Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart announced today that Christine Ortiz will step down as MIT’s dean for graduate education at the end of this academic year, concluding six years of distinguished service.
In an email to the MIT community, Barnhart thanked Ortiz for leading the Office of Dean for Graduate Education (ODGE), which includes the International Students Office (ISO) and Graduate Student Council (GSC) staff. Barnhart noted that Ortiz, who is the Morris Cohen Professor of Materials Science and Engineering, plans to take a one-year leave from the Institute.
“An enthusiastic and strategic champion for innovations in graduate programming, student success, academic excellence, and diversity and inclusion, Christine has helped build a graduate student community renowned for its talent, curiosity, and commitment to making the world a better place,” Barnhart wrote.
“From the moment she began as dean, Christine’s commitment to MIT’s graduate student body has been inspiring,” adds MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “From housing to professional development, admissions to diversity, she has dedicated herself to understanding our students’ needs and driving positive change. I am personally grateful that, as a member of Academic Council, she has kept the evolving needs of our graduate student community at the center of our thoughts.”
Collaboration across MIT’s schools, academic departments, and administrative offices has been a hallmark of Ortiz’s tenure. By acting as the catalyst and convener for cross-institutional initiatives and encouraging the regular sharing of best practices, Ortiz has strengthened diversity and support networks and developed new initiatives for professional development, global education, and recruitment.
“Leading the ODGE and the graduate student community has been a great honor,” Ortiz says. “I am forever grateful for the dedication and expertise of the ODGE, ISO, and GSC staff, as well as staff and faculty partners across the Institute, who have been incredible colleagues, thinking partners, and friends.”
“A particular highlight of my time as dean was partnering with the Graduate Student Council, an exemplar organization of student governance, collegiality, and effective advocacy,” Ortiz says. “I am also grateful to the thousands of amazing MIT students whom I had the opportunity to interact with and who brought so much joy to my life and taught me more than I could ever teach them.”
Since 2010, the underrepresented minority graduate student population has increased by 30 percent, thanks in part to Ortiz’s focus on increasing and sustaining fellowship funding and external recruitment and retention programs. She also played a critical role in securing a major grant from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation for a University Center of Exemplary Mentoring for the recruitment, mentoring, and retention of underrepresented minority doctoral students.
In addition to accelerating departmental diversity efforts, Ortiz made strengthening support systems for graduate students a central priority. She championed the expansion of the Resources for Easing Friction and Stress (REFS) program to serve all MIT graduate students in partnership with the GSC, and convened a Working Group on International Student Support that led to more resources for the ISO to develop cultural acclimation programming and other initiatives.
Ortiz also placed focus on support for student families, collaborating with the MIT Work-Life Center in the creation of a backup childcare initiative and a pilot family childcare network program in MIT family housing.
On the professional development, global education, and recruitment fronts, Ortiz supported online platforms as well as programming such as the Imperial Global Fellows Program, and acted as a mentor through Graduate Women at MIT. She also assembled an Institute-wide Committee on Graduate Admissions in 2011 and supported the Institute’s transition to the centralized, electronic graduate admissions platform developed by Professors Frans Kaashoek and Robert Morris.
Ortiz worked with the GSC and the vice president for research to convene an inclusive committee that will recommend Institute graduate stipend rates annually.
Ortiz joined the MIT faculty after receiving a BS from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and MS and PhD degrees from Cornell University. She has authored more than 175 scientific publications, and supervised over 80 students across 10 academic disciplines. Ortiz has received honors including the MIT Martin Luther King Jr. Leadership Award, and is the founding and current faculty director of the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) Israel Program.
Barnhart wrote in her letter to the community that she plans to consult broadly with the MIT community in the coming weeks about Ortiz’s transition and the opportunities it presents for ODGE. Community members are encouraged to share their insights about the office and role by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.