Setting Priorities for the Coming Year

September 12, 2012

Dear Students:

Welcome, or welcome back! This is always an energizing time of the academic year: new graduates and undergraduates joining the MIT family, returning students reconnecting with friends, faculty members hearing about their advisees’ great summer projects, classes gearing up, athletic teams blending new members with veterans, groups planning the year’s projects.

It’s also an exciting time. The many activities make it feel like the campus is returning to life, with possibilities for new beginnings and reengagement. If you are new to our community, you have probably noticed the incredible array of activities for you: within living groups, in the arts or athletics, through a research group, as part of one of the hundreds of student-organized clubs. Like the proverbial “kid in the candy store”, it may seem like all your wishes have come true, but it can be easy to get overwhelmed by the opportunity to sample so many choices while balancing your academic and research responsibilities.

Whether you are a new freshman, an incoming graduate student, or just returning after a few months away, I encourage you to use September for setting priorities. What are three key things that you want to accomplish this term? How will you attack them? How will you measure progress? By articulating a set of goals, you help maintain focus and reduce the distraction of too many other challenges.

As Chancellor, I am responsible for “all things students.” This leaves me with a very long list of issues to address! But although I am still refining my agenda for the coming year, and while new issues will arise, here are three topics on which I hope to make progress.

  1. Enhancing the support system for student wellbeing and community. All of us are committed to building a stronger, more supportive community that values a diverse range of members yet works together to ensure that everyone feels engaged. I plan to work with staff, faculty, and student groups to strengthen existing systems and launch new initiatives that foster deeper connections between students and support structures. Examples include a new Peer Ears student mentoring program; together with CUP, DUE and DSL, finding ways to improve advising; and conducting an extensive Quality of Life student survey to guide these developments.
  2. Augmenting the residential-based educational experience. As we explore the opportunities of MITx and the role that online tools can play in education for people around the world, I will be working with administration, faculty and students to guide how these methods and technologies improve and extend the experience for MIT students on our campus.
  3. Connecting with students and student concerns. I enjoy spending time listening to students over dinner in living groups, at discussion forums, in conversations with student leadership, and at student events. If you see me having a meal in a dining hall, or sitting in the stands at a game, I invite you to join me and tell me about your concerns and desires to make MIT a better place.

I hope your list of key goals is equally as challenging and exciting.

Sincerely,

Eric Grimson
MIT Chancellor