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Keeril Makan named associate dean of MIT’s School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences

Makan will lead special projects in his new role, while continuing to serve as head of the Music and Theater Arts Section.
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Portrait photo of Keeril Makan standing in a courtyard with lush greenery and a wall of windows in the background.
Keeril Makan, head of the MIT Music and Theater Arts Section, is the new associate dean of the School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences.
Photo: Allegra Boverman

MIT Professor Keeril Makan has been named associate dean of the MIT School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (SHASS), effective July 1. 

Agustín Rayo, the Kenan Sahin Dean of SHASS, says Makan will serve concurrently as associate dean and in his current role as head of the MIT Music and Theater Arts (MTA) Section.

“Throughout my time as dean, I’ve been consistently impressed by Keeril’s leadership and insight as head of MTA. I look forward to working with him at the school level and relying on his advice,” Rayo says.

Makan says he’s looking forward to bringing his collaborative leadership approach to this new role.

“One of the things that excites me about being head of MTA is working on larger projects that advance the mission of the unit, the mission of the Institute, and have a large impact on the community. This involves getting a lot of people together from different parts of MIT, working towards a common goal, skills that I’ve developed through my work as a composer. I look forward to working in this way at the SHASS-wide level, as well as finding common ground between SHASS and the STEM fields,” says Makan.

Makan joined the MIT faculty in 2006, and was named head of MTA in 2018. In addition to being section head, Makan is currently the Michael (1949) and Sonja Koerner Music Composition Professor.

Among the projects Makan has helped lead as section head has been the construction of MIT’s new music building, which is set to open in fall 2024. He’s also worked to develop MTA’s music technology offerings, including the upcoming launch of a new master’s program, joint with the School of Engineering. 

Makan says one of his biggest challenges was leading MTA through the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Performance was particularly challenging in music and theater. But we worked collaboratively to create an educational experience for the students that was artistically meaningful. The experience of Covid taught the world the power of being in a room together, sharing an experience” he says.

Rayo says Makan will lead special projects, and that they’ll work together over the summer to set an agenda for the new role.

After training as a violinist, Makan received degrees in composition and religion from Oberlin College and Conservatory and completed his PhD in composition at the University of California at Berkeley, with additional studies in Helsinki and Paris. He is a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship and the Luciano Berio Rome Prize from the American Academy in Rome, among other accolades. His music has been recorded by the Kronos Quartet, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, and the International Contemporary Ensemble, and performed at the Los Angeles Opera, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and Tanglewood.

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