Two weeks ago, President L. Rafael Reif announced that Eric Grimson PhD ’80 would be stepping down from his Chancellorship to take on the new role of Chancellor for Academic Advancement. Prior to serving as the Chancellor, Grimson headed the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from 2005 to 2011. The Tech sat down with Reif to discuss his visions for the next Chancellor and Grimson’s new role in fundraising.
The Chancellor at MIT is mainly responsible for overseeing student life and undergraduate and graduate education. The Chancellor and the Provost are second only to the President in their responsibilities for the education of MIT students.
According to Reif, extensive interviewing will play a key part in the search process. Although he has not yet started interviewing candidates, Reif says that he plans to select a new Chancellor either by the end of this calendar year or the very beginning of 2014.
“The Chancellor is basically the champion of the students,” described Reif. “He [or she] has to be a good educator, has to be a good mentor, and has to have a track record of that.”
Reif says that he is “absolutely” looking at MIT faculty members as part of his search process. However, he emphasized that he is looking for someone who not only enjoys teaching in a classroom or conducting research, but also cares about student life and the overall educational experience here.
“We have 1000 faculty here and I would say all of them care for students deeply,” he explained. “I would just like to identify one that has the slant that we need to address student issues.”
After interviewing candidates, Reif plans to also reach out to people who know the candidates well and talk to them.
“An important criterion is to have been a good mentor,” said Reif. “But beyond that, I really would like a chancellor to really almost think of our students as our children.”
Reif is currently taking student input through the UA (Undergraduate Association), GSC (Graduate Student Council), and PAC (Presidential Advisory Committee). According to the GSC website, the PAC is a student advisory group to Reif composed of four undergraduate and four graduate students.
“It is very important for me to understand if anything is broken… so we can address it,” stated Reif. “If I know the issues that students are facing, that will slant the kind of chancellor we need to fit those kinds of needs.”
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Chancellor for Academic Advancement
In his new role as Chancellor for Academic Advancement, Grimson is tasked with helping lead MIT’s ambitious upcoming fundraising campaign. Although a number has not yet been publicly announced, the last fundraising campaign by previous MIT President Susan J. Hockfield raised almost $3 billion.
“The campaign really is to allow us to do things that we want to do,” said Reif.
Reif explained that he created the position after he realized that he was overtasking Grimson, who had already unofficially started helping Reif raise funds in addition to his role as Chancellor.
“The really big donors – and we’re lucky that we have quite a few of those – they really want to talk with somebody high up in the administration,” said Reif. “There is just simply no way that, in a five-year campaign even, I can meet with all of them; it’s just I would be away all the time. As it is, I travel quite a bit, but I cannot be away all the time. That’s when I thought that Eric could help me; he is great at that.”
According to Reif, the campaign will first identify a number of potential donors before matching them with faculty experts or even students. Once matched, Reif hopes that the ensuing conversation would “get [the donors] interested in giving us the funds to do what we want to do.” Potential donors include both MIT alumni and non-alumni who “care about the things we care about.”
“[Grimson] can articulate things very few people can, what we want to do for our students and our faculty too,” praised Reif. “He will be a huge help for me.”
Tushar Kamath contributed reporting to this article.