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Vest dedicates colloquium to MacVicar

(Editor's Note: The following is the text of a transcript of the opening remarks given by President Charles M. Vest at Wednesday's colloquium, as provided by Vest's office.)

Governor Dukakis, panelists, teachers, research staff, students and all members of the MIT community:

Welcome to this Institute colloquium on "Teaching Within a Research University." It has been described as the final official event of the Inaugural Year, and I can think of no subject more worthy of our attention -- yours and mine -- than the questions we explore today.

For many of us, these questions and challenges have been posed -- and pressed -- over the years by one of the strongest advocates for undergraduate teaching in this, or any, university. I refer, of course, to Professor Margaret MacVicar, MIT's first dean for undergraduate education and an educator par excellence. She gave so much of herself -- in so many ways -- to ensure that teaching and research reinforced each other at MIT, and to see that the overarching question of how best to teach students (rather than chemistry, or physics, or writing . . .) received the best attention of our faculty. We all know that if she were with us today, she would be asking the toughest questions and putting forth in no uncertain terms her vision of what teaching in a research university should be. I propose, therefore, that we dedicate today's colloquium to our teacher, our colleague, our friend -- Margaret MacVicar.

The discussion we are about to embark on this afternoon, and again this evening in groups hosted by the academic departments, is not limited to MIT, of course. Rather, it is part of a national debate about what is, and is not, being accomplished in the realm of teaching in our research universities. We have posed a rather lengthy list of potential questions for our panelists to respond to today. In a sense, they are the component parts of the larger question that brings us together in this auditorium.

We have called this question our "Challenge Resolution." It states: MIT faculty are both teachers and researchers. At their best, these two roles are mutually reinforcing and their fusion uniquely strengthens the Institute as a place of learning. In practice, however, they sometimes fall out of balance or even into conflict. To enrich undergraduate and graduate education, MIT should find specific ways to make teaching and research more closely complementary in the professional lives of all faculty members.

So we are about ready now to address this crucial issue. How can we make the most of this wonderful, but sometimes perplexing, mix of research and teaching? Clearly, we will hear disagreement. How often, even, have we heard undergraduates complain that the people around here care only about graduate students -- and then have graduate students make essentially the same observation about their undergraduate brothers and sisters.

Of course, we are in this enterprise to learn together -- undergraduates, graduate students and faculty members. In fact, we might well keep in mind the words of Frederick Terman, an MIT graduate who went on to become dean of engineering and provost at Stanford University. Asked once if his university should be a teaching institution or a research institution, he gave what is perhaps still the best response to that important question.

He replied, "It should be a learning institution."

Surely that is what we are about today: we gather together to ask questions, to challenge one another, to debate, and to learn from each other. We hope that we'll come out of this with some concrete ideas for improving this learning institution -- MIT.

Before introducing our panelists, I would like to offer special thanks to Professor Travis Merritt, Associate Dean for Student Affairs, and to Donna Friedman, Assistant to the Dean, for their extraordinary work in putting this afternoon's event together.

And now, without further ado, let me introduce to you our ten panelists, in alphabetical order:

Robert Birgeneau is Cecil and Ida Green Professor of Physics and was head of the Department of Physics from 1988 to 1991, when he was named Dean of the School of Science. Professor Birgeneau's research is primarily concerned with the phases and phase transition behavior of novel states of matter.

Yonald Chery is a graduate student in EECS who also did undergraduate work here at MIT. He has served as a student representative on a number of Institute committees, including the Committee on the Undergraduate Program, the Committee on Discipline and a Presidential Student Committee on Aspects and Attitudes on Student Life at MIT. Mr. Chery also was involved in the development and implementation of Project XL, a program for first-year minority students administered through MIT's Office of Minority Education, now in its third year. He is currently a graduate resident tutor at Bexley Hall.

Professor Woodie Flowers teaches engineering design. He is one of our consummate teachers -- from helping to create "2.70 -- Introduction to Design," one of MIT's best known sophomore courses, to being Director of the New Products Program, a new graduate program centered on design. His research interests range from microcomputer-controlled prostheses for above-knee amputees to computer-aided design systems.

David Litster is a professor of Physics. He has been director of MIT's center for Materials Science and Engineering and is currently director of the National Magnet Laboratory. Currently he is also serving as interim associate provost and vice president for research.

Joel Moses has been at MIT since 1967, first as professor and later as head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from 1981 to 1989. He was appointed Dean of the School of Engineering in 1991. Professor Moses led the development of the MACSYMA computer system for symbolic mathematics, the largest computer system for formula manipulation available today.

Robert Silbey is professor of Chemistry and head of that department. He has been involved in undergraduate and graduate instruction in a variety of subjects, including the freshman core curriculum. Professor Silbey was awarded the School of Science Teaching Prize in 1986, the Graduate Student Council Award for Teaching in 1988 and the Baker Award for Teaching in 1990.

J. Mark Davidson Schuster is associate professor of Urban Studies and Planning and teaches in the core curriculum of the Masters in City Planning program, as well as teaching a freshman advisor seminar. Professor Schuster is the author of a presentation given to new faculty and graduate teaching assistants entitled "Never Use a Red Pen and Other Rules of Thumb for Teaching." As the oldest student in Spanish I, he is currently taking a look at MIT education from the other end of the fire hose.

Colleen Schwingel is a senior at the Sloan School of Management. She has played an active role in the Undergraduate Association for the past three years, serving on committees for Food Service, Pass/Fail, Grading, Housing and Alcohol Policy. Ms. Schwingel held elective office in 1990 as the Vice President of the Undergraduate Association. Currently, she is a student member of the Faculty Policy Committee.

Irene Tayler, professor of Literature, has published mainly in the area of English Romantic poetry and art, and is especially interested in women's issues. She has taught at Stanford, Columbia and the City University of New York, and has been at MIT for 15 years.

Jacquelyn Yanch is an assistant professor of Nuclear Engineering in Whitaker College. She received her educational training in England and Canada and currently has research interests in the uses of ionizing radiation in medical applications.

Summing up this afternoon's session will be Mark S. Wrighton, provost, who has been a member of the MIT faculty since 1972. He has developed and taught core science subjects in chemistry and has directed graduate research activities leading to more than 50 PhDs.

And, finally, it is an honor and pleasure to introduce our interlocutor, former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, now Visiting Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University. Governor Dukakis formerly taught at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and some of you may remember his skill at asking tough questions and bringing forth candor as moderator of the public television program The Advocates. In planning this colloquium, we agreed that my role would be to make the introductions and then to unleash the interlocutor.

Governor Dukakis -- consider yourself unleashed.