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Five Professors Named MacVicar Fellows

By Aaron Du and Eun J. Lee


Five of MIT’s finest professors will be honored today as MacVicar Faculty Fellows in recognition of their contributions to undergraduate education.

Professors Alan H. Guth (Course VIII), Steven R. Hall (Course XVI), Kip V. Hodges (Course XII), Nancy G. Kanwisher (Course IX), and David Thorburn (Course XXI) join forty-six of their elite colleagues as MacVicar Fellows for 2002.

“All of these people are terrific classroom teachers,” said Dean for Undergraduate Education Robert P. Redwine, who headed the committee which chose the Fellows. “But many have made major innovative contributions as well.”

“It’s kind of like getting rewarded twice -- first I get the chance to teach MIT undergraduates, and then I get the MacVicar fellowship,” Kanwisher said.

This afternoon at 2:30 p.m. in Room 6-120 there will also be a formal program open to the entire MIT community to commemorate MacVicar Day. This first-of-a-kind program, entitled “Knowledge and Action: MIT Students Around the World,” will feature a live video conference with MIT students participating in the Cambridge-MIT Institute (CMI) as well as student presentations on the Service Learning program and the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI).

The formal ceremony announcing this year’s MacVicar Fellows will be made by Provost Robert A. Brown at the MIT Corporation luncheon in the Faculty Club today.

New fellows join impressive list

The list of MacVicar Fellows from previous years almost appears to be a “Who’s Who” among MIT professors because of their high achievements, and this year’s fellows are no exception. Still, the new class of MacVicar fellows remains modest about their accomplishments.

“This is a terrific honor, and I’m very pleased,” Hall said. “I will continue the work which I think is important.”

Hall has been very active in developing Course XVI’s Unified engineering program.

“I’ll be back from sabbatical next fall, and I plan to pick up with my work in the department,” Hall said.

Other fellows plan to continue just as they always have with improving undergraduate education as their highest goal.

“I will continue to work hard and be involved in teaching,” Guth said. “I like to teach, and I like MIT students.”

Guth was the course administrator for Physics I (8.01) last fall, and in 1999, he received the School of Science Prize for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching for his 8.01 lectures.

“He has this incredible way of making everything very clear, and that’s what strikes me the most about him,” said Onsi J. Fakhouri ’04, who had Guth as a recitation instructor for 8.01.

Distance learning theme for 2002

Each year since 1992, the annual MacVicar Day program of events has focused on a particular aspect of educational development at MIT. This year’s program highlights educational opportunities for students outside of the MIT campus.

“I think [the program] will be both impressive and stimulating,” Redwine said.

The program will begin with a live videoconference with both current and former CMI students from both sides of the Atlantic discussing the different aspects of education and campus life at the two institutions.

Other fellows remain honored

J. Kim Vandiver, dean for undergraduate research, was among the recipients of the fellowship program last year. “It was a great honor for me to be recognized as an especially good teacher,” Vandiver said. “The nomination requires input from past students, which for me was especially gratifying.”

Two students from Cambridge University are taking one of Vandiver’s classes this spring. “They bring a fresh perspective to the classroom,” Vandiver said.

Anne Mayes of the Department of Material Science and Engineering, David Mindell of Science, Technology, and Society, Heidi Nepf of the Department of Civil Engineering, and Janet Sonenberg of Music & Theater Arts were also named MacVicar Fellows in 2001.

UROP founder inspired program

The MacVicar Fellows program was created in memory of the late Margaret L.A. MacVicar ’65, the first dean for undergraduate education. During her years at MIT, she fostered a number of educational innovations, including the founding of the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. MacVicar died in 1991.

“I did know Margaret MacVicar while she was here at MIT, and I greatly enjoyed having her for a colleague,” Guth said. “I admired the work she did for furthering MIT undergraduate education, especially through the UROP program, and I am honored to receive a fellowship in her name.”

MacVicar Fellows serve 10-year terms and receive an annual scholar’s allowance to assist them in further developing ways to enrich the undergraduate learning experience. All current fellows meet for luncheons six times during the school year to discuss innovative ideas for enriching the undergraduate educational experience.

Eun J. Lee contributed to the reporting of this story.