Marilee Jones, who has been interim director of admissions since May 1, has been named Dean of Admissions, effective January 1, 1998. Ms. Jones will direct a staff of 33.
"MIT will be well served by Marilee Jones's leadership in this important position," said President Charles M. Vest. "MIT's future will be defined in large measure by the quality and interests of the students who join us. Excellence in admissions is essential to our future. Marilee has the creativity, the strategic view and the ability to implement the faculty's policies and achieve their goals for our classes."
Ms. Jones' appointment was announced by Rosalind H. Williams, dean of students and undergraduate education.
"The Dean of Admissions is a key position at MIT. Marilee Jones has been chosen for this position after a long, sometimes arduous and extremely thorough national search by a distinguished and hard-working search committee," said Dean Williams.
"While managing the office day to day, Marilee keeps the big picture in mind -- she is constantly thinking about where MIT should be 10 years from now and how we can attract top-flight undergraduates. She has worked hard at developing her staff and is well known as a fine supervisor who emphasizes team-building. On the road, she can reach audiences as few others can, serving as a superb spokesperson for MIT from coast to coast. I am delighted she will be part of the leadership team of the Dean's Office," Dean Williams said.
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 the Group 42 leader at Lincoln Laboratory.
"I am absolutely thrilled to have this opportunity," said Ms. Jones of her appointment. "I have strong opinions about the unique nature of MIT, its role in the world and its ultimate destiny, so I am very grateful to be trusted with the chance to help MIT fulfill that destiny."
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 she joined the office.
Between 1985 and 1996, the number of women and minorities increased dramatically, with women comprising 42 percent of the last entering class (compared to 28 percent in 1985) and minorities comprising 17.5 percent (compared to 8.5 percent).
In 1996, MIT received 8,022 applications -- 40 percent more than in 1985 -- with females rising by 94 percent from 1,168 to 2,270, and minorities by 73 percent, from 364 to 631. The mean SAT scores for admitted students were 723 verbal/760 math, compared to 718/758 five years ago. Forty-two percent of this year's freshmen were high school class valedictorians, vs. 39 percent five years ago.
"Our overall yield of 57 percent (the proportion of those admitted who choose to enroll) puts us in the top five for top private colleges and universities in America, unparalleled for an institute of technology," said Ms. Jones.
Commenting on the immediate and longer-term challenges facing the Admissions Office, she noted the increasingly competitive world of undergraduate education -- for the educators.
"Over the past two years, Admissions has had a 40 percent turnover of staff due to early retirement, new job opportunities and death. We also lost our boss of 11 years [former Dean of Admissions Michael Behnke]. So we had little time for the innovations we're famous for. As a result, the immediate challenge has been to refocus our efforts on our main goal -- the recruitment, selection and enrolling of the world's top students.
"The main challenge for the next 15 years will be to continue to attract and enroll the top students during a demographic shift so profound that many colleges may not be able to survive. Most people don't know that the college-bound population will begin decreasing in eight years and will decrease markedly in 15 years. We need to plan now for this effect," said Ms. Jones.
As associate director, Ms. Jones oversaw international admissions, transfers, the Special Students process, recruitment of women and academic superstars, and staff training. She was a member of the Student Services Reengineering Assessment team and has served on the national boards of the National Association of Foreign Student Advisors and the Women in Engineering Programs Administrators Network. 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.
As the interim director of the Admissions Office, Ms. Jones worked with Dean Behnke, who served as director from 1985 until last June. On the eve of taking on her leadership role, Ms. Jones spoke appreciatively of the preparation she received in working for Mr. Behnke and his staff.
"MIT is very lucky to have the best admissions staff in the country. Michael Behnke hired many of us and provided us with the authority and autonomy to be innovative, proactive and well-known in our field. I learned to be a professional while working for Michael, I learned the value of preparation and follow-through, and I especially learned to think strategically. He was a very good boss for me," she said.
Professor John B. Vander Sande, associate dean of the School of Engineering, chaired the search committee.
"The search committee and the associated support team worked extremely hard to find the richest possible pool of applicants for this position. This high level of activity reflects the committee's appreciation for the very important role that the Admissions Office plays in attracting world-class students to our undergraduate program. We had more than 65 applicants for the position, most of whom were highly qualified. Marilee Jones was at the top of this list and we are very fortunate to have her as our new dean," said Professor Vander Sande.
"Marilee impressed us with her deep knowledge of the admissions process, her energy and enthusiasm, her understanding of the future challenges for admissions at MIT and nationally, her vision, her abilities to manage the complex process known as admissions and her talents as the manager of a large office. All of this with a smile on her face," Professor Vander Sande said.
Other members of the search committee were Professors Harold Abelson (PhD '73); Lawrence S. Bacow (SB '72); Evelynn M. Hammonds (SM '80); and Robert J. Birgeneau, dean of the School of Science. Tony Chao, a junior in electrical engineering and computer science, and Michael Wong, a graduate student in chemical engineering, were also on the committee.
A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 17, 1997.