Welcome Back to MIT! [Graduate Students]

September 08, 2017

Dear students,

Welcome back to Cambridge, and if you are new to MIT, welcome to the Institute! I hope you had a relaxing summer and are excited for the beginning of a new academic year.

As excited as we are to get started, we cannot ignore other events happening around us. This is an uncertain time for members of our community who have loved ones in the paths of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, near the earthquake off Mexico, or who are affected by the recent move to rescind the DACA program. If you need some additional support, please reach out to DSL resources including the Office of Multicultural Programs, LBGTQ+ Services, the MIT Chaplains, and the house teams in residence halls. After hours and on weekends, please contact the Dean on Call.

Shared Governance — I believe in the value of student involvement and shared governance. At its best, it empowers students with practical leadership experience and the responsibility for shaping community expectations and the student experience. I think we need to come together to strengthen this unique and meaningful part of MIT life. If you have ideas about how we can do that, please share them with me at our deans' office hours (see more below) or tell your student government leaders. I meet with the Graduate Student Council and other student government groups on a regular basis, and we want to be sure we are focusing on the issues you care about.

Intercultural Center — In the spring, we announced that LBGTQ+ Services and the Office of Multicultural Programs (OMP) would move into a new facility in duPont Athletic Center (W31). The center will open this month with Dean La-Tarri Canty of OMP and Dean Abigail Francis of LBGTQ+ Services continuing their vital work with students and other community members. For students on the east side of campus, LBGTQ+ Services will relocate the Rainbow Lounge this fall to the Blue Room on the second floor of Walker Memorial (Building 50). Here the Rainbow Lounge can continue serving the campus community as a resource of support and education on matters of trans and queer inclusion, affirmation, and solidarity.

Upgrades to Student Spaces — Also coming soon to Walker Memorial are upgrades to the third-floor dance studio and study spaces, updated furniture, and a new late-night dining option (see more below). Additionally, the Coffeehouse Lounge in the Stratton Student Center (W20-308) is being renovated for graduate students, giving them much-needed space near the middle of campus. Most of these upgrades will be completed this month.

On-Demand Shuttle — Last year, students and staff worked on an on-demand late-night shuttle pilot program to complement Saferide. We hoped to launch the pilot at the start of this semester, but the working group is still in discussion with the City of Boston and the Back Bay’s neighborhood association to grant shuttles access to routes not currently serviced by Saferide.

Housing — Preparations are underway for construction of the new 450-bed graduate residence hall on Site 4 in Kendall Square that is targeted to open in 2020. A new graduate student housing working group is looking beyond Site 4 at strategies to expand our graduate student housing stock. Also, the West Garage (W45) site for the new Vassar Street undergraduate residence hall will close to parkers in September, with demolition following later in the fall. About 100 graduate students have moved into 70 Amherst Street, while approximately 70 undergraduates who expressed an interest in attending grad school at MIT have moved into graduate housing. An extensive documentation and preservation effort for the art and murals in 70 Amherst continued this summer, and a new committee of faculty, students, alumni, and staff will work with the 70 Amherst student government to determine next steps.

Graduate Student Support — Last year, the Office of Graduate Education and DSL heard that grad students struggle when unforeseen costs affect their household budgets, making it hard to meet everyday expenses like food or clothing. A recently launched grant program can help in such difficult situations, and you can read more about how to apply for a grant in the "Food and Dining" section below.

Food and Dining — A group of students and DSL staff worked with a consultant last year to understand the landscape of food and dining—both retail and residential—at MIT. One area of concern for grad students was the availability of food late at night and food insecurity issues for some. If you are experiencing food insecurity, whether you live on- or off-campus, we are here to help. Please reach out to Dean Naomi Carton for more information. Early this fall, we will open a late-night cafe in Walker Memorial's Pritchett Dining Room to complement the current late-night dining options available to all students in Maseeh and Simmons, which offer a la carte service for cash or TechCash. Also, this fall we will start a process involving students, faculty, and staff that will result in a new food and dining contract in fall 2018. Catch up on the work done so far on the DSL website.

Policies and Updates — Your health and safety matter most to me, so please take a minute to check out the Mind and Hand Book. It contains our Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act statement as well other important information including:


DSL Developments — Lastly, some new senior leaders joined DSL, including the Chaplain to the Institute and Director of Religious Life Kirstin Boswell-Ford, the Senior Associate Dean for Diversity and Community Involvement Gustavo Burkett, and the Senior Director of Housing Operations and Renewal David Friedrich, who will play a critical role in managing the future of housing renewal and development. These changes are reflected on the DSL organizational chart. We also introduced our DSL statement on diversity and inclusion, which further defines our mission.

The Division of Student Life is here for students, and I want you to know that my door is open to any student who wants to discuss their MIT experience. The easiest way to meet with me and other DSL deans is at open office hours on Fridays from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm in 4-110, starting today. We'll have lots of food and Addie, a wonderful therapy dog, to provide some four-legged support.

A warm welcome back to campus.

Best regards,

Suzy M. Nelson
Vice President and Dean for Student Life