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Letter announcing Suzy Nelson as new vice president for student life

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The following email was sent today to the MIT community by Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart.

To the members of the MIT community:

I am very pleased to share the news that Suzy Nelson, PhD, currently vice president and dean of the college at Colgate University, has accepted our offer to become MIT's new vice president for student life. Suzy will join the MIT community on July 1, 2016.

Last fall, following Costantino (Chris) Colombo's decision to retire, we launched a national search. Suzy's appointment reflects the search committee's dedication to finding a leader who will deliver on MIT's commitment to offering excellence in all aspects of the undergraduate and graduate student life experience. I am extremely grateful to the chair, Professor of Physics and Faculty Chair Krishna Rajagopal, and to every member of the committee (names listed below) for the energy, insights, and thoughtfulness they brought to the search.

Through her 32-year career in higher education, Suzy has served campus communities -- Colgate, Harvard, Cornell, and Syracuse -- as different from each other as they are from MIT. Yet in each setting, she has built open, effective, lasting partnerships with students, faculty, and staff; used campus planning efforts to improve the quality of student life; and implemented student support systems that emphasize health, wellness, and safety. She comes to this new position with a keen appreciation for MIT's unique cultures, traditions, and values, and an inspiring sense of how communities can flourish by working on hard problems together.

During the interview process, we asked candidates about building positive working relationships with students. Suzy's response stood out. She said: "My goal in communicating with students, really anyone, is to have them feel heard and respected. Being student-centered...means empathizing with students and actively listening to what they are experiencing and what they need."

I am eager for Suzy to put her approach to community building into action here, and I invite every interested member of our community to join us on the journey she will lead. Together we will shape the future of student life at MIT.


Cynthia Barnhart

Members of the Search Committee for the Vice President for Student Life:

  • Krishna Rajagopal, Professor of Physics & MacVicar Faculty Fellow (Chair)
  • Kathleen Alexander G, Materials Science and Engineering; Graduate Resident Tutor
  • Steve Baker '84; Chair, Association of Independent Living Groups
  • Matthew Davis '16, Aeronautics and Astronautics; President, Undergraduate Association
  • John DiFava, Director, Campus Services and Chief of Police
  • Mark DiVincenzo, Vice President and General Counsel
  • Suzanne Flynn, Professor of Linguistics & Second Language Acquisition; Housemaster
  • Dennis Freeman '86; Dean of Undergraduate Education & Professor, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science
  • Lorraine Goffe-Rush, Vice President for Human Resources
  • Caitlin Heber '16, Mathematics; Executive Vice-President, Dormitory Council
  • Howard Heller, Associate Medical Director, MIT Medical
  • Michael McClellan G, Earth, Atmospheric & Planetary Sciences; President, Graduate Student Council
  • Obasi Onuoha '17, Electrical Engineering & Computer Science; Vice President, Interfraternity Council
  • Christine Ortiz, Dean for Graduate Education & Professor, Materials Science and Engineering
  • David Singer, Associate Professor, Political Science & Housemaster
  • Julie Soriero, DAPER Department Head/Associate Professor
  • Ian Waitz, Dean, School of Engineering
  • JoAnne Yates, Sloan Distinguished Professor of Management
  • Jag Patel '97; Director, Special Projects, Office of the Chancellor (Staff to the Committee)

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