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Students advise new president

A group of 23 students is working to make sure that the President Susan Hockfield understands the concerns of graduate students and undergraduates.

The Student Advisory Board to MIT's 16th president is a group of 12 graduate students and 11 undergraduates formed in October. More than 110 students applied for positions on the board, according to Barun Singh, president of the Graduate Student Council and a doctoral student in computer science. Students were chosen based on "their passion and enthusiasm for the task at hand," Singh said.

In their applications, students wrote essays detailing some of the changes they would like to see at MIT. Some pointed to programs they liked and wanted to enlarge. Others pointed to areas they felt were lacking. "It was really a combination of things," said Singh, who mentioned academics and housing as two of the topics most commonly addressed.

The new advisory council comes on the heels of last year's student advisory group that helped with the search for a new president. "It was the hope of members of that group that even after the selection process was completed, students would be involved in the transition of the new president," said Singh.

The group met with Hockfield for the first time on Nov. 29. The first meeting was "very successful," said Singh, who said Hockfield seemed "very receptive to the idea" of student input.

The student advisory board plans to meet with her three times during January and February. Each meeting will focus on one of three general areas of concern to students: academic, research and professional development; community life and extracurriculars; and global connections, the long-term and strategic planning. Before each meeting, the board will compile a background report for the president.

While many of the students on the board already have ideas about what they would like to see changed at MIT, the board has also been compiling input from other students during open forums like one held on Nov. 30.

"All input is welcome," said Singh. "The ultimate goal is to provide a mechanism for Hockfield to transition into the MIT community in a way that will really allow her to absorb the hopes, aspirations, concerns and issues of the student body and to really understand the MIT culture."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 8, 2004 (download PDF).

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