Welcome from DSL! (Undergraduates)

September 03, 2019

tl;dr: Frozen treats with Team Chancellor today; Focus on student wellbeing; New dining location & future planning; More student spaces & enhanced resources; Welcoming first-years & New Vassar progress.

Dear students,

On behalf of my colleagues from the Division of Student Life (DSL), welcome to campus for the fall 2019 semester! Please stop by the Kresge Oval today from 2 - 3 pm for some delicious frozen treats and to talk with me, Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart, Vice Chancellor Ian Waitz, and members of the Chancellor’s team.

If you can’t make today’s ice cream social, there are more opportunities for us to talk -- beginning this Friday, DSL deans and I will host weekly office hours every Friday from 11 am - 12 pm in 4-110. In addition to conversation about whatever is on your mind, you can help yourself to a snack and visit Addie, our award-winning therapy dog.

Promoting a Culture of Student Wellbeing

DSL’s major focus this year is on advancing student wellness and the MindHandHeart initiative’s transformative work. MindHandHeart reminds us that wellbeing is core to MIT’s educational experience. I look forward to hearing your ideas on how we can work together to further strengthen support services and toimprove spaces that further our student wellbeing goals.

  • As we look to create a more food-secure campus, TechMart at-cost grocery store reopens today in the Pritchett Dining Room of Walker Memorial (Building 50, second floor). We have expanded the product offerings thanks to support from Bon Appetit, our campus dining partner. Additionally, meal plan subscribers can donate up to six meal swipes to SwipeShare, which offers students facing food insecurity some short-term assistance with getting the nutrition they need. There is more information about donating or obtaining meals on DSL’s website.
  • When you download the MIT Mobile app (for iOS and Androidplease look for the heart-shaped Student Support button. You can conveniently contact Student Support Services (S3), track shuttles, find food on campus, or connect with other resources.
  • Last year S3 and the Department of Athletics, Physical Education & Recreation (DAPER) launched ENGINEERyourHEALTH PLUS to help you take care of your mind and your body. This program aligns personal support from S3 deans with access to resources such as nutrition coaching sessions, massage, personal training, or group exercise in DAPER. Contact MIT Recreation or S3 for details.
  • With the student group SaveTFP, we launched Weekends@MIT, a series of substance-free, late-night, weekend social events on campus. Subscribe to their weekly newsletter to hear about events, or get involved -- join SaveTFP or co-sponsor an event in the Coffeehouse Lounge.

Making MIT Dining Better

We heard your feedback! Now meal plan subscribers can use a meal swipe for the pick-a-lunch pilot on the second floor of Walker Memorial (next to TechMart) Monday through Thursday from 11 am - 2 pm. Pick one from a number of entrees (including sandwiches, salads, and hot options), then choose two from a rotating list of sides (e.g., chips, fruit, dessert), and a beverage. There will also be vegetarian and gluten-free options.

  • With Bon Appetit we are working to make dining more sustainable by eliminating straws and offering reusable utensils (e.g., forks, spoons, chopsticks, clamshell meal boxes). With the Undergraduate Association we are also piloting a plate-loaner program to cut down on use of disposable dinnerware at events.
  • Two student and staff working groups launched this summer. The first, which also includes heads of house, focuses on designing a meal plan structure that meets our goals for the dining program. A second advisory group is providing input and guidance to Campus Dining and DSL leadership on the overall campus dining strategy. These two groups are in addition to the existing House Dining Committee and another working group focusing on the entire Student Center, including Lobdell Food Court.
  • Dining is preparing to expand its GET app pilot (for iOS and Android) which allows you to pre-order food at retail eateries. Dunkin’ in the Student Center is the first, with more options coming soon. Do you want to see your favorite campus eatery added to the GET system? Let us know by completing this survey at techcash.mit.edu.

Remember that dining dollars are included with every meal plan and accepted at dining halls, retail eateries across campus, and several off-campus restaurants and grocery stores. Please email foodstuff@mit.edu with your comments, thoughts, and suggestions. We want to hear from you!

Enhancing Student Spaces and Resources

  • For two years, the Accessing Resources at MIT (ARM) Coalition has worked to ensure that all students have equal access to opportunities and experiences at MIT. If you or someone you know needs financial help with anything -- from basic living expenses to supplies for classes -- please visit arm.mit.edu for more information.
  • Late last spring we opened two wonderful student spaces. The Student Center has the new fifth-floor study lounge, which was an Athena cluster. Now this airy space is available to all students for studying, relaxing, and recharging. Watch for details about a formal opening later this fall. For your spiritual wellbeing, there is a peaceful meditation space in Walker Memorial on the third floor. Both spaces offer calming respite from your busy schedule.
  • The Engage platform launched last year to help students navigate the landscape of MIT’s activities and groups. You can search for students groups, look for upcoming events, and track your involvement in groups and clubs throughout your MIT career.
  • On-demand shuttle service operates Sunday through Wednesday from 11 pm - 2:30 am, and Thursday through Saturday from 11 pm - 3:30 am. The fixed-route Boston East, Cambridge East & Somerville, and Cambridge West & Brookline SafeRide shuttles will also run from 6 pm - 11 pm daily. Throughout the fall, and until 1 am daily, the extended Boston East fixed-route pilot will coincide with the on-demand schedule. Lastly, the grocery shuttle schedule will have buses running most weeks during the academic year. Click here to download the app needed for hailing an on-demand shuttle, and see all of the shuttle options and schedules on the Parking and Transportation website.

Welcoming New Students, Building New Communities

My thanks to the many student leaders and faculty involved in the room-assignment and move-in process redesign work (summarized in this July email to first-years from Aiyedun and Adriana of DormCon and me). We have more to do, particularly around measuring the outcomes of these enhancements. I am proud of what we have accomplished with students and house teams so far, and I look forward to our long-term success. I also want to thank the many students who helped make move-in run smoothly (as these photos show). You helped first-years and their families feel welcome on campus as soon as they arrived.

  • The New Vassar Street Residence is really starting to take shape, and so is the community that will live inside. Earlier this year we announced that Steven R. Hall, professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics, will be head of house for New Vassar Street, and Naomi Carton, associate dean for graduate support in DSL, will be associate head of house. They will help to lead New Vassar Street’s founders’ group, resulting in a new residential community with its own identity, governance system, and support network. Watch for more information on this exciting new chapter of undergraduate housing.

If you have any questions or comments about housing, email residence@mit.edu.

Updating you on important policies

Nothing is more important to me than your health and safety. I ask that you please take a few minutes to look through the Mind and Hand Book and some other websites that contain important information on a number of policies including the following:

Thank You!

DSL’s mission is simply stated: We are here for students. Your input matters to us as we work every day to fulfill that mission. In whatever way we connect -- in person or over email -- I look forward to hearing from you.

I hope you have a great fall semester, 

Suzy M. Nelson
Vice President and Dean for Student Life