CEE Prof. Lerman Appointed Dean for Graduate Students, Replacing Colbert

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Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering Steven R. Lerman was appointed as Dean of Graduate Students this past Monday, June 11. His appointment takes effect July 1.
Brian Hemond—The Tech

Civil and Environmental Engineering Professor Steven R. Lerman ’72 has been appointed the new Dean for Graduate Students, effective July 1. He will replace Isaac M. Colbert, who will be stepping down from the position after eight years as Dean.

A June 11 e-mail from Chancellor Phillip L. Clay PhD ’75 to the MIT community announced the appointment. Lerman was chosen from an unranked list of viable candidates provided by the Search Advisory Committee, chaired by Professor of Management Stephen C. Graves.

According to Clay’s e-mail, Lerman’s extensive experience in both administration and graduate student life made him the best choice for the job. As the Class of 1922 Distinguished Professor, Lerman regularly teaches undergraduate subjects. He is also the director of the Center for Educational Computing Initiatives, co-director of the Singapore-MIT Alliance, and twice-elected Chair of the MIT Faculty.

Lerman and his wife have also served as housemasters of the graduate residence at 224 Albany Street, commonly known as The Warehouse, for six years.

“As a faculty member living in the dorms, I had the chance to talk to the graduate students outside of research labs,” Lerman said. “One of my main goals as the dean is to blend academia and student social life in order to create relationships between faculty and students as well as a strong graduate community in the northwest part of campus.”

The statement echoes one of Colbert’s long-held goals. “There are 1700 graduate students concentrated in the northwest sector of campus,” Colbert said. “When the new Ashdown opens, there will be new challenges and opportunities to strengthen graduate community, and it is incumbent on the new dean to help define a regional approach to graduate life.”

Lerman also plans to expand the work that has been done on recruiting under-represented minorities. “They are better represented in the undergraduate population, and I would like to see that in the graduate population,” he said.

Another goal for Lerman is to bring “the necessary information to encourage graduate students to consider going for doctorates and eventually, academia.”

To meet the demands of his new appointment, Lerman will resign as the co-director of SMA and reduce time spent in his lab. “I will try to continue teaching as much as possible, but I will concentrate on being dean as well,” he said.

“I think he will be an excellent dean,” said Eric G. Weese G, former Graduate Student Council president. “I dealt with Professor Lerman a number of times … and some of the issues that we discussed, such as [the new graduate residence], were quite controversial.”

“Graduate life is in good hands,” Colbert said. “We have spent years working up the trust between the administration and the students, and Steve is very approachable.”

Current GSC President Leeland B. Ekstrom G said, “Lerman has expressed lots of interest in getting to know the students outside the labs and classes.” Eckstrom said that he welcomes the opportunity for the relationship between the GSC and the administration to flourish.

Ekstrom listed some GSC goals that he hoped to pursue with Lerman. “We have numerous advocacy initiatives, such as travel grants and alternative career series, and ideas to improve the social aspects of graduate student life and to secure more funding for graduate student programs.”