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Barnhart appoints Waitz vice chancellor for overseeing offices of graduate, undergraduate education

Freeman will pilot first-year curriculum experiments; Staton to work closely with Waitz on graduate education.
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Ian Waitz talks with senior Irena Martinez.
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Ian Waitz talks with senior Irena Martinez.
Ian Waitz talks with senior Irena Martinez.
Photo: Lillie Paquette

In a letter to the MIT community today, Chancellor Cynthia Barnhart announced she has appointed Ian A. Waitz to the newly created position of vice chancellor responsible for leading and integrating the offices for graduate and undergraduate education. In his new role, which begins July 1, Waitz will be working alongside students, faculty, and staff from across the Institute to enhance the student academic experience.

“Today’s announcement is wonderful news. Ian’s deep understanding of MIT, his vision, and his creative passion for improving education make him an ideal leader as we seek to enhance the academic experience for all our students, from the first year to the final diploma,” says MIT President L. Rafael Reif. “I am also delighted that, with this appointment, Chancellor Barnhart is creating an outstanding new team in a strong new structure. As we aspire to make a better world, it is essential that we also strive to make a better MIT, and the moves announced today mark important progress toward that permanent goal. I am deeply grateful to everyone involved for their creativity, flexibility, and magnificent dedication to our students.”  

As vice chancellor, Waitz will be focused in these primary areas:

  • engaging with students and departments to develop and pursue a roadmap for enhancing the first-year student academic experience;
  • partnering with community members to make improvements for students in areas such as advising, professional development, diversity and inclusion, and well-being;
  • implementing the residential education innovations called for in the Institute-wide Task Force on the Future of MIT Education; and
  • working with the staff from undergraduate and graduate education to conduct an organizational review that positions the two offices to support the above efforts as well as optimize services for our students and faculty.

“This a marvelous opportunity to work across MIT to take our exceptional educational experiences and advance them further,” says Waitz, who is also the Jerome C. Hunsaker Professor of Aeronautics and Astronautics. “I am very excited to work with Chancellor Barnhart and the excellent team in her organization who dedicate themselves to serving our students and faculty.”

The vice chancellor position, which will effectively merge the roles of dean for undergraduate education and dean for graduate education, and its responsibilities are well aligned with Waitz’s work in residential education innovation. During his tenure as dean at the School of Engineering, Waitz helped to launch new efforts such as the MIT Sandbox Innovation Fund Program and the MIT Beaver Works Center. He also strengthened co-curricular and enrichment programs for undergraduate and graduate students as well as worked with engineering department heads to offer more flexible degrees and allow students to take courses remotely or online for credit.

Most recently, he has championed a school effort dubbed New Engineering Education Transformation (NEET), led by Edward Crawley, Ford Professor of Engineering, and Anette (Peko) Hosoi, professor of mechanical engineering. By creating educational program options that span multiple departments and that are more strongly tied to modern pedagogical approaches, their aim is to better prepare engineering students to lead and innovate in a world of rapidly evolving technology, where traditional disciplinary boundaries are disappearing.

New roles for Freeman, Staton

In her letter, Barnhart also described new opportunities for Dean for Undergraduate Education Dennis (Denny) Freeman and Interim Dean for Graduate Education Blanche Staton, within the Office of the Chancellor.

Barnhart wrote that “Denny’s leadership, creativity, and boundless passion for undergraduate teaching and advising have been on full display” during his four-year tenure as dean. Passionate about advising, Freeman has worked with faculty and students to increase faculty participation in freshman advising and promote best practices. He also oversaw important surveys and analyses of emerging patterns and trends in academic majors, career exploration, student academic workload, identifying early indicators for academic success, academic stress, and the Institute’s undergraduate leave and return policies. And, along with the chair of the faculty, Freeman launched an in-depth study of whether — and if so, how — MIT should ensure that undergraduate students learn about algorithmic reason and computational thinking.

In her letter, Barnhart pointed to the tremendous success of the “Mens et Manus” freshman advising seminar Freeman launched as one of his signature achievements.

“To build on the seminar’s progress, I have asked Denny, beginning July 1, to focus his efforts on launching a year-long pilot that will experiment with and evaluate novel models for the first-year experience,” Barnhart wrote. “He will report to Ian and engage with the community and with faculty governance on strategies and programs designed to improve learning outcomes and strengthen the links between educational innovation and the student experience.”

Highlighting Staton’s service since former Dean for Graduate Education Christine Ortiz stepped down, Barnhart wrote, “[Staton] was extremely gracious to take on these expanded duties, and graduate students have benefited from her expertise and compassion.”

On July 1, Staton will return to her full-time role as senior associate dean for graduate education and will work closely with Waitz on all matters related to graduate education, advocacy, and support.

“I look forward to working closely with Denny and Blanche — both of whom have made, and will continue to make, tremendous contributions to enhancing MIT’s educational environment — and to working with their dedicated professional staff,” Waitz says. “Meeting our charge to reinvent the 21st century residential academic experience and provide a way forward for MIT will require a team effort and the collective support of the extended Institute community.”

While his new role will not start until July 1, Waitz plans to begin the transition process immediately through meeting with students, faculty, and staff.

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