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Over the past semester, a new major at the School of Engineering and Applied Science has become a playground in which future social network company CEOs can learn in a small, interactive setting.

The Rajendra and Neera Singh Program in Market and Social Systems Engineering, a brand new program in the Engineering School, was launched in the fall and is now entering its second semester.

Ten freshmen and a small number of transfer students make up MKSE’s inaugural class.

Michael Kearns, the founding faculty director of MKSE, has been satisfied with “a terrifically bright first class of freshmen who are very engaged in the program’s themes,” he wrote in an email.

Engineering freshman Manosai Eerabathini, who is in MKSE, said the program’s most beneficial aspect has been meeting peers who have similar interests in the emerging social industry.

“I’ve shared a lot of dinner table conversations with my friends already,” Eerabathini said. “In the formal setting, or in a classroom, I also found out that each person has a fresh perspective.”

In their first semester, all MKSE majors are required to take an introductory course, MKSE 112, “The Networked Life.” According to Kearns, students learn about various aspects of networks — not only from textbooks, but also from in-class experiments on topics like networked trading.

He added that the introductory course “was greatly facilitated this year by running the course website through Coursekit, which allowed the social and peer contribution aspects of the class to really blossom.”

However, Engineering freshman Benjamin Gitles hopes MKSE’s classes can be more structured so that students can have a more engaging experience over the next few years.

While Gitles feels the communication between faculty and students has been satisfactory, he sees room for improvement.

“When it comes to relationships with professors other than the class setting, we haven’t really had a lot of time for conversation,” Gitles said.

But Kearns hopes that “as they move into the later, smaller courses in the program, the ties between the students and our faculty will grow stronger, especially as more project-like work takes place.”

He added that the planning for future MKSE classes — including ones that current students will not take until their later years at Penn — is underway.

“Right now we’re still hard at work on course development, but in parallel we are designing an affiliated research center, seminar series — of which we already had several last term — and project work, like a sponsored search auction competition for students,” Kearns wrote.

Kearns and students both agree that getting the word out about MKSE to prospective high-school applicants may be the greatest need for the program.

“As much as it is from the faculty, I think [students] are the biggest ambassadors of the program who have to get the word out,” Eerabathini said.

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