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SHASS announces new department heads

Five new heads in the School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences have been named, effective July 1, 2006.

Professor James Poterba has been appointed to serve as head of the Department of Economics, succeeding Bengt Holmstrom. Poterba received the D. Phil. from Oxford in 1983; he has been the Mitsui Professor of Economics since 1996 and has served as associate head of the Department of Economics since 1994. Poterba's research specialty is the economics of the public sector, with an emphasis on the interplay between taxation, financial markets and the financial decisions of households and firms.

Professor Anne McCants will succeed Harriet Ritvo as head of the history faculty. McCants arrived at MIT as an assistant professor of history in 1991, after receiving her Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley. Her research focuses on the economic and social history of the later Middle Ages and early modern Europe, with particular interests in wealth and income inequality, as well as global trade networks and the emergence of European consumerism. She was the recipient of the Edgerton Faculty Achievement Award in 1996 and was named a MacVicar Fellow in 2004.

Professor Susan Silbey has been appointed to serve as head of the anthropology program, succeeding Jean Jackson. Silbey received the Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1978 and joined MIT in 2001 as professor of sociology and anthropology. Her areas of research include the sociology of science and socio-legal studies.

Professor Janet Sonenberg will succeed Evan Ziporyn as head of the music and theater arts section. Sonenberg received an M.F.A. from New York University in 1978 and joined MIT in 1992 as assistant professor of theater arts. Her areas of interest include actor training and play direction. She has developed an original acting methodology, put forth in her most recent book, "Dreamwork for Actors."

Professor David Mindell has been appointed to serve as director of the Program in Science, Technology and Society, succeeding Rosalind Williams. The Dibner Professor of the History of Engineering and Manufacturing, and professor of engineering systems, Mindell received the Ph.D. in the history of technology at MIT in 1996 and joined the MIT faculty as assistant professor that year. His research interests focus on the history of human relationships with machinery.

Deborah Fitzgerald, interim dean of SHASS, also announced two new appointments to chairs in SHASS:

Agustin Rayo, associate professor in the Department of Linguistics and Philosophy, has been appointed to the Ford Foundation Career Development Professorship. Rayo received his Ph.D. from MIT in 2000 and joined the faculty in 2005. His areas of interest include philosophical logic, philosophy of language and the philosophy of mathematics.

This professorship was established by the Ford Foundation to encourage research and scholarship in the areas represented in SHASS.

Jonathan Rodden, associate professor in the Department of Political Science, has been appointed to a Ford Foundation International Professorship in Political Science. Rodden received his Ph.D. from Yale University in 2000 and joined MIT immediately as an assistant professor. His areas of interest include comparative and international political economy, public finance and the European Union, and economic and political geography.

The Ford professorships were established to encourage research and scholarship in the international aspects of such areas as political science, economics, history, management and urban studies.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on September 13, 2006 (download PDF).

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