Dean of Admissions Replacement Picked; Identity Still Secret

MIT has selected its next dean of admissions and is expected to make an announcement in the coming days.

It is unclear to whom the job has been offered. But some details about the selection process, including the name of one of the final candidates, have emerged.

Three of the 20-40 candidates considered by the search committee were submitted, unranked, to Dean for Undergraduate Education Daniel E. Hastings PhD ’80 for final consideration. Interim Director of Admissions Stuart Schmill ’86 is the only candidate internal to MIT. The other two candidates on the short list are external to MIT and have extensive experience in the admissions game, but their identities are a closely kept secret.

Hastings declined to confirm or deny whether an offer has been made to one of the candidates, saying only that the selection process was “ongoing” and that an announcement would be made soon. But people involved in the search process say that MIT has extended an offer and is waiting for a reply. Hastings also declined to confirm Schmill’s presence on the short list, which others have confirmed.

Schmill declined yesterday to comment on the search process.

Members of the search committee said that the new dean of admissions should be someone who either has knowledge of MIT’s culture or who can get up to speed quickly.

The dean of admissions “represents MIT to the public as much as anybody, second perhaps only to the president,” said search committee member Professor Patrick H. Winston ’65. “It’s important for this person to be able to tell the MIT story.”

Search committee chair and former President Paul E. Gray ’54 said that he personally has “a prejudice toward … promoting from inside,” though the relative brevity of Schmill’s admissions record was an important consideration in the selection process. Schmill started working in the admissions office in 2002.

Administrators declined to comment further on the identities or qualifications of the two external candidates, citing concerns that the news of their application would make it back to the candidates’ home institutions.

The original charge from Hastings to the search committee requested an unranked, rather than ranked, short list because the general policy at MIT is that committees serve only in an advisory capacity.

“I like to make my own decisions,” Hastings said.

New dean will face competition

The new dean of admissions, whoever he or she may be, will need to navigate an environment of heightened competition for the best students. “We’re heading into turbulent waters,” Hastings said.

MIT already has an impressive admissions profile as judged by the median SAT scores, numbers of underrepresented minorities and valedictorians, and a high yield, or percentage of admitted students who choose to enroll.

But as peer institutions begin to recruit more science and engineering students while also increasing financial aid for the middle and upper-middle classes, competition for the best students will grow, said Hastings. Additionally, the number of students graduating from high schools is expected to peak and then decline in the coming years, so colleges will have fewer students to recruit.

The new dean will therefore have to work to both continue and enhance the quality of the students, said Hastings. He or she should “continue to be very proactive with regard to underrepresented minorities” and with MIT’s mission of being an elevator for students of poor economic status.

One additional goal for the new dean will be to increase the number of female applicants, Hastings said. In recent years, male applicants have outnumbered female applicants three to one.