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New Dean's Office Turns Focus to Communications

By David D. Hsu
News Editor

The Office of Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs, which expanded to include about 10 more offices last month, is in the process of developing communication within its new structure.

The Dean's Office was reorganized by President Charles M. Vest . The changes involved shifting control of several offices that were formerly managed by MIT's operations end over to the Dean's Office. These newly added offices include the Department of Housing and Food Services, the Campus Activities Complex, the Registrar's Office, the Bursar's Office, the Student Financial Aid Office, Career Services and Preprofessional Advising, and several others.

In general, "it'll take a while but not a long while to see changes," said Dean for Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams, head of the Dean's Office.

The Dean's Office has to have the new infrastructure in place before any large changes occur, Williams said.

Getting the infrastructure in place involves each division within the Dean's Office getting basic organizational and personnel information, said Dean for Student Life Margaret R. Bates.

At the same time, the divisions are trying to get a common understanding of how to proceed with programs in the short run, Bates said. The office is evaluating if it has enough resources to pursue its goals.

"We're in the process of understanding what the needs are going to be," said Director of Administration and Operations Stephen D. Immerman. Immerman was moved into the Dean's Office as part of the reorganization.

The division heads in the Dean's Office are meeting every other week, Williams said.

Part of what will come out of these meetings is a five-year plan for the Dean's Office due out in December, Williams said. This plan will include budgets for all the divisions as well as a mission statement addressing short- and long-term issues.

Immerman and Richard L. Brewer, manager of administration in the Dean's Office, will be writing the plan, Williams said.

One motivation behind the reorganization was to improve office reporting lines.

Bates and Immerman are serving as liaisons to the divisions, Williams said. "These are interim liaison roles, not fixed reporting lines."

Immerman is serving as a liaison to the groups new to the Dean's Office because of his established working experience with those divisions, Bates said. Bates is the primary liaison to offices originally in the Dean's Office.

The primary goal is not to clarify reporting lines but rather to focus on working communications, Bates said.

"Ultimately, they're all reporting to me,"Williams said.

Part of the communications push is to get the divisions to talk to each other and to coordinate on common issues, Williams said.

For example, the Office of Residence and Campus Activities has been asked to name people to work on projects that would cut across offices under the Dean's Office, said Associate Dean for RCA Margaret A. Jablonski.

On common issues, RCA will be working with other other groups to submit a joint budget, Jablonski said.

Re-engineering better coordinated

"In the longer term, we want to look across the office and see what our commonalities are," Williams said.

"Much of that agenda in terms of change is determined by re-engineering initiatives already underway," Immerman said.

The housing and residential life re-engineering team, the co-curricular team, and the financial and academic services transition team are all looking at processes common to several divisions within the Dean's Office, Williams said.

The reorganization of the Dean's Office speeds up re-engineering, Williams said. There are fewer administrative boundaries and efforts are easier to coordinate.

Bates, the team captain of the HARLteam, also said the reorganization has helped re-engineering. The team can now concentrate on details instead of worrying about reporting lines.

Many members of the Dean's Office, including Williams, Bates, and Immerman, are involved with re-engineering. The reorganization makes it possible for re-engineering to work with the Dean's Office, Bates said.

It is still too early to talk about staff changes, Immerman said. Whatever further changes that do occur within the Dean's Office will occur in the same public manner that re-engineering would produce, he said.

RCA is "in sort of a holding pattern," Jablonski said. RCA will await the results of the HARL team which is looking at a structure to merge HFS and RCA.

"This is speculative on my part, but I would venture that we have two solid years of substantial change ahead of us," Immerman said.

Transition has been smooth

The transition to the expanded Dean's Office has progressed smoothly.

"There's always some confusion," Williams said. But since the new divisions were well managed, they have dealt well with the changes.

The restructuring has given people a greater level of certainty, Bates said. People no longer have to worry about where to report, and they can instead think about how to work together more effectively.

It has been much easier to interact directly, Jablonski said. Some of the roadblocks to communication have disappeared, she said.