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Kip Hodges Will Be New Dean Of Undergraduate Curriculum


Indranath Neogy--The Tech
Kip V. Hodges PhD '82

By David D. Hsu
News Editor

Professor of Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences Kip V. Hodges PhD '82 will head the Office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs as the new dean of undergraduate curriculum.

Hodges will succeed Travis R. Merritt, who retired as dean of undergraduate academic affairs earlier this year. Hodges will officially start his job as dean on Jan. 15.

Along with Dean for Student Life Margaret R. Bates and Director of Administration and Operations Stephen D. Immerman, Hodges will report to Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams in the Office of Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs. Williams made the decision to select Hodges.

The UAA deals with education issues. The Undergraduate Academic Opportunities Program, the Committee on Academic Performance, freshman advising, Residence and Orientation Week, and the writing requirement are all responsibilities of the office.

Hodges has been active in many academic areas. He chairs the Committee on the Writing Requirement and co-chaired the special Committee on the Undergraduate Program subcommittee on writing. He has also been involved in freshman adviser seminars and UROPs, Williams said.

Hodges' job will be half-time

The change in the title from dean of undergraduate academic affairs to dean of undergraduate curriculum was a point on which both Williams and Hodges agreed.

"My job is going to be to directly concentrate on the undergraduate curriculum," Hodges said. Hodges' role will be to review the undergraduate curriculum and improve the quality beyond what it is now, he said.

With a title involving undergraduate academic affairs, Hodges tends to think of worrying about numbers describing individual students, he said. His job will focus more on the general philosophy of education rather than day-to-day issues.

Unlike his predecessor, Hodges will only have the dean's job as a half-time job. This way Hodges can continue his research.

In addition, Hodges did not want to be a full-time administrator. "I don't pretend to be a micromanager of things," he said.

With this in mind, the sections within the Office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs will have to possess more autonomy, Hodges said.

"I think the people within those departments will have to manage more," said Associate Dean of Undergraduate Academic Affairs Peggy Enders. Associate deans have had that kind of managerial role before, and it should not be a problem, she said.

"I think it's a good model," said Professor of Urban Studies and Planning Lawrence S. Bacow '72, chair of the faculty. "If we are going to be successful in getting faculty deeply in issues of undergraduate education, we have to structure these jobs so they don't have to give up their scholarly lives."

"It may be necessary to make adjustments," Merritt said. "The main thing is to get a good person like Kip into that role."

The job will essentially be the same even though it is half-time, Williams said.

Dean to improve education, UAA

Focusing on the undergraduate curriculum, Hodges wants to serve as a catalyst for change in education, he said.A lot of his energy will go into interacting with students and faculty.

"The administration should be transparent to students," Hodges said. If a student has some kind of problem, whether financial, personal, or academic, it should be clear what the student needs to do. It is important that students get a good education without a layer of hassles, he said.

When Hodges takes office, he will face a variety of tasks.

His responsibilities will be two-fold, Williams said. First, Hodges must look at the Office of Undergraduate Academic Affairs in the context of the larger Dean's Office, Williams said.

President Charles M. Vest's reorganization moved many operations offices, like the Bursar's Office and the Student Financial Aid Office, under the Dean's Office. The Dean's Office now has to deal with both teaching and operations, Williams said.

"I think the main [task] will be giving some sense of positive momentum to the Undergraduate Academic Affairs Office," Merritt said. Hodges can help individuals on staff feel that their contributions are valued.

Secondly, Hodges will need to work with departments to make teaching at MITmore effective, Williams said.

He will look at the future of freshman seminars, the coordination the freshman curriculum, and the laboratory requirement. Hodges will continue the process of reforming the writing requirement, Bacow said.

To some extent, Hodges' job overlaps with the job of the presidential task force on student life and learning, he said. Hodges is not a member of the task force but will closely work with them to achieve a common goal.

Faculty pleased with selection

Hodges was selected as dean after consultation with faculty, UAA staff, and students, Williams said. Open student forums were well attended by both deans and undergraduates.

There were two main messages from the student forums, Williams said. Undergraduates wanted the dean to be someone approachable and someone who would actively interact with departments to improve education. "This is very much Kip's agenda," she said.

While Hodges as been active in changing the writing requirement, he is a scientist and not a "humanist in disguise," Williams said. His interest in writing is at a professional training level.

The selection of Hodges, a scientist, helps balance out Williams, a professor of writing, and Bates, a political scientist, Williams said.

Faculty and staff were pleased with Hodges' selection.

"Absolutely wonderful," Merritt said. "He's a long-time colleague of mine having to do with undergraduate education."

"I think it's a terrific appointment," Bacow said. Hodges cares deeply about education and is highly respected by both students and faculty, he said.

"Everything I've heard about him sounds like he'll be good for teaching and good for education," Enders said.

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This story was published on Tuesday.
Volume 116, Number 54.
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