiveness and strategic career ownership. Through guided discovery learning, UPOP students practice engineering specification, team decision-making, project engineering, agile methods, cross cultural communication and recognizing the presence of an ethical dilemma. Coached practice in networking, principled negotiation and reputation building help students take active control of their careers two years before graduation.
With guidance from UPOP faculty, staff and seasoned industry professionals, students apply these new skills to the task of obtaining meaningful summer internships in industry, government, and the nonprofit sector. They receive instruction and individual coaching before, during, and after their internships to help locate the job opportunity, negotiate terms of employment, and then thrive in their hands-on summer work by contributing value to the enterprise.
The UPOP year comprises five credit-bearing segments, each with a distinct focus of attention:
- SELF Fall semester program of activities and individual coaching in which students learn to describe themselves in spoken and written communication. They learn to author a compelling résumé and cover letter and to excel in a job interview. They complete a self-analysis instrument on diversity in problem-solving preferences and practice self-examination in the context of field trips to actual work environments.
- TEAM A one-week intensive course of experiential learning in which students receive instruction from MIT faculty and small-group coaching by MIT alums from industry who serve as Mentor-Instructors. This intensive Team Training Camp is offered twice during the inter-semester break each January. In this segment students establish the foundation of their professional network by engaging multiple seasoned professionals as mentors and practice networking with over one hundred actual employers.
- OPPORTUNITY Spring semester of learn-by-doing with coaching in the job-search process. Students learn how to find or create opportunities, they take field trips to local employers and attend one in a series of technical dinner colloquia in which they gain authentic practice in professional etiquette. With guidance from UPOP staff students secure summer internship assignments suited to their individual needs and aspirations.
- ENTERPRISE A 10- to 12-week summer practicum in which students apply their technical and organizational skills in the workplace. During the internship, each student submits three reports and hosts a site visit by a UPOP staff member who meets with the student, their supervisor, and HR representatives to ensure a positive outcome for everyone.
- CAREER A reflective learning experience upon return to campus in the fall of their junior year. Students report on their practicum experience to each other and to a team of industry mentors. Participants in this phase are eligible to receive a closing interview with UPOP staff to chart a course for the next year building toward a well-designed career.
UPOP is open to all MIT sophomores regardless of major. It is compatible with participation in other MIT programs, including MISTI, UROP, LeaderShape and PSC fellowships. Students who complete the program gain a keen appreciation of the social, environmental, and ethical implications of engineering decisions and better understand the unspoken rules they need to navigate the world of work as they put their unique talents and skills into practice as engineers, scientists, researchers, entrepreneurs, managers, or policy leaders.