Almost twenty years after leaving East Campus upon graduating MIT, computer science professor Robert C. Miller ’95 has returned to the dorm — this time as its housemaster. MIT named Miller to the position in August after a months-long selection process.
The dorm’s previous housemasters, Kate and Tom Delaney, retired at the end of last semester after having served in their roles since 2006.
Miller, who lived in East Campus all four years as an undergraduate, said that his experience there was a large factor in his decision to apply for the role. “I applied to be housemaster because I’ve been heavily involved in undergraduate education pretty much since I got here,” he said. “I’ve been an undergraduate advisor. I’ve been teaching big undergraduate courses.”
The selection process consisted of three interviews: the first with the search committee who initially sorted through applications, the second with the dorm residents themselves, and the final one with Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart PhD ’88 and Dean Constantino Colombo. The search committee included a mix of residents, faculty, staff, and current housemasters.
According to the minutes from Miller’s interview meeting with EC residents, he compared other dorms to “hotels,” suggesting they lacked distinct culture. He later qualified this in an interview with The Tech, citing time and dorm structure as factors that affect a dorm’s community.
“It takes time to grow a culture. We have a number of dorms over on the west side. Both Maseeh and Simmons are relatively new in the undergraduate dorm experience,” Miller said. “At least in my experience, the halls on EC are very tightly knit in a way I haven’t seen in some of the other dormitory structures. Again, it has nothing to do with the students; it’s often a structural thing.”
Miller hopes East Campus will be renovated soon, saying that “some parts of the building looked too much like the way they did when I was an undergraduate here 20 years ago,” referencing a tour of the dorm with the residents.
“I’m happy to have Rob as our housemaster. One of his action items is getting us some “nice things” — a suggestion which was initially met with some backlash due to its implications and a general resistance to change from outside sources,” wrote EC President and search committee member Jessica M. Parker ’15 in an email to The Tech. “However, he’s proved to be great at listening to the community and asking for input on what we actually want, so I think most people are on board now.”
Miller, who doesn’t have a family, lives on the second floor of the west parallel.
“I hope I can be housemaster for as long as the dorm will have me,” Miller said, adding that the initial appointment is five years.