Burton-Conner #111, the housemasters’ apartment, has new residents. On Aug. 31, the new housemasters, history Professor Anne E. C. McCants and her husband, William D. “Bill” McCants, a senior attorney with the Office for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Education, moved into their new home. They follow Professor Merrit Roe Smith and Bronwyn M. Mellquist, who stepped down after eight years.
The McCants are no strangers to dorm row. They served for 10 years as the housemasters for Green Hall starting in 1992 when it was a graduate women’s dorm. In 2002, when Simmons Hall first opened, the McCants were expected to assume the role of housemasters there, but they declined for family reasons: “At some point it made sense to do something different for a while and have a neighborhood experience for our kids,” Anne said.
But they always planned to return. In the ten years after Green Hall, Anne was a house fellow at Next House, where she ran a freshman advising program and was involved in other mentorship programs. This past spring, she mentioned to her family that a housemaster position had opened up in Burton-Conner. Bill and their two sons, Thomas, 22, a law student at Boston University, and James, 17, a senior at Belmont High School, were quick to say, “We will support you in doing this.”
In the time period between applying for the position and receiving the appointment, Anne was asked “completely out of the blue” to be the director of Concourse, a first-year program for MIT freshmen that emphasizes smaller classes and the humanities. She accepted this position along with the Burton-Conner housemaster appointment after conferring with Chancellor Eric Grimson PhD ’80 on the feasibility of taking on both positions. After accepting the positions, he then stepped down from her position as history department head, which she had held for six years.
Though their appointment letter officially sets the start date of the housemaster job as Sept. 1, the McCants have been working with the house management team since freshman orientation week and have already had a house team meeting.
“This dorm has fantastic GRTs. We have been so impressed,” Anne said, referring to the dorm’s graduate resident tutors. They also stressed how invaluable an asset Michelle Lessly, the Burton-Conner residential life area director, was in their moving into their apartment over Labor Day weekend.
Though they are not quite done moving in, the McCants have hit the ground running. Last Saturday, Anne invited Burton-Conner resident volunteers over to their apartment to make meatballs and vegetarian bean balls for the spaghetti dinners she plans to have with each floor. Over the past couple weeks, they have been familiarizing themselves with the layout of the dorm and attending various floor study breaks.
The McCants believe in making their life experiences available to students. They see their position as housemasters as “an opportunity to be a role model, a mentor, an advisor, or a friend. To advocate for students when they need an advocate, and to hold them accountable when they need to be held accountable,” according to Anne.
With regards to receiving feedback from students in the future, Anne said, “I think that if MIT students are unhappy about something we’ll hear about it,” a sentiment with which her husband concurred.
Anne, who loves to cook and bake, said, “I definitely want to be part of this Apple Bake I’ve heard so much about.” She has ideas she would like to work on such as implementing a compost and gardening program, but she is open to students’ suggestions as well.
The housemaster contract is initially for five years and will be up for renewal by mutual agreement each year thereafter. For now, the McCants are just happy to be back.