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Committee Named to Select Dean for Undergrad. Ed.

By Kathy Lin

A committee charged with identifying candidates for the next Dean for Undergraduate Education has been appointed and will soon meet.

The committee is expected to submit by October a list of three to five candidates, rationales for their nominations, and “issues that the committee feels we should take into account,” wrote Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75 in an e-mail. Clay will select the new dean from that list, which is restricted to tenured professors.

The current Dean for Undergraduate Education, Robert P. Redwine, plans to step down at the end of this calendar year to return to teaching and research with the physics department.

A major project for the new dean will be reviewing, discussing, and potentially implementing the recommendations of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Educational Commons, which are expected to be released, at least in preliminary form, this fall.

Clay appointed committee

The committee members, chosen by Clay, include professors from all five schools. They have been involved with undergraduate education through teaching, roles in the administration, and interaction with students while holding roles such as advisor, education officer, or housemaster.

Two students, one undergraduate and one graduate, were also selected by Clay, a departure from the standard process in which the Undergraduate Association and Graduate Student Council appoint members through their nominations committees. Clay wrote that he gave the “UA and GSC a chance to react prior to appointing the students,” but did not ask for their nominees because “a search committee is not a regular committee.”

Committee members are looking for an array of characteristics, though most have cautioned that there is no cookie-cutter profile.

“There are no absolute conditions” that must be met by candidates for the dean position, Committee Chair W. Eric Grimson PhD ’80 wrote in an e-mail. The new dean should ideally have management experience “since the Dean oversees a large staff, covering a diverse set of offices.” He or she should also be experienced and sensitive in working with students and “actively engaged in undergraduate education,” wrote.

Committee to seek community input

The selection committee is expected to solicit input from a variety of sources. Its charge states that it should “consult with relevant committees associated with undergraduate education, students, faculty, staff within the DUE office, the Dean for Student Life, and members of Academic Council.”

“Last time, we solicited input very broadly from the entire MIT community, and I would imagine the same would happen this time,” said Graham C. Walker, who chaired the previous search committee for a Dean of Undergraduate Education five years ago.

The students are charged with soliciting appropriate student input. “I will be working with them early in the process to find mechanisms to seek input from other student groups and representatives,” as “student input is very important in this process,” Grimson wrote.

Student committee member John R. Velasco ’06 said he expects to hold forums, “work very closely with the UA,” and create a mechanism through which students will be able to confidentially suggest candidates.

Two committee members declined to comment about the search for DUE nominees, saying that the committee had not met yet.

Faculty experienced in education

The faculty committee members have extensive experience in undergraduate education. In addition to being a professor, Walker, for example, has served as headmaster of McCormick and biology education officer in biology.

Grimson wrote in an e-mail that he has “lectured 6.001 nearly 30 times and hence ha[s] had teaching interactions with close to 10,000 students.” He has chaired a variety of committees, served as the education officer for the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and worked with both undergraduates and faculty members in a variety of other capacities.