Phillip L. Clay, a member of the MIT faculty since 1974 and head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning since 1992, has been appointed associate provost, effective October 1.
Professor Clay, an MIT alumnus (PhD 1975), is widely known for his work in housing policy and in community-based development and employment.
In making the announcement, Provost Mark S. Wrighton, MIT's chief academic officer, said that Professor Clay will have responsibilities in several areas, including promotion and tenure policies, academic integrity, faculty recruitment and retirement and international educational programs.
MIT President Charles M. Vest said that Professor Clay "brings to the MIT administration a perspective and professional expertise in policy and planning that is particularly valuable in this era of change. His warm personal manner and insights gained during 20 years of experience on our faculty will enable him to be unusually effective in this important new role."
Professor Wrighton said Professor Clay "will work closely with me and with President Vest on a variety of important issues.
"I am pleased that he is willing to take on these new responsibilities and I look forward to this new aspect of our relationship. Phil's professional experiences will be especially important as we undertake new education and research initiatives, especially ones involving work with and in emerging countries."
Dean William J. Mitchell of the School of Architecture and Planning will name an advisory committee soon to assist him in selecting a new head of the Department of Urban Studies and Planning.
Professor Clay, who served as associate head of his department and directed the Masters in City Planning program before becoming department head in 1992, spoke about the special nature of MIT in PLAN, a publication of the School that was reprinted in the August 4, 1993 issue of MIT Tech Talk. In a question-and-answer article about city planning in particular and MIT in general, he said that the people of the department-faculty, students and staff-were its greatest asset. He was asked: What's special about MIT people? His reply:
"Well, there are some other schools that are also very, very good. I certainly wouldn't say that this is the only place you could study and have a good education. But I think our uniqueness is the nature of our community. Some universities are about turf wars-students aren't welcome in other departments, faculty can't have joint appointments-but MIT is an open learning system. We have absolutely no problem with joint appointments. We encourage students to take advantage of both MIT and Harvard. And I think that gives us more depth.
"Any place can teach environmental planning. It's a different matter altogether to have environmental planning taught at a place that also teaches about the engineering and science of the environment, where students can mix the science, the technology, the policy and the institutional all together. And it's not something you have to fight to do. Students don't have to have a strange schedule, or get special permission, or pay an extra fee. It's easy to put a great education together."
Professor Clay has been involved in several studies that have received national attention. A 1987 study commissioned by the federal Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation identified the market and institutional conditions contributing to the erosion of low-income housing and documented the need for a national preservation policy. He later served on the national commission that recommended the policy that became part of the Housing Act of 1990.
His current research, sponsored by several national foundations, evaluates the effectiveness of initiatives to build organizational and development capacity in community-based organizations and to connect social goals such as youth development to these efforts.
Professor Clay is a member of the policy and research advisory councils of the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae), the nation's largest investor in home mortgages. In addition, he has been a consultant to numerous federal and state agencies and foundations. Among other works, his publications include two books, Neighborhood Renewal: Middleclass Resettlement and Incumbent Upgrading in American Neighborhoods, and Neighborhood Politics and Planning.
Professor Clay received the AB degree with honors from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1968 and the PhD in 1975 at MIT. He joined the MIT faculty in 1974 as an assistant professor, became associate professor in 1980 and professor in 1992. From 1980 to 1984, he was assistant director of the MIT-Harvard Joint Center for Urban Studies.
His community and professional activities include membership on the board of directors of Greater Boston Community Development, the National Housing Trust and the Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts. In 1986 he was honored by the Greater Boston YMCA's Black Achievers Program.
A version of this article appeared in the August 17, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 39, Number 2).