Our New Vice Chancellor

April 27, 2017
Cynthia Barnhart, Chancellor, 2014–2021 |

To the members of the MIT community:

Throughout the academic year, I have met with more than 200 students, faculty, and staff to discuss their ideas for bold experiments and organizational changes we could pursue to advance our shared goal: providing students with the education and guidance they need to fulfill their personal aspirations and make a better world.

A new leadership structure

To ensure we achieve this critical goal, and to create stronger connections with the Division of Student Life and the Office of Digital Learning, I have asked Ian Waitz to serve as vice chancellor, with responsibility for leading the offices for undergraduate and graduate education. In this newly created role — effectively a bringing together of the dean for undergraduate education and the dean for graduate education positions — Ian's immediate focus will be on:

  • Engaging with students and departments to develop and pursue a roadmap for enhancing the first-year student academic experience;
  • Partnering with community members to make improvements for our students in areas such as advising, professional development, diversity and inclusion, and well-being;
  • Implementing the residential education innovations called for in the Institute-wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education; and
  • Working with the staff from undergraduate and graduate education to conduct an organizational review that positions the two offices to support the above efforts as well as optimize services for our students and faculty.

I am grateful that Ian has agreed to take on this important challenge, and that he will be applying the hallmarks of his leadership — vision, collaboration, and problem-solving — to my office's academic mission. Ian will report directly to me and begin on July 1 when he concludes his service as Dean of Engineering.

New roles and gratitude

I am pleased to report that Dean for Undergraduate Education Dennis (Denny) Freeman and Interim Dean for Graduate Education Blanche Staton will be assuming new roles central to our education efforts.

In his four-year tenure as dean, Denny's leadership, creativity, and boundless passion for undergraduate teaching and advising have been on full display. For me, the tremendous success of the Mens et Manus freshman advising seminar Denny initiated during his time as dean stands out among the countless contributions he has made to residential education.

To build on the seminar's progress, I have asked Denny, beginning July 1, to focus his efforts on launching a year-long pilot that will experiment with and evaluate novel models for the first-year experience. He will report to Ian and engage with the community and with faculty governance on strategies and programs designed to improve learning outcomes and strengthen the links between educational innovation and the student experience.

For nearly a year, Blanche has expertly served as interim dean while we continued the work of defining our academic priorities and vision for the future. She was extremely gracious to take on these expanded duties, and graduate students have benefited from her expertise and compassion. Blanche will return to her full-time role as senior associate dean for graduate education on July 1 so that she can work closely with Ian on all matters related to graduate education, advocacy, and support.

I am fortunate to work alongside these three dynamic and caring educators as well as the team of dedicated professionals in our undergraduate and graduate education offices. Combined with the transformations Dean Suzy Nelson is leading within the Division of Student Life, this is an inspiring time in student life and learning at MIT. I know we can count on — and will greatly benefit from — our community's partnership on the exciting and challenging work that awaits.


Cynthia Barnhart