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Grad students honor caring faculty through Committed to Caring (C2C) Awards

Celebration of “above and beyond” support enters second year.
Clockwise from top left: Nominator and Professor Leslie Kolodziejski, Professor Kord Smith and nominators; nominator and Professor Susan Silbey; and Professor Frank Solomon and nominator.
Clockwise from top left: Nominator and Professor Leslie Kolodziejski, Professor Kord Smith and nominators; nominator and Professor Susan Silbey; and Professor Frank Solomon and nominator.
Photos: Justin Knight and Clinton Blackburn

Investing in students. Building an inclusive culture. Supporting mental health. Lending a caring ear. Wonderfully caring actions are more prevalent among MIT faculty than you might think!

When a professor makes a positive impact on students’ lives, graduate students often share that information with other students informally. But in 2014, staff in the Office of the Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE) saw an opportunity to create a low-barrier way for graduate students to give more official and widespread recognition to professors who have shown outstanding commitment to their students. The Committed to Caring (C2C) initiative creates posters of C2C honorees that line the walls of the MIT campus and flash on the screens of the Infinite Display. Details of each recipient’s accomplishments are shared on the ODGE's C2C page

The ODGE sponsors the program and facilitates a rolling nomination process to enable graduate students to continually tell the stories of the professors who make a difference for them. A graduate student committee, facilitated by Assistant Dean of Diversity Initiatives Eboney Hearn, will convene in early 2016 to review new nominations and choose caring examples of graduate faculty to feature this spring term.

Dean for Graduate Education Christine Ortiz has said that the C2C process aligns closely with the ODGE mission, which strives to make graduate education at MIT “empowering, exciting, holistic, and transformative.” When nominations first opened the response was overwhelming, and additional submissions have been no less revealing. “With each nomination,” Dean Ortiz said, “It is heartwarming to read what the graduate students across the Institute share about their personal experiences of mentorship and support.”

Last month, the ODGE announced the latest honorees in the C2C program: Professor Frank Solomon of the Department of Biology and Professor Kord Smith of the Department of Nuclear Science and Engineering. Previously this term, professors Leslie Kolodziejski of the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, and Susan Silbey of the Sociology and Anthropology programs were honored.

In her October email announcement of Solomon and Smith’s recognition, Hearn offered her gratitude to all the nominators and the honorees for their contribution to "creating a stronger, more caring MIT community.” Of Solomon, Hearn shared the nominator’s words: “He truly listens, and he understands. For these reasons, when someone in Course 7 is having trouble, be it academic, professional, or personal, they are advised to ‘go talk to Frank.’” And of Smith, Hearn shared his “commitment to helping and teaching his students goes beyond academics. … He plans and organizes retreats for his students, and, according to his nominators, ‘His door has always been open to students.’”

Nominations for the current year are now open, but will close on Dec. 7, after which additional nominees will be chosen for the 2015-2016 academic year. A simple form allows graduate students to name and briefly describe a faculty member who has made an impact on their life at MIT. Read more about each C2C recognition

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