Interim Leader Stu Schmill Will Be Next Dean of Admissions

The next dean of admissions will be Stuart Schmill ’86. Schmill has served as the interim director of admissions since Marilee Jones’s abrupt resignation last April.

Dean for Undergraduate Education Daniel E. Hastings PhD ’80 made the announcement Monday during spring break. Schmill was one of the three candidates recommended to Hastings by a search committee and was the only candidate internal to MIT.

President Emeritus Paul E. Gray ’54, who chaired that committee, said that he was “delighted” with Hastings’ choice.

Schmill has worked in the Admissions Office since 2002 but is relatively inexperienced in the field when compared to the other two short-listed candidates. Hastings and members of the search committee declined to identify the other candidates, but have said that the two finalists were nationally respected leaders from highly competitive peer institutions.

Members of the committee, including Gray, had said before the announcement that the job should be held by someone who understands the Institute’s culture. Schmill has more than a decade of experience at MIT, working as the head crew coach, the director of the Parents Association, and the director of the Educational Council. “It’s in his DNA,” Gray said.

Despite Schmill’s relative inexperience in admissions, he seems to be doing a fine job in his current role: this year, with Schmill as interim director, MIT received a record number of applications for freshman admission and had a record-low acceptance rate. Additionally, during Schmill’s six years in admissions he has presented at national and regional conferences and is currently the co-president of a regional admissions network.

Schmill’s diverse experience working in industry and at the Institute gave him an advantage over the other candidates, he said. “I think my [career] path has been even more helpful,” Schmill said. Schmill said that his experience as the head crew coach, when he spent 20 hours per week with students, gave him a deeper insight into the students at MIT and what type of students the Institute should admit. His positions with the Alumni Office and Educational Council gave him further experience working with students and their parents, he said.

Hastings said that Schmill was chosen in part because “he had a very good vision and deep, deep understanding of the MIT culture and the kind of things we need to do to move us forward”. Hastings also said that he was pleased with Schmill’s performance as interim director. He said that, rather than serving just as a “bench warmer” during the past year, Schmill was willing to pilot new experiments.

Schmill “thinks analytically, which is, for an MIT person, what you’d expect” and “uses data in a thoughtful way,” said Hastings.

The Tech reported before spring break that the job had been offered to one of the three finalists and that an announcement would be coming in the following days. Hastings declined to say whether the delay was because he had offered the job to one of the other candidates, who had turned it down, before choosing Schmill. “I went through an iterative process” and “a lot of debate” in making a decision, Hastings said, and “after some negotiation [Schmill] ultimately accepted” the job.

“I’ve always thought [Schmill] was a great person for the job,” Hastings said, and one of the benefits of the search process was to gain an external reference point for comparison with Schmill and his qualifications. Hastings said that he was pleased that Schmill would be able to continue leading the staff in the Admissions Office because “they’re clearly very attached to him.”

Schmill will be the first MIT alumnus to lead the Admissions Office since Peter H. Richardson ’48, who served as director of admissions from 1972 to 1984. Richardson was the director when Schmill was admitted, and “every time I see him I like to thank him,” said Schmill.

Richardson said that he had met Schmill before and was even invited to observe the early action admissions process last fall. Being an MIT alumnus is not essential to the job, Richardson said, although he added that his own experiences as a freshman helped him understand the types of transitions that students go through when first coming to the Institute. “I’m terribly pleased that Stu got the job,” Richardson said.

As the new dean of admissions, Schmill will have to face challenges such as recent increases in financial aid by some of MIT’s peer institutions, an increased focus in science and engineering from competitors, and an expected decline in the number of high school students. The new dean will therefore have to both maintain and enhance the quality of students admitted, Hastings told The Tech in the week before the announcement was made.

Despite the challenges, Schmill sounds optimistic. “Those are just changes in the landscape,” he said. “I think MIT is as relevant as ever” and that the problems the world is facing, including global climate change, “require MIT students and the analytical teachings we offer.”

Schmill said last Monday that he was “really honored” and “quite thrilled” at his appointment. “I absolutely love this job,” he said. “I’ve had enormous fun over this past year.”