The search for the new Dean for Undergraduate Education, the successor to Dean Daniel E. Hastings ’78, is “well under way,” according to search committee chair Graham C. Walker.
The committee first met in early February after Hastings announced on Jan. 8 that he would step down effective July 1, 2013. It is currently in the process of seeking advice from over 60 “particularly knowledgeable” MIT community members, in addition to gathering student feedback. Walker expects interviewing to be done next week, and final recommendations to be done in a matter of a few weeks.
“Whoever’s chosen will have their life turned upside down in a very short period of time,” said Walker. “I want to keep our committee moving as efficiently as possible so the next dean will have as long as possible to get ready before they have to prepare themselves.”
The committee’s charge is to recommend three to five candidates to Chancellor Eric Grimson PhD ’80, who will make the final choice. “We’ll all hear at once who the new dean is,” said Walker.
Currently, Walker says, the committee is gathering input on three topics from the MIT community: what they see as major issues and challenges that the new dean will face, qualities people want in the ideal dean, and actual candidate suggestions. The committee is trying to reach out “as broadly as possible and get input from as many different types of people.”
On the student side, Grace Young ’14, a Tech Arts Editor and one of two undergraduate members of the committee, said that the student effort is currently an informal process of personally seeking input from undergraduates, in addition to gathering input from the Undergraduate Association. According to other undergraduate member Anubhav Sinha ’13, they are also planning to send a survey to MIT undergraduates. When asked if there would be any formal open events regarding the matter, like a forum, Young said, “Likely not,” adding that members of the community can approach the committee at firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact individual members in person or through email.
Though they are looking for ideal qualities, “as always, there is no dean from heaven anywhere on this earth,” chuckled Walker, who had been in two prior DUE search committees and chaired one of them. Walker said many people have a poor understanding of what the dean for undergraduate education does — “I think some people think he sits in his office and talks to undergrad students all day!”
According to Walker, the new dean will most likely have administrative experience to be able to manage a staff of 260 and a $26 million budget, including such critical offices as admissions, the registrar, and Student Financial Services.
The dean must also be someone who is “widely respected in the Institute,” both in a personal and academic sense, as the dean serves on academic councils. One limiting factor, though, is that the next dean will most likely have to all but give up his research for his or her term.
“It tends to tank your research career because you’re busy almost all the time,” said Walker, explaining that candidates often find themselves having to consider “where they get their joy from.”
The new dean will also be in charge of crafting undergraduate education and policy, and, in particular, interfacing with the new Office of Digital Learning. Since the new dean will be in the midst of this “education revolution,” the committee hopes to have somebody with “not just experience teaching, but vision, understanding,” Walker said. Such qualities could also help a dean who might face limitations in admissions depending on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Fisher v. University of Texas, which concerns affirmative action.
Walker said that many suggestions have come to their committee from throughout the Institute. Some nominate others who might be good candidates, said Walker, and the committee see if they are interested, while others “make it known that they’re interested.” Overall, the committee is trying to quickly identify the best candidates to consider. “There are many well-meaning people, but only one of them will end up being the dean.”
The committee urges that anyone with feedback or comments send them to email@example.com.