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Institute adjusts to changes in six senior positions

By David D. Hsu

Promotions, resignations, and retirements among top administrators left the Institute brass in disarray in 1994, as dean search committees started work towards filling six vacated senior positions. This past year, the results of those searches, coupled with restructuring, brought seven new faces to the top ranks; one spot remains unfilled.

Of the six emptied positions - provost, dean for undergraduate education, dean of the school of engineering, dean of the graduate school, associate provost for the arts, and assistant dean for residence and campus activities - three were filled and two were were restructured to split responsibilities. The new team has had to adjust quickly to its role, which has included filling its own empty positions.

Moses replaces Wrighton as Provost

In April, Provost Mark S. Wrighton announced he would leave the Institute in July to become the next chancellor of Washington University in St. Louis. A former head of the Department Chemistry, Wrighton served as provost and chief academic officer for almost five years, and was thereby involved in wide-ranging and sometimes controversial decisions.

As provost, Wrighton oversaw the deans of the five schools and of undergraduate and graduate education; as chief academic officer, he was responsible for research and education programs. Wrighton was also deeply involved with budget planning, the Institute-wide re-engineering effort and four search committees.

Wrighton displeased many faculty members when he closed the Center for Materials Research in Archaeology and Ethnology in June 1993, counter to the recommendations of a review committee. But he has been a strong supporter of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program, into which he channeled $1 million in endowment funding to help it through the financially stressful summer of 1994.

"I greatly regret leaving MIT," Wrighton said. He cited President Charles M. Vest and Chairman of the Corporation and former President Paul E. Gray '54 as "tremendous mentors for the role of leading a research university."

In searching for Wrighton's successor, Vest solicited input from faculty and administrators. Vest said in April that he planned to "consult broadly in person and by mail." Early candidates for the position included the deans of the individual schools and department heads.

In June, Dean of the School of Engineering Joel Moses PhD '67 was selected as the Institute's next provost. He brings a broad educational background and successful computer science and engineering career to the position. "For me, the magic lies in the endless opportunities to work with and to come to know individuals of the highest caliber across all the disciplines and ranks," Moses said.

Moses' "eclectic intellectual interests, respect for faculty culture, and thoughtful understanding of the current forces for change will make him an outstanding institutional leader of our times," Vest said.

Moses, who has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Yale, received his doctorate in the School of Science at MIT and spent a year at the Harvard University Graduate School of Business Administration. He has also most recently served as head of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

Williams replaces Smith as dean for UE

Also in June, Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith resigned after a five-year tenure. During that term he developed a strong reputation as a student advocate. Smith is also known for having consolidated two separate posts in the UESA - dean for undergraduate education and dean for student affairs - into a single office.

"Art has brought a very insightful and effective advocacy on behalf of students to the Academic Council discussions," Vest said. "He always forced us to see things through the students' eyes." The Academic Council, composed of the president, vice presidents, provost, vice provosts, deans of the schools, and other high-level administrators, is the highest policy-making body at the Institute.

A search committee of five students and five faculty members, chaired by Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Linn W. Hobbs, was appointed to recommend Smith's replacement. After interviewing close to 50 prospective candidates, the committee presented Vest with a list of recommendations.

In the end, Professor of Writing Rosalind H. Williams was named by Vest as the new dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs. "As a historian, [she] understands very well what MIT's mission is," Hobbs said.

Excited by the position, Williams sees the appointment as "a great opportunity. It really is a moment for historical change, both for the Institute and the country. The cold war paradigm is over. It's a time when there are great pressures on higher education, especially on research universities," she said. "And if it has to be changing, it would be very exciting to be part of a team that's changing it."

In her opinion, Williams' most important qualification "is having taught writing here for 12 years. You get feedback into the undergraduate experience on a daily basis. I can't tell you how many essays I've read on the time crunch, drinking policies, or classroom experience."

Since being appointed, Williams has formed two groups - the Task Force on Student Life and the Task Force on Student Learning - to help update the Institute's framework for the incoming Class of 2000, Williams said. The problem with MIT's now-dated framework is that it applicable for classes with lower diversity and a lower need for practical education than today, she said.

Bates named as new dean for student life

The dean search committee also recommended that the position of UESA should again be split and that a dean for student life be appointed. "The feeling of the committee was we should have a dean of undergraduate education, and that dean would oversee student life aspects as well, but that it was too much to chart the academic waters and the social details as well," Hobbs said.

In October, Margaret R. Bates, an academic and financial planning officer at Harvard University and a former vice provost of Duke University, was named to the new position of dean for student life. Using the search committee's report as a guide, Williams worked with Hobbs, Vest, and Moses to select the new dean.

