Sharing some springtime thoughts and W20 updates

April 14, 2023
Suzy M. Nelson, Vice Chancellor and Dean for Student Life |

TL;DR: W20 closes this weekend for renovations; resources for food and groceries, space, and services are below; the renewed building will reopen for the 2023 fall term; students and DSL collaborate on key priorities including W20, housing renewal, student orgs, food security, and event security.

Dear students,

MIT is a special place. I was reminded of this when I watched Professor Anette “Peko” Hosoi’s appearance on CBS News over the winter. Professor Hosoi developed a mathematical formula demonstrating that kindness could go viral “if every time someone performs an act of kindness for us, we do more than one nice thing for someone else.” This is good advice anytime, but especially as we head into the home stretch of another rigorous academic year.

Below I highlight some important initiatives that students are working on with the Division of Student Life (DSL), part of the Chancellor’s Office network that’s dedicated to helping students be happier, healthier, and more successful at MIT. I also have some updates on the Stratton Student Center (W20), which will close this Sunday, April 16, for renovations. You can also find details on food, gathering spaces, and more resources available while the building is closed, so please read this message closely.

And in case you aren't aware, the DSL deans and I host office hours every Friday in 4-110 from 11 am to noon for the remainder of the semester. Please come by for a chat, a snack, and meet our furry four-legged dean, Addie!

I wish you all the best for the remainder of this term.




Student Center Renovation

After Sunday night, the Student Center, including all of the eateries and spaces in it, will be closed for renovations until the start of the fall term. This is the culmination of more than five years of planning in which students played a key role (see below for more details). The result will be refreshed and expanded student spaces, a fantastic Wellbeing Lab, and a foundation for continued enhancements.

With a few weeks left in the semester, we have developed plans to replace (as best we can) W20’s food and space resources temporarily.

Long-term improvements. Our vision is for the Student Center to be a destination for wellbeingperforming arts and dancehealthy eating, and community building. For more than four years, we have gathered input from students and the community on what W20 can become. When it reopens in the fall, W20’s interior will be fresh and new, and we’ll have a solid foundation for more improvements.

The renovated Student Center will be more welcoming, more open, and more focused on students. There will be some changes, of course. As we announced in January, LaVerde’s Market has chosen not to reopen after the renovation. We are working with a retail consulting firm to identify a new grocery tenant for that space, and I am encouraged by ongoing developments.

We will also keep improving our food and dining offerings. New to the CommonWealth Kitchen Launchpad in the Lobdell Food Court will be Tawakal Halal Cafe, which replaces Las Palmas Dominican Kitchen. Tawakal’s chef Yahya Noor was a James Beard Award nominee this year, and we thank the more than 660 students who helped select his eatery to be added to the Launchpad. We will also welcome back favorites including Dunkin’, Tea-Do (serving an expanded menu), Bib Bim Box, and Carolicious.

There’s a lot to be excited about. The temporary inconvenience over the coming weeks will be worth it when the Student Center reopens in a few short months. Follow our progress on the DSL website.

Student Involvement

At MIT, students help shape decisions that affect their experience. Since I came to MIT in 2016, I have worked with hundreds of students on dozens of impactful committees, from developing architectural principles for future residence halls to making the student-managed room assignment process more equitable and less stressful for incoming students. More recently, we worked with students from Burton-Conner on their renovation and are now engaged with East Campus residents to prepare for the start of EC’s renewal. Student leaders also meet with Chancellor Melissa Nobles, Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz, me, DSL’s senior leadership team, and other MIT leaders regularly. Here are a few of the important issues we’re working on with students:

  • Student Center Renovations. We worked closely with students to develop the plans described above, beginning with focus groups in November 2018. Since then, we hosted many events to gather student feedback which, combined with other analyses, resulted in the new vision of W20 as a hub for student wellbeing.
  • Event Security. Encouraged by the Black Students Union (BSU), DSL has undertaken a review of security protocols for on-campus events with students from the BSU, the Association of Student Activities, and other stakeholders. This builds on the Working Group on Reimagining Public Safety at MIT, which also included students and delivered their report in December 2022.
  • Student Organizations. MIT boasts a constellation of groups, teams, and clubs engaged in just about any activity or sport that you can imagine. Starting last month, a working group including students started examining membership, recognition, and funding processes and in the fall will make recommendations to strengthen this vital aspect of campus life.

Food and Dining

MIT recently commissioned a report on evolving food and dining trends that will help to inform the future of food on campus. But, changes to the food and dining landscape that started during the pandemic continue. We reaffirm our commitment to student food security, which is the focus of the faculty, staff, and students serving on the Food Security Action Team. If you find that you aren’t getting sufficient nutrition–or you are struggling with finances–know that help is available. As I’ve said before, no student at MIT should go hungry because they don’t have enough money to buy food. Check out these resources available through DSL and MIT.