Marilee Jones, associate director of admissions, has been named interim director of admissions, effective May 1, while a special committee conducts the search for a permanent replacement for Michael Behnke.
Dean Behnke, who has headed the Admissions Office since 1985, is leaving on June 1 to become a vice president and the associate dean of the College of Enrollment at the University of Chicago. Ms. Jones and Mr. Behnke will work together during May to ease the transition.
Ms. Jones' appointment was announced by Rosalind H. Williams, dean for undergraduate education. Ms. Jones will direct a staff of 33.
"I am delighted that Marilee has decided to assume this important leadership position during the search process," Dean Williams said. "She has been an outstanding member of the Admissions Office and will be an outstanding interim director."
Ms. Jones, who holds the SB and SM in biology from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, came to MIT in 1978 as a graduate resident tutor at Burton House. Her husband, Steve Bussolari, is now the leader of Group 42 at the Lincoln Laboratory.
Ms. Jones joined the Admissions Office in 1979. Among other duties, she was charged with devising a plan to increase the number of female undergraduates. Thirty-nine percent of the undergraduate student body is now female, compared to 17 percent when Ms. Jones joined the office.
As the associate director, Ms. Jones oversees international admissions, transfers, the Special Students process, recruitment of women and academic superstars, and staff training. She was also a member of the Student Services Reengineering Assessment team. She and Experimental Study Group associate director Holly B. Sweet are co-leaders of the Academic Administrator Professional Development Seminar at MIT, sponsored by the Academic Administrator Network.
"My main goal for the transition is to refocus the Admissions Office on our main mission--to recruit, admit and yield the top US and international students who are best matched for MIT," Ms. Jones said. "As a natural optimist, I see this period as offering excellent opportunities for the admissions staff to do what we are famous for throughout the admissions profession--innovate."
Dean Behnke, who holds degrees in American studies from Amherst College and the University of Pennsylvania, came to MIT in 1985 after serving as dean of undergraduate admissions at Tufts University for 10 years.
During his tenure at MIT, the number of women and minorities has increased dramatically, with women comprising 42 percent of the last entering class (compared to 28 percent in 1985) and minorities 17.5 percent (compared to 8.5 percent).
MIT received 8,022 applications in 1996, 40 percent more than 1985, with females increasing by 94 percent to 2,270, and minorities rising 73 percent to 631. In 1996, 93 percent of the applicants were in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class, compared to 82 percent in 1985. Twenty-four percent of the applicants were accepted in 1996, compared to 33 percent in 1985.
"We had to work very hard to achieve these goals," said Dean Behnke. "Certain kinds of kids get lots of encouragement to go to MIT, mostly white and Asian American males. We had to get past the stereotypes and increase the level of encouragement for women and minorities.
"Women and minorities are often interested in the social impact of their work. We had to make it clear to them that what engineers and scientists do makes a difference in people's lives. It's possible to do work that has a huge impact. That message resonates.
"I'm proud of the ways we altered the selections and recruiting process to better identify and pursue academic stars and those who bring some creativity and entrepreneurial spark to their studies."
Professor John B. Vander Sande, associate dean of the School of Engineering, chairs the search committee. Other members are Professor Harold Abelson of electrical engineering and computer science (PhD '73); Professor Lawrence S. Bacow of urban studies and planning, chair of the faculty (SB '72); Robert J. Birgeneau, dean of the School of Science; and Evelynn M. Hammonds (SM '80), assistant professor of the history of science. Michael Wong, a graduate student in mechanical engineering, is also a member; an undergraduate will be named shortly.
The position will be advertised in the near future, but there is no deadline to fill it. "We won't rush the process," said Dean Williams. "It will take the time it takes."
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on April 3, 1997.