Ian A. Waitz will step down as MIT’s dean of engineering at the end of this academic year, concluding over six years of service.
Provost Martin Schmidt announced the news today in an email to the MIT community, praising Waitz's collaborative vision that “has both bolstered local departments and encouraged the school and the Institute to reach beyond traditional disciplinary boundaries to expand the ways that engineering can address our most challenging problems.”
MIT President L. Rafael Reif adds, “Under Ian’s leadership, the School of Engineering has never been a stronger magnet for talent. With characteristic energy, optimism, and persistence, he has cultivated a dynamic community that unites the school’s many departments and links engineering to disciplines across MIT. And from the Sandbox Fund to the MIT Institute for Data, Systems, and Society, he spearheaded new initiatives that will have a lasting impact on our ability to develop our students’ ingenuity, tackle important problems for humanity, and deliver our best ideas to the world. We are deeply grateful to Ian for his collaborative leadership and his distinguished service.”
As dean of the School of Engineering (SoE), Waitz developed and implemented the school’s strategic plan, focusing on people, education, and innovation. He made a concerted effort to support faculty while refining the school’s primary academic departments and programs by increasing data-based decision-making, bolstering funding for teaching, addressing research underrecovery, and enabling more local control of resources and strategic direction.
“Without a doubt, the greatest thrill of the position has been the opportunity to live vicariously through the accomplishments of our exceptional students, staff, and faculty members,” Waitz said in a letter sent today to SoE colleagues. “It is a truly humbling experience when one understands the full breadth, depth, and impact of the School of Engineering at MIT. In partnership with our sister schools at MIT we are building a better world.”
Waitz, also the Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics and former head of the Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics (from 2008 until his appointment as dean in 2011), has no immediate plans other than taking a year-long sabbatical.
“I am not sure what I will do next (the job does not leave a lot of free time for contemplating such things!), but I very much look forward to recharging, redirecting, and exploring new opportunities,” he conveyed in his letter to the SoE community. “Thank you for allowing me to serve you and the greatest engineering school on the planet.”
Of particular note during Waitz’s tenure has been the launch of two new Institute-encompassing endeavors: the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES) and the Institute for Data, Systems, and Society (IDSS). He has also worked to support and strengthen all of the school’s academic departments, including a renewal of civil and environmental engineering and growth in nuclear science and engineering.
Novel opportunities in residential education were also priorities for Waitz as dean. He co-launched the MIT Beaver Works Center, which supports collaborative efforts between Lincoln Laboratory and the MIT campus, and was a supporter and early participant in MITx and edX. He worked to strengthen several key MIT-wide educational programs, including the Gordon Engineering Leadership Program, the Undergraduate Practice Opportunities Program, and activities within the Office of Engineering Outreach Programs. Waitz worked with department heads to create ways for undergraduate students to pursue more flexible degrees and take courses remotely, and is currently championing a novel school-wide undergraduate degree option. Under his leadership, financial support for teaching in the school grew by over 30 percent.
In parallel, Waitz helped spark new programs and spaces for innovation and entrepreneurship, including the creation of the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund, which provides all MIT students with an opportunity to move innovative ideas forward. He was a key part of a process that catalyzed the MIT Innovation Initiative, and he successfully articulated the need for expanded makerspaces on campus. Waitz also lobbied on behalf of the School of Engineering for the creation of MIT.nano, a new 200,000-square-foot center for nanoscience and nanotechnology, due to open in 2018.
Waitz established resource development personnel in all departments, which has led to a nearly threefold increase in yearly giving to the SoE during his tenure. He also strengthened partnerships with alumni, industry, and donors by highlighting the benefits of engaging with MIT broadly.
Waitz joined the MIT faculty in 1991, after earning his BS in 1986 from Penn State University, his MS in 1988 from George Washington University, and his PhD in 1991 from Caltech. In addition to scholarly publications, Waitz has contributed to several influential policy documents and scientific assessments, including a report to Congress on aviation and the environment. He holds three patents and has consulted for many organizations. He is a member of the National Academy of Engineering, a fellow of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineering and the American Society of Engineering Education. A dedicated teacher, he was honored with the 2002 MIT Class of 1960 Innovation in Education Award and an appointment as an MIT MacVicar Faculty Fellow in 2003.
Schmidt plans to appoint a faculty committee to advise him on the selection of the next dean of engineering. Members of the MIT community are welcome to send suggestions and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org.