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Technology Office Joins Restructured DUE

By Valery K. Brobbey 
and Angeline Wang

The Office of the Dean for Undergraduate Education underwent a structural reorganization last year to establish six strategic themes or goals, including providing global educational opportunities for students and increasing diversity. Two new offices — the Office of Experiential Learning and the Office of Faculty Support — were also added.

This month the Office of Educational Innovation and Technology, joined the DUE, following the reorganization of the academic computing services on the directive of the provost. The new office will focus on enabling and supporting educational innovation, according to Elizabeth A. Reed, senior associate dean in the DUE.

DUE’s over-arching goal is to enhance the “educational experience for students across so many different dimensions” that encompasses students’ journey throughout MIT, Reed said.

Reed said that the re-organization allows DUE to take a “really deep thoughtful look” at itself and get “lots of input from the broader world.”

Daniel E. Hastings, who became Dean for Undergraduate Education last January, ordered the restructuring process, which took six months and ended July 2006.

According to Reed, only 15 percent of MIT students report having an international experience and stressed DUE’s commitment to global understanding, saying that “international experience is a very important educational goal.” Reed said that DUE is devoted to creating “opportunities for students to explore” both in and out of the classroom.

The restructuring is partly inspired by the recommendations from the final report of the Task Force on the Undergraduate Commons. More specifically, the creation of the Office of Faculty Support would help the DUE in implementing the task force recommendations, according to Hastings. The DUE will play a supporting role as the faculty decide whether to accept the task force report’s recommendations.

Terrascope and Concourse, which were originally part of the School of Engineering, are now under the administration of the DUE through the new Office of Experiential Learning. The office also oversees the Edgerton Center, according to J. Kim Vandiver, who will oversee the new office.

The new Office of Educational Innovation and Technology is intended to improve communication throughout the faculty and to serve an outreach function, according to Hastings.

“We want a place that enables faculty to undertake educational innovation … part of the mission is to look outside at other universities” for ideas.

“Are our students learning better? Technology has to enable that,” Hasings added. “If it doesn’t, it’s wasting our time, but there’s no way to know until you try it.”

No new staff was hired for the re-organization, according to Hastings, although Literature Professor Diana Henderson was brought in to head the Office of Faculty Support. Additionally, the Office of Educational Innovation and Technology brought in staff from Information Services & Technology.

Julie B. Norman, director of Undergraduate Advising and Academic Programming, said that her department is responsible for the theme of developing a “holistic student experience.” Norman said that the Academic Resource Center had been transformed into the UAAP because “we now have much more comprehensive responsibilities and ARC didn’t reflect that.”

One of the projects being undertaken by Norman’s Office is called the best practices review, in conjunction with all the undergraduate advisers. The UAAP will share the information from the review with academic departments and work with faculty members to improve advising.

Other projects being undertaken by the UAAP include an electronic newsletter and better training for graduate students to improve UROP supervision.