All in all, Bates' appointment does not reflect a split in the dean's office. Instead, Bates and Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Travis R. Merritt will report to Williams, who changed her title to dean for undergraduate education. Bates will be "concerned with coordinating activities of student life within and outside of the dean's office," Williams said.

The new position is not just "filling a hole," Bates said but a way of expanding the capability of the Dean's Office. On one side, Merritt will handle issues that are more academically oriented, and Bates will handle non-academic issues like housing and dining.

Brown appointed dean of the School of Engineering

Moses' appointment to provost left open the position of dean of the School of Engineering. In November, now-provost Moses named a search committee to make recommendations for dean. The 14-member committee, chaired by Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics Jack L. Kerrebrock, met weekly and consulted with faculty members; early candidates for the position included the heads of the engineering departments.

In January, Professor Robert A. Brown, head of the Department of Chemical Engineering, was appointed dean of the school of engineering. During his years on the chemical engineering faculty, he has been honored with the Outstanding Faculty Award three times by students. He is also known for helping improve computing resources at the Institute as co-director of MIT's supercomputer facility.

From a survey intended to solicit student input on the dean search, the search committee found that students wanted the new dean to maintain funding for UROP. They also felt that classes should be improved to teach students team skills, and that there was not adequate interaction between students and faculty and that office hours should be encouraged to a greater extent.

"What the dean's office can do is create a broad set of guidelines or standards to measure teaching effectiveness," Brown said. We try to "move the school toward valuing student-faculty contact as much as possible." But in the end, the quality of teaching depends on the individual faculty members.

Overall, "without a question, the opportunities in engineering education are as great today as in the last 25 years," Brown said. A chance exists to rethink both graduate and undergraduate teaching. The goal is to "maintain the leadership of MIT in education and research," while both industry and government change.

Litster becomes dean for graduate education

In June, Dean of the Graduate School Frank E. Perkins '55 stepped down after 12 years, leaving Associate Dean of the Graduate School Isaac M. Colbert to fill the post of acting dean last term. Although Vest said in June that a successor would be named by summer's end, a permanent replacement was not named until the end of the calendar year.

But last month Vice President and Dean for Research J. David Litster PhD '65 was named dean for graduate education. Colbert was selected to be the senior associate dean for graduate education.

Litster now holds the combined title of vice president for research and dean for graduate education. The new post of dean for graduate education replaces the previous position of dean of the Graduate School.

"Litster has all the needed characteristics of a dean of graduate education," Moses said. "He has done great research, has had many graduate students, and has enormous management experience."

Moses explained the decision to combine the deanship roles for research and graduate education. "Over the past several months we have come to the conclusion that the common U.S. model of combining research and graduate education under one roof is a good one for MITat this time, particularly given the importance of securing appropriate funding for graduate education," he said. "It makes sense to put them together - to have one person worrying about all of those things," Litster said. "I hope to bring the graduate and undergraduate offices closer together" by working with UE Dean Williams, he said.

Also, "I would like to pay more attention to postdocs," Litster said. "We have been running workshops where we do skits or scenarios, little things on questions of ethics or research conduct."

In his new position as senior associate dean, former acting dean Colbert is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the office of the graduate school.

"We will work in partnership with the undergraduate deans' office in areas of mutual interest regarding student life, like housing and student activities," Colbert said. While the dean for student life will have primary responsibility in these areas, the graduate office will have input into the process.

Brody succeeds Harris as associate arts provost

Ellen T. Harris, MIT's first-ever associate provost for the arts, resigned from her post in 1994 to work as an affiliate at the Mary Ingraham Bunting Institute of Radcliffe College at Harvard University, where she is writing a book about George Frederic Handel.

The associate provost for the arts is the senior administration official responsible for the oversight of creative arts activities throughout the Institute, including the Office of the Arts. As a member of the Academic Council, the associate provost for the arts advises the provost and president on all non-academic activities related to the arts and is the senior officer responsible for resource development for the arts.

A search committee chaired by Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences Philip S. Khoury reviewed 270 applications for the position; in October, Professor Alan Brody, head of the humanities department's music and theater arts section, was named as arts provost.

Brody "has great leadership qualities and a vision of how important arts are at the Institute, especially in light of all of the federal funding cuts in the arts," Khoury said.

Brody seeks to increase the presence of the arts on campus and "find more ways the arts can serve the students - bring dimension to every student's work," he said. "We have to be here and be available," Brody said. However, "being here" does not mean forcing art onto students. The reason people dislike art is because it's forced on them in some way. Hopefully, just the increased presence of art around campus will generate interest.

The search committee had been looking for someone to strengthen the visual arts program, since music and theater programs have been established. Brody plans to work closely with Dean of the School of Architecture William J. Mitchell, the Center for Advanced Visual Studies, and the Creative Arts Council to make visual arts more available for students